Sunday, September 12, 2010

Who's Afraid of Shari'a Law? Well... I am.

So, a lady who shares an on-line group sent a link to this article by a woman in an e-zine called Illume entitled Who's Afraid of Shariah? I read the article with some interest. I found, however, the author's assertions to fall somewhere between naive and disingenuous. I'm guessing naive, but I could be wrong. Initially she claims that anti-Shariah rhetoric has gotten way out of control in the US. Now that I'll agree with. It's one of the very few things in her article that I found to be a likely appropriate, if again naive, assertion. Given the sensationalist bent of the media, MOST things get wildly out of control. And, frankly, the war being lost here is a media war, a war of perception that is very hard to win (for evidence of this, consider the Palestinians and their plight...)

However, the arguments that Ms. Ali-Karamali makes in support of why Americans shouldn't be afraid of Shariah are disingenuous at best. She begins by providing us with the six tenets of Shariah.
1. The right to the protection of life.
2. The right to the protection of family.
3. The right to the protection of education.
4. The right to the protection of religion.
5. The right to the protection of property (access to resources).
6. The right to the protection of human dignity.

That is interesting. I hadn't seen this before. Unfortunately, she is bested by not only American rhetoric but actual performance of Muslim nations and the rhetoric espoused by Muslims themselves. These principles sound good. However, her assertion is that "all Islamic religious rules must be in line" with these principles. Ah, herein lies the rub. We're humans and somehow the purest form of anything tends to get a bit messy when we involve the human factor.

She makes the argument that shariah is not the "law of the land" anywhere in the world. That may be true, but in most Middle Eastern countries Islam is the dominant religion and its rules are imposed on non-Muslims. So, for most of us, whether these rules are pure Shariah or not is academic.

Where she truly loses me, though, is her seemingly blind assertion that the Quran is grounded in religious tolerance. Excellent, but the bottom line is that humans are more interested in the walk than the talk. Show me where the below verses are actually implemented...
The Qur'an contains many verses advocating religious tolerance, too, though the anti-Islam protesters won't believe it. The Qur'an says that: God could have made everyone into one people, but elected not to (11:118); God made us into different nations and tribes so that we can learn from one another (49:13); there is no compulsion in religion (2:256); and that we should say, "to you your religion, to me mine" (109:6).
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an anti-Islam protester. I have wonderful Muslim friends who live in such a way as to show me that Islam can be an amazing faith in a sea of lackluster examples. However, I also don't see any Muslim-based government embracing the above. So, I have a hard time believing that anyone much cares about the religious tolerance prescribed in the Quran.

Let's take the third and fourth assertions here, "there is no compulsion in religion" and "to you your religion, to me mine". Hmm, I kind of feel like imposed public fasting is compulsion. After all, every Ramadan rolls around and I'm not given a choice about whether I can eat in public. It's compulsory that restaurants be closed. However, the foundational reality is actually much grimmer. In many (all?) Muslim countries it is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. Wait a minute... isn't that compulsion? Maybe I'm fuzzy on what compulsion is. And, as for me having my religion, my kids inherit according to Shariah guidelines. I'm not Muslim, but I have no choice in the matter. Again, perhaps I'm fuzzy but that sounds compulsory, right?

She solidifies my lack of unity with her with her final assertion,
The only verses about fighting in the Qur'an refer specifically to the polytheistic Arab tribes who were trying to kill the Prophet in the 7th century. So the Islamophobes who look in the Qur'an for the fighting verses and assume that these verses refer to them personally are simply being narcissistic. Contrary to counting Jews and Christians as "infidels," the Qur'an repeatedly commands particular respect of Jews and Christians. It is established in Islam that you don't need to be Muslim to go to heaven.
We, non-Muslims, are not being narcissistic in assuming that the verses about killing infidels applies to us. I find this assertion insulting. As she says, repeating a lie does not make it truth. But, the ones repeating this particular "lie" are extremist Muslims as they go about lives of terror. It's not as if some Western conspiracy made up this idea. It is taken from the statements of Al-Qaeda and such groups. So while she, from her vantage point of the calm and comfortable US might see this as a lie, someone needs to inform those who are performing terrorist acts in the name of her religion.

My only personal experience with this was at a party being given by a friend. She had a guest in from the US. I was invited by virtue of being one of the Alabama girls. We're all living here married to Jordanian men and from Alabama originally. I love these ladies, they are awesome. However, at one point in the conversation of the day the guest of honor (and only one actually living in the US) referred to her entire family, who are Christian, as infidels. She paused and looked a bit chagrined fearing I would take offense. At the time I had been living in Jordan for three years and had never heard the word. However, from her reaction, I understood what word she was using. Now, among all my many Muslim friends, I had never previously heard the word, which is good. But this lady felt comfortable calling her family infidels - in front of her children. By extension (and her reaction) clearly I am also an infidel. Her backtracking effectively took the form of please don't misunderstand, I love my family and they're infidels. Now, call me paranoid or narcissistic, but that doesn't sound like "particular respect" and it does sound like some group of Muslims considers Christians to be exactly that... infidels.

