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General News    H3'ed 7/26/11

What Sharia Is and Isn't--Panel at Center for American Progress

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At the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC today (26 July 2011), a packed room listened to several experts, including three panelists, speak about Understanding Sharia Law--specifically centered on Conservatives' Skewed Interpretation, which Needs Debunking.

It is neither those ignorant of Sharia nor those heavily involved with eliminating Islamophobia and all the associated prejudices who are to blame. The guilty consist of some of those in the center, who know little about Islam--just enough to find prejudice within themselves and do their best to spread the word and the hatred, to the level of government.

Twelve states are working on legislation to make Sharia illegal, including Iowa.

The first point made regarding this idiocy was that it meshes well with the agenda of terrorism, diverting attention away from this genuine threat.

These bigots equate Sharia with fascism.

What is Sharia?
It consists of laws that pertain to the individual, not the government. Extremist governments misinterpret this set of rules governing daily prayers, honoring parents, what women should wear and how the household should be run, and marriage, divorce, and adultery. Sharia encourages Muslims to live a devoted religious life. Details not covered in that context can be found in the "footnote" section of Islamic law, the Fiqh.

The word "sharia" means "path" or "way." "Fiqh" means "understanding."

Neither Sharia nor Fiqh originated with Muhammad, as did the Qu'ran. They were composed by humans.

The audience was welcomed by Sally Steenland, Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative. Following up was Shireen Zaman, Executive Director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Matt Duss, Policy Analyst for CAP, was a most effective moderator. Panelists included Professor Asifa Quraishi, Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School; Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy,  President of the Interfaith Alliance; and Faiz Shakir, Editor of "Think Progress" and Vice President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Did you know that there were Muslims in this country at the time of the American Revolution? That 85 percent of the victims of terrorist attacks are Muslims? That of all the countries in the world, the United States is the best country for Muslims, even with all the prejudice and Islamophobia? Groups have sprung up nationwide to counter it.

Faiz Shakir said that major motivations for the debunkers of Sharia include incentivizing Republicans to vote, payment for organizing prejudice at the group level, and spreading around an ideology that flies in the face of Muslims and Progressives. These bigots believe in religious freedom for themselves but not others, but in this process, they are unwittingly betraying the democracy that allows them to address the public, said Matt Duss. Welton Gaddy said that 75 percent of the U.S. population are Christian, compared to 2 percent  Muslim  (and 2.2 percent Jewish--ed.).

And some of these people, he continued, including the Society for American National Legislation, claim that Sharia is a crime that should be punished with twenty years of prison. Another group in harmony with the society call themselves Stop Islam in America. Shakir called 2011--2012 "the year of the crazy." That would subsume Newt Gingrich, who is friendly with anti-Muslims, as well as Rick Santorum. A loyalty oath required of any Muslim employees was suggested by one of these "crazies."

An awkward symbiosis between religion and politics is evident in their thinking. 9/11 was politicized by these people, said Gaddy.

If a country's government prohibits Muslims from performing their most basic religious ritual worship or forces them to sin (for instance, to drink wine), Muslims should leave, said Asifa Quraishi; according to the Constitution, religious oppression is forbidden. [According to the Qu'ran, and confirmed by experts, Muslims are required to obey the laws of the country they inhabit--I don't know whether this is a subject of dispute--ed.] Nowhere in Sharia is there a law requiring the coalescence of Islam and the state.

She added that Colin Powell was brave enough to speak out in public, saying that it would not matter if Barack Obama were a Muslim, a little-known act of outspoken bravery. Another anomaly is her ten-year-old son, who said that the best thing about his religion is disabusing people of negative stereotypes associated with it.

Sharia is not one stationary set of laws; it varies by country, by sect, and even by mosque. Many of these groups disagree with each other.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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