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Attacking Shariah, Attacking Religious Freedom

08 15 12



By Dr. Zahid Bukhari | August 14, 2012
This is the season of Ramadan, one of the holiest times of the year for practicing Muslims. For one month, we fast from dawn until dusk, increase our charity work and deepen our faith through the Quran.

This year, as Ramadan comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the many ways this faith is being misrepresented.

Muslim Americans are in the midst of a profound crisis. Our faith is under assault. Radical groups abroad are using Islam as a justification for wanton violence, which is strictly forbidden in the Muslim faith. And at home in the United States, Islam is being criminalized, turned into an object of suspicion and threat. In New York City, the police department has made a practice of spying on Muslims in their restaurants, book stores and places of worship. Conspiracy theorists continue to “accuse” President Obama of being Muslim, as if this were a bad thing, capable of disqualifying him from leading the nation. And throughout the country, a movement to ban US courts from considering Shariah in their legal decisions has been sweeping the legislatures in one state after another.

This anti-Shariah movement is one of the most profound, and dangerous, expressions of the effort to criminalize Islam. Though it is often paired with the word “law,” Shariah is, in fact, a set of observances that guide all aspects of a Muslim’s day-to-day life such as moral codes of conduct, diet and the drafting of our wills. During Ramadan, it is Shariah that guides our prayer and daily activities. It is impossible to find a practicing Muslim who does not follow Shariah.

Sadly, Shariah has been reduced to an inflammatory term in this country. Preying on American’s unfamiliarity with the Muslim faith, politicians and racists alike have begun using the “threat” of Shariah to drum up fear and suspicion of Muslims. And the attacks are getting worse. Since 2010, when Oklahoma passed the nation’s first ban on “Shariah law,” the anti-Shariah movement has grown significantly. At this point, five states have passed laws outlawing Shariah or “foreign law,” including Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee, and some two dozen states have considered such legislation or are still considering it.

Critics of Shariah cite a roster of reasons for banning it from our courts, but all come down to a misreading and misunderstanding of Islam. Perhaps the most pernicious of these fallacies is the idea that Shariah is a threat to American democracy, a way for American Muslims to impose a miliant perversion of Shariah on US courts and ultimately the country. This is a preposterous claim. The truth is that militant Islam is not an accurate reflection of the religion, and a radical form of Shariah will never be instated in the US, both because Muslim Americans are not calling for it and because our legal system prevents it from happening.

Since the time of the pilgrims, cultures from across the globe have come to the United States in search of freedom of religion. We are privileged and honored to be protected by the US Constitution, which allows us to practice our faith freely. The idea that Muslim Americans are trying to instate “Shariah Law” across the nation was contrived by hate groups. In fact, Shariah itself mandates living by the law of the land. The Constitution of the United States protects our civil liberties, and supersedes all other forms of law. It is the ultimate legal code for all Americans, including Muslims. As Muslim Americans, we only ask for the freedom to live our lives in accordance with our faith.

What many people don’t realize is that outlawing Shariah is akin to outlawing the Ten Commandments, Talmudic law or the gospels of Jesus Christ. Shariah is a moral imperative for all Muslims and defining it as a threat is equivalent to deeming all observant Muslims a danger to society. To ban Shariah is to ban the Muslim religion and harshly strip several million taxpaying Americans of their first amendment rights.

And yet, anti-Shariah bills continue to gain traction, and as they spread, so does prejudice against Muslim Americans. In 2011, the number of anti-Muslim hate groups tripled, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hate crimes, like last week’s mosque burning in Joplin, Missouri, have also been rising. Meanwhile, Muslims have become ever more fearful. Some fear for their safety while many worry that they will be restricted from fasting at their workplaces or wearing hijabs in public schools.

In the wake of the tragedy at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, as well as the Joplin mosque burning, it is time for members of traditionally insular faiths such as Sikhism and Islam to make our voices heard. Many of us are beginning to try. At the Islamic Circle of North America [1], we have launched “Defending Religious Freedom, Understanding Shariah [2],” a national campaign to educate Americans about Shariah and combat Islamophobia. But we cannot do this alone. As we work to stanch the movement to ban Shariah, we urge the public to join us in protecting our civil liberties and the unalienable right of all Americans to religious freedom.

About the Author:
Dr. Zahid Bukhari is President of the Islamic Circle of North America and serves as Executive Director of the Center for Islam and Public Policy (CIPP). He previously served as Director of the American Muslim Studies Program at Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian understanding, Georgetown University. Dr. Bukhari also worked as Director of Project MAPS: Muslims in American Public Square at Georgetown University and is currently serving as a member of the Governor of Maryland’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs.

Article Courtesy: The Nation


  • Kamil Sanaulla

    Excellent article on Shariah. Islamic way of life depends on Shariah. It cannot be a threat to the freedom of religions in America. It does not interefer with day to day life of any one in America. Religeous freedom is guaranteed in the US. A muslim observing Sharia in his personal life makes him a good and law abiding citizen of the US.

  • ASA Brothers And Sisters,
    One must realize that there are interfaith meetings going on all the time. It really is amazing that not too long ago(in recent living memory)there were no such meetings between Jews and Chirstians.Until recently most Chirstians did not make the connection between Jesus(may God Bless Him) and his Jewishness. Jews have been making efforts to educate Chirstians about Judism. We are absent at that table. We must graciously invite ourselvesto that table. Judism, Christanity, and Islam are a forever connected to the same God(swt). We Muslims must work to define ourselves with with the truth of Islam. We must not allow others to do this for us. Especially those who are deeply invested in the division of all God’s (swth) people; and yes, these people are on all sides of all religons. We are all his creations. There are those that want to use fear, chaos, division,and lack of understanding to influence not only the mind’s of people but also political policies globally. We should all be joined at the table of humanity. We should also, all be joined at the table of “The People of the Book” (ie… in the order that God revealed the messages to the world Judisim, Chirstianity, and Islam).
    May God’s safety Go with you

  • wts real

    When in Rome,do as the Romans do,,,,,,,,Christian country’s base there laws on Christian beliefs,, you can’t join in a game of football then decide your gonna follow the rules of basketball whilst in the game,,,,,,

  • Sharie Babcock Miller

    We are not a Christian country, we are a secular country. Everyone has the same right to practice their religion or to practice no religion at all. Religion is personal and has no place in government. Yes Christians are always trying to shove their beliefs into our laws, but that violates the rights of the rest of the country!!