Again, I see Ms. Ali-Karamali as either naive or disingenuous. The issue is a complex one and painting Americans as anti-Muslim if they are worried about such things as Shariah is offensive. I currently live in a country that abides by Muslim laws (we won't call it Shariah as I'm not going to argue that point from my place of ignorance on the subject). It is a wonderful place with great qualities. However, its track record on many of those principles that Ms. Ali-Karamali uses are not stellar. And, in living here, I have come to understand very clearly why American-style democracy is such a bad idea in such places. American democracy is predicated on the majority protecting the minority. This idea is absolutely foreign in Jordan. People here think that if they had a democracy it would good because their group would be able to enforce its will. Therein lies the rub. Muslim countries are not shining examples of freedom and tolerance. It may not be purely because they are Muslim, but it isn't coincidental that they tend to make a human interpretation of Islam that looks the same. Personally, the idea of Muslims in the US pushing for more power does worry me. Specifically because many of the people who made their way to the US have this same lack of understanding of the American democracy. It doesn't mean you get to impose your will (majority or not).

Until Ms. Ali-Karamali can show me a country that has implemented the principles she espoused earlier, I think that her argument will continue to fall short. In addition, my concerns won't be hushed away so easily. Those Muslims who currently live in the US, taking advantage of the protections that such a country offers, should be very cognizant of their responsibility in continuing it and in understanding how to reach their communities to ensure they understand it as well. And, at some point, we need people who live by example rather than platitudes and insults. My friends here in Jordan who provide me with this example give me hope. But that hope is somewhat limited because I see them as the minority in their faith not the majority... that's why I'm afraid of Shariah law. My thanks to Ms. Ali-Karamali for the conversation starter... anyone got any thoughts?

Happy Conversation!


At 8:56 PM , Anonymous Emi said...

Excellent, excellent! I was thinking the same thing about the thread and you really nailed it.

As I have told some of my friends and family back in the U.S., I never appreciated being in America, living in the U.S., until I lived in Jordan and saw things from a different perspective. Democracy is not perfect, but I do prefer it!

At 10:59 PM , Anonymous kinzi said...

MB, this is the post I have been composing for some time, but had too many links to invest the time in.

Thank you for taking the time, I will be copying and pasting unashamedly.

At 11:25 PM , Anonymous jaraad said...

I do believe the "Shari'a" signs whenever there is an anti-Islam related rally in the US or Europe is gone out of proportion. I have never heard any American or European Muslim wanting to apply Shari'a Law in the US or Europe. So, why there is all that fuss about it. Non-Muslims hear of Shari'a and they instantly think of chopping heads and cutting hands. Shari’a law is not just about punishment it is a way to organize Muslims’ affairs as well such as marriage, business transactions, etc. Sharia Law is not created to be applied in non-Muslim countries it is for countries with a Muslim ruler who is FREELY chosen by top leaders in the country (this is different than when a ruler is elected by the majority of the citizens). That is, even Saudi Arabia is not a country where you can apply Sahri’a Law not just because the ruler is not elected but because you can’t for example cut peoples’ hands if the country can’t provide jobs to all its citizens. During the ruling of the second khalifa (Omar Bin Al-Khattab) a severe drought occurred and those who caught stealing food were not punished.
I don’t find it offensive when a non-Muslim says that he/she doesn’t like Sahria Law; it is not made to favor him over Muslims. And non-Muslims shouldn’t feel offended when Muslims say that they don’t like or believe in a democracy that ban women from wearing Hijab, building mosques and allow people to insult other religions (like the cartoons and burning Quran).
I would like to point something here. During the cold war no American dared to publicly denounce capitalism because that meant he is a communist and he will be black listed. I think this story is repeating itself now with Democracy vs. Sahri’a. If a Muslim said that he doesn’t want democracy then he wants to impose shari’a and that means killing non-Muslims. Yes, democracy sounds appealing and all but it doesn’t mean it is the best and only way of life. Muslims like democracy and it is unnatural to say anything else but democracy in Muslim countries means everything should be according to the Islamic teaching (Shari’a Law). For example, in non-Muslim countries democracy will allow same-sex marriage but Islam democracy will not allow it and this is the democracy Muslims want because it lives by their religion.

At 1:57 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Jaraad, but democracy is the a way of life that allows everyone the freedom to follow their own way.

MB and I are two American Christians who love Jordan, which has a French-based, Islamically leaning judiciary and system of law. The most moderate of all majority Muslim countries, and we find it VERY difficult at times.

I can't believe you have never heard a Muslim say they wish
America would adopt Shari'a. I hear it fairly regularly, when Muslim friends tell me it would solve all America's morality problems. Just yesterday Eid visiting with West Ammani neighbors, as well. I hear it from the mosque in my neighborhood. I see it in blog comments and fb 'likes' and posts.

One law for one people. With a lot of arguing in between. :)

At 2:12 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinzi, you hit the nail on the head.

Jaraad, thanks so much for joining the conversation. I truly believe that democracy will be problematic in the Middle East until people understand that unless it's based on protecting the MINORITY the end result will be tyranny. Unfortunately, we have seen examples in Muslim countries where democracy has become a tyranny of Islam, which isn't good for anyone.

