Fear of Shariah among some in U.S. is ir­ra­tional and mis­guided

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

The pro­mo­tion of Is­lam­o­pho­bia is mul­timil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try. Thirty-three Is­lam­o­pho­bic groups had ac­cess to at least $205 mil­lion be­tween 2008 and 2013, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the Cen­ter for Race and Gen­der at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-Berke­ley.

Shariah, or Is­lamic law, is not a thing to be feared; rather, if it’s un­der­stood cor­rectly, peo­ple can just go about their daily lives with­out that sec­ond glance of fear at the lady with a head cov­er­ing or the gen­tle­man with a robe. The $205 mil­lion used for hate speech could have been spent on help­ing those in need or fund­ing grants for stu­dents.

Shariah is the same as Is­lam and has been prac­ticed by Mus­lims, who have abided with con­sti­tu­tions and state laws since the days of the slave trade. Just like any Chris­tian, Jew, Bud­dhist or Hindu who lives in the United States and com­plies with its laws, Mus­lims can prac­tice Shariah while be­ing out­stand­ing cit­i­zens of the U.S. The Shariah it­self com­mands Mus­lims to fol­low the law of the land. Mus­lims are con­tent be­cause the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion is ev­ery­thing that the Shariah is, too.

One of the prob­lems I have come across in my ob­ser­va­tion is what the word Shariah means to the av­er­age Mus­lim is rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent than how the Is­lam­o­phobes per­ceive it. To the av­er­age Mus­lim liv­ing in the U.S., prac­tic­ing the Shariah means pray­ing five times a day; fast­ing dur­ing the month of Ra­madan; giv­ing to char­ity an­nu­ally; try­ing to make the pil­grim­age once in a life­time; earn­ing a liveli­hood; getting mar­ried and start­ing a fam­ily; and liv­ing a moral life.

On the other hand, the Is­lam­o­phobes want you to be­lieve that the Shariah is all about honor killings, fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion, ter­ror­ism and other crimes. This is just like me defin­ing the To­rah’s Halakha law — prac­ticed by many Jews in the U.S. — as con­don­ing de­cap­i­ta­tion, burn­ing and stran­gu­la­tion for some crimes in­stead of listing the Ten Com­mand­ments and the law of “live and let live” and other eth­i­cal prac­tices of Ju­daism.

The well-known scholar of the Qu­ran, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, who died in 1210, states in his ex­e­ge­sis of the Qu­ran: “It has al­ways been unan­i­mously agreed upon by the fol­low­ers of Is­lam that the or­di­nary ci­ti­zen can­not take the law into his hands and im­ple­ment any type of pe­nal laws.” This is some­thing that Mus­lims have al­ways un­der­stood whether liv­ing in a Mus­lim coun­try or oth­er­wise.

That is why there is not one sin­gle doc­u­mented in­ci­dent of a Mus­lim in the U.S. im­ple­ment­ing any of the pe­nal laws of the Shariah. You may ask: “What about the in­ci­dents of honor killing?” To which I will an­swer that honor killings are cul­tural, not re­li­gious. There is not a sin­gle text in the sources of Shariah that in­structs honor killings.

I con­clude that the fear of the Shariah and Is­lam among some cir­cles in the U.S. is ir­ra­tional and mis­guided. Mus­lim-Amer­i­cans need to be looked at just like any other re­li­gious fol­low­ers.


Anti-Is­lamic and Shariah law protesters draw con­dem­na­tion at an Is­lamic cen­ter near Cincin­nati. Amer­i­cans should not fear Shariah, an Austin imam writes.

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