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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.

Despite the wishes of Mr. Bhuiyan, who fought for his life, Texas executed Mr. Stroman earlier this summer. Mr. Bhuiyan cites nothing more than his faith for his compassion.

"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.

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4 comments Log in to Comment

Mon Sep 26 2011 15:37
It seems John Quincy Adams' opinions of Islam are different than Josh Howell's. Hmm...I wonder which man has greater credibility?

John Quincy Adams on Islam

"The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force."

Mon Sep 26 2011 15:36
Who are you going to believe Josh Howell or Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria, a man who actually lived and experienced what Islam did?

Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria on Islam

"I am afraid that God has sent these men to lay waste the world".

Mon Sep 26 2011 15:34
This is what Gregory Palamus said about Islam (before he was killed by Muslims):

Byzantine saint, Gregory Palamas, to his Turkish captors:
"It is true that Muhammad started from the east and came to the west, as the sun travels from east to west. Nevertheless he came with war, knives, pillaging, forced enslavement, murders, and acts that are not from the good God but instigated by the chief manslayer, the devil."[3]

Mon Sep 26 2011 15:32
Here is what Richard Dawkins says about Islam:

Richard Dawkins says it outright. One wonders why so few other atheists are speaking out in the same way. Note that he does not hasten to qualify his comment by saying, "Islamic extremism" or "radical Islam."

Dawkins: "I'm reasonably optimistic in America and Europe. I'm pessimistic about the Islamic world. I regard Islam as one of the great evils in the world, and I fear that we have a very difficult struggle there."
Narrator: "Why is it more problematic than Christianity, for instance?"

RD: "There is a belief that every word of the Koran is literally true, and there's a kind of closemindedness which is, I think, less present in the former Christendom, perhaps because we've had long - I don't know quite why - but there's more of a historical tradition of questioning. There are people in the Islamic world who simply say, 'Islam is right, and we are going to impose our will.' There's an asymmetry. I think in a way we are being too nice. I think that it's possible to be naively overoptimistic, and if you reach out to people who have absolutely no intention of reaching back to you, then you may be disillusioned."

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