I actually agree with you on the idea of banning hijab in a democracy. Building mosques should be according to building codes and I have no issue with them either. However, your third point is the sticking point. Part of the freedom that is America is being able to insult any religion you want. Frankly, we all suck it up and live with it. The US democracy is founded on the idea that each of us must be willing to fight with our last breath to defend someone's right to say that which we find the most abhorrent... That's what makes it work.

At 5:39 AM , Blogger abu 'n um tulip said...

Bravo. Bravo. Bravo.
This was excellent, stating so well some of the things I've also been thinking lately, along with some unique points that hadn't come to me. I'll be enjoying all subsequent commentary.

-Abu Tulip

At 6:39 AM , Anonymous jaraad said...

Kinzi,I just want to say that I didn't say Muslims don't want Shari'a adopted in America. I said I never heard American or European Muslim wanting Shari'a been adopted in America and Europe.
MommaBean, I am not trying to promote Shari'a law to non-Muslims but judging it from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan I can fully understand how the world look at it in a terrified eye and how these countries are not the best to publicize it.
It is a huge debatable issue and it is good to hear everyone's opinion without forcing it. I hope the discussion stays clean and smart this way and no one writes an insulting comment for either opinions.

At 6:39 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Thanks Abu Tulip, I'd love your insight as well... it is always interesting and thought provoking.

At 8:44 AM , Blogger Dave said...

Personally I've never heard of the six tenants of Shariah, and I'm curious as to where they come from. In my own research, I was not able to determine a source to six proclaimed tenants. But that aside, assuming that the tenants exist, how does one justify the occasional contradictions between tenant 1 and tenant 6? If the punishment from converting from Islam is death, doesn't that violate both of those tenants?

At 9:09 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Jaraad, your opinion matters to me and I am welcome it, even when we disagree on points. Keep talking, what is there about sharia that you see, having lived in the US, that would not work? Or would work?

Dave, I had never heard of them either, but this is not a topic I have even remotely studied.

At 12:35 PM , Anonymous Ehab said...

This is a thought-provoking discussion.

Well I guess she could referring to the FIVE necessities (al darourat al khamsah) which are in this order:

1- Protect religion
2- Protect life
3- Protect the mind (education, intellect)
4- Protect dignity (lineage)
5- Protect wealth

This is for those who are curious, and I know they are not central to the discussion at hand.

Second, I think we should not mix up democracy and "creed." In my mind, democracy is a practice, separate from Sharia which can be looked upon as a "constitution."

Example, if a country bans same-sex marriage, does that mean the country is not democratic? It only means that they (democratically or not) chose to ban same-sex marriage.

At 1:33 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Jaraad, thanks for continuing in the conversation, your presence is making it much richer. Actually, I don't judge solely by the truly awkward examples, but the daily things I see in life in a country other than those. Somehow with humans, the disconnect is always between the pure form and the implemented form.

Dave, I have done no research and, thus, can't claim any knowledge... but interesting.

Ehab, thanks for joining in. I wonder where her 6th comes from? I agree that democracies can choose to impose (and all do) moral codes. However, there is that fine line that is walked when the democracy is a "majority reign" mentality. You run the significant risk of tyranny. Clearly as an American, I see democracy as a constitution (potentially) as well. After all, that's the whole point of ours ;). Thanks for sharing your viewpoint.

At 7:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo Momma Bean and well said! Interesting discussion. How do you feel about the "victory mosque" at Ground Zero. I think the whole topic is being "used" by those who want to continue the endless wars in the Middle East. Agree or not?

Auntie Pam

At 9:25 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Auntie Pam,

Welcome and it's great to hear from you! I think that the only people calling it a "victory" mosque are those who created the issue in the first place. And, I absolutely agree as to their motivation... Creating divisions and a common enemy is always a great way to spread fear and push people into voting for your candidate. I only hope the American people prove themselves to be smarter than that ;)...

At 6:49 AM , Anonymous jaraad said...

Kinzi, regarding your question "what is there about sharia that you see, having lived in the US, that would not work? Or would work?" This needs a long discussion and it may deviate from the content of this post. I will try to write a post about it later. Thanks for MommaBean for opening and talking about this subject and thanks to you as well for your post.

At 9:20 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Jaraad, you are a blessing and I look forward to your post on the topic.

At 5:06 AM , Blogger Samartime said...

Thanks for posting this. I think it's interesting that we assume that because a country follows Sharia'a law that they are following ALL the tenants of the Sharia'a law. I find that many places pick and choose what to follow and what not to follow to suit their needs. I am more afraid of people implementing the law then the law it's self. I think that is true with any religion.

At 3:51 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Samartime, most people do pick and choose, but typically not really the best. You see, as an American, I don't assume laws that are made may or may not be implemented. If it's the law, it's the law. So, I want to ensure that the legal code is right. The issue with laws that aren't enforced is that they aren't enforced... today. Who knows if you'll be the one they decide to enforce it on... Thanks for joining the conversation.


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