As some 20 U.S. states consider legislation that would ban Islamic sharia law, a grassroots group is fighting back with a national campaign to defend religious freedom and dispel misconceptions about how Muslims in America observe their faith.
The Islamic Circle of North America said Islamophobia had worsened after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda islamists, perpetuated by a fear that U.S. Muslims practice strict sharia like countries such as Saudi Arabia.
“Sharia is being used as a facade for Islamophobia,” said Islamic Circle spokesman Naeem Baig. “This discussion must start on sharia so people get to know what we Muslims believe.”
The group plans to hold sharia education conferences and town halls in 25 U.S. cities this year. Its campaign, “Defending Religious Freedom, Understanding Sharia,” also includes a national hotline to answer questions, an advertising campaign and 20 seminars on colleges campuses.
Based on the Koran, sharia covers all aspects of Muslim life from religious obligations to financial dealings. It is loosely described as Islamic law, although the Islamic Circle said it does not define it as law. Instead, it says it is more personal.
“Any Muslim, just by saying ‘I am a Muslim,’ is practicing sharia,” Baig said. “Sharia is much more religious in nature, spiritual in nature, our own observing of Islam personally. If I pray five times a day I am observing sharia.”
The year-long campaign comes in response to a growing number of U.S. states considering a ban on courts recognising sharia, through legislation either specifically naming sharia or international law generally, which would include sharia.
Most recently, a federal appeals court upheld an injunction against an Oklahoma initiative, saying that a ban on courts considering sharia likely discriminates against religion. The Oklahoma amendment was approved by 70 percent of voters in 2010.
“Islamophobia is a term made up by those accusers to divert attention away from their efforts to impose sharia law upon Americans,” said Oklahoma State Senator Anthony Sykes, one of the initiative’s sponsors, in response to the Islamic Circle’s accusation that such legislation was Islamophobic.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations says more than 20 states are mulling considering bans on the court use of sharia or international law.
In addition, it said legislation has passed in Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee, a measure was defeated in Virginia and bills expired in Utah, Wyoming, Arkansas and Maine.
“This is a religious freedom issue, this is an American tradition, this is an American constitutional issue and Muslims are asking for the same thing that other religious groups are enjoying,” said Zahid Bukhari, president of the Islamic Circle.
Advocates for legislation banning sharia in U.S. courts often point to a 2009 New Jersey court ruling which denied a Muslim woman a restraining order against her husband whom she accused of beating and raping her. The judge acknowledged a clash between the man’s religious beliefs — that he could have sex with his wife whenever he wanted — and U.S. criminal law.
An appeals court overturned the decision in 2010, stating: “The judge determined to except defendant from the operation of the State’s statutes as the result of his religious beliefs. In doing so, the judge was mistaken.”
Lawyer David Yerushalmi, a leader of the American Freedom Law Center, helped craft draft model legislation prohibiting the application of foreign law in U.S. courts that was passed in Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona.
Yerushalmi said the legislation does not “ban sharia,” but “if the sharia shoe fits, so be it.” He said the majority of Americans understood sharia.
“When you turn on your TV and all you see is one beheading after another and one flogging after another in the name of sharia in all of those Muslim countries which seem to have a pretty good idea what sharia is, all of the obfuscation and sophistry in the world just melts away,” he said.
According to a August 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, almost a third of Americans believe Muslims are trying to establish sharia as U.S. law. The survey also found 86 percent of Americans know little or nothing about the beliefs and practices of Muslims.
In some countries a rigid application of sharia has drawn headlines for punishments including the amputation of hands on thieves and death for adulterers and limits on women’s rights that ban them from driving and require that they have a male relative’s permission to work or leave the country.
But the Islamic Circle of North America, founded in 1968, said sharia in the United States tended to be based on a moderate interpretation and that sharia required Muslims to obey laws of the country where they live.
“Being a good Muslim means being a good citizen of that country,” said Bukhari.
