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?