On: Domestic Islam
Understanding, applying Sharia
Published: Sunday, September 25, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
Media representations of Islam, and the subsequent American understanding of the religion, frequently exhibit grating degrees of pseudo-intellectualism. It isn't surprising; attempts at comprehending complex bodies often result in simplistic views.
Take Sharia, whose critics deride it as a dangerous form of religious oppression, a frightening mix of uncivilized, sadistic and misogynist attitudes bent on overtaking our quasi-Secular, quasi-Christian American culture. Matters were not helped when it was cited in a 2010 New Jersey rape case.
The presiding judge acquitted the husband-offender stating that, according to the defendant's beliefs, he was entitled to marital relations when he so desired.
Ignore the hackneyed colloquialism — bad press exists. Surprisingly few know what happened next.
An appellate court quickly, and sensibly, overturned the ruling. Even if Sharia allowed such barbarism, it argued, the man's religious beliefs would not preclude state and federal law.
That should have renewed faith in our judicial system, but disinformation and the New Jersey rape case became impetuses for attempted bans on Sharia. Of them all, Oklahoma's State Question 755 got the most press.
After passing with over 70 percent of the vote, Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange blocked the measure reasoning the "Question" unfairly discriminated against Sharia, something that "lack[ed] a legal character." Quite right.
During the proceedings Munner Awad, an executive with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, testified that Sharia's varied interpretations made a ban impossible to enforce. He also argued that since Sharia instructs one to abide by the laws of the country they inhabit, there was no cause for alarm.
The rape case aside, critics should turn to a more pertinent example of Muslim-America: Rais Bhuiyan, a green card recipient from Bangladesh, who was shot ten days after 9/11 by Dallas-native Mark Stroman. Mr. Stroman had lost his sister during the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and was engaging in a Muslim shooting spree.
"The Islamic principle, the Islamic teaching, is that there is no hate, no killing, because in Islam it says: ‘Saving one human life is the same as saving the entire mankind.' Since I forgave him, all this principle encouraged me to go even… farther and stop this execution and save another human life."
Before his death, Mr. Stroman responded through his attorney, "This is the first act of kindness I have ever known."
Most feared, but most tolerant.
Mr. Bhuiyan isn't alone with that passion. A recent study by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center,Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future, reports the vast majority of Muslim-Americans are equally passive and good-willed. Coming in at a well-written and compendious 130 pages, it is a must read for those wishing to know more about the lives and beliefs of Muslim-Americans.
Christians take note: Muslims are the only religious group in which strong percentages oppose "violent military attacks against civilians," in all cases.
Majorities of Protestants, Catholics and Mormons responded that it is "sometimes" admissible. In addition to Muslims — of which 79 percent fundamentally disagreed with civilian attacks — only atheists and agnostics posted a majority with 56 percent, according to the aforementioned study.
The rationale may ultimately be equal parts secular and religious. The study's chapter on Muslim political engagement notes many Muslims are first-generation immigrants who have been in America an average of only 10.5 years. With Turkey being the only example of Islam and democracy comingling, and the rest being oppressive regimes,many may have seen civilian deaths firsthand or are kin to a killed civilian. The dark reality would still ring in their minds.
Yet we must recall Mr. Bhuiyan's strong condemnation of violence. "There is no hate, no killing, because in Islam it says: ‘Saving one human life is the same as saving the entire mankind.'" That's powerful stuff.
Still, it's a message that has yet to resonate with others; by-and-large Muslim-Americans go unaccepted in their new home.
Sixty percent say they experience prejudice from other Americans, with 48 percent having faced such prejudice this year alone.