Despite the discord over state bids to prohibit sharia or foreign law, the mood toward U.S. Muslims appears warmer.
Only a quarter of U.S. mosque leaders believed last year that Americans were hostile to Islam, compared to 54 percent in 2000, found a poll released on Wednesday by multi-faith coalition the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership.
(above article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune, March 2, 2012)
All the hype and lies aside, here is what Sharia REALLY is:
1- Jihad, defined as “to war against non-Muslims to establish the religion,” is the duty of every Muslim and Muslim head of state (Caliph). Muslim Caliphs who refuse jihad are in violation of Sharia and unfit to rule.
2- A Caliph can hold office through seizure of power meaning through force.
3- A Caliph is exempt from being charged with serious crimes such as murder, adultery, robbery, theft, drinking and in some cases of rape.
4- A percentage of Zakat (charity money) must go towards jihad.
5- It is obligatory to obey the commands of the Caliph, even if he is unjust.
6- A caliph must be a Muslim, a non-slave and a male.
7- The Muslim public must remove the Caliph if he rejects Islam.
8- A Muslim who leaves Islam must be killed immediately.
9- A Muslim will be forgiven for murder of: 1) an apostate 2) an adulterer 3) a highway robber. Vigilante street justice and honor killing is acceptable.
10- A Muslim will not get the death penalty if he kills a non-Muslim, but will get it for killing a Muslim.
11- Sharia never abolished slavery, sexual slavery and highly regulates it. A master will not be punished for killing his slave.
12- Sharia dictates death by stoning, beheading, amputation of limbs, flogging even for crimes of sin such as adultery.
13- Non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims under the law. They must comply to Islamic law if they are to remain safe. They are forbidden to marry Muslim women, publicly display wine or pork, recite their scriptures or openly celebrate their religious holidays or funerals. They are forbidden from building new churches or building them higher than mosques. They may not enter a mosque without permission. A non-Muslim is no longer protected if he leads a Muslim away from Islam.
14- It is a crime for a non-Muslim to sell weapons to someone who will use them against Muslims. Non-Muslims cannot curse a Muslim, say anything derogatory about Allah, the Prophet, or Islam, or expose the weak points of Muslims. But Muslims can curse non-Muslims.
15- A non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim.
16- Banks must be Sharia compliant and interest is not allowed.
17- No testimony in court is acceptable from people of low-level jobs, such as street sweepers or bathhouse attendants. Women in low level jobs such as professional funeral mourners cannot keep custody of their children in case of divorce.
18- A non-Muslim cannot rule — even over a non-Muslim minority.
19- Homosexuality is punishable by death.
20- There is no age limit for marriage of girls. The marriage contract can take place anytime after birth and can be consummated at age 8 or 9.
21- Rebelliousness on the part of the wife nullifies the husband’s obligation to support her, gives him permission to beat her and keep her from leaving the home.
22- Divorce is only in the hands of the husband and is as easy as saying: “I divorce you” and becomes effective even if the husband did not intend it.
23- There is no community property between husband and wife and the husband’s property does not automatically go to the wife after his death.
24- A woman inherits half what a man inherits.
25- A man has the right to have up to 4 wives and none of them have a right to divorce him — even if he is polygamous.
26- The dowry is given in exchange for the woman’s sexual organs.
27- A man is allowed to have sex with slave women and women captured in battle, and if the enslaved woman is married her marriage is annulled.
28- The testimony of a woman in court is half the value of a man.
29- A woman loses custody if she remarries.
30- To prove rape, a woman must have 4 grown ‘pious’ male Muslim witnesses.
31- A rapist may only be required to pay the bride-money (dowry) without marrying the rape victim.
32- A Muslim woman must cover every inch of her body, which is considered “Awrah,” a sexual organ. Not all Sharia schools allow the face of a woman exposed.
33- A Muslim man is forgiven if he kills his wife at the time he caught her in the act of adultery. However, the opposite is not true for women, since the man “could be married to the woman he was caught with.”
34-It is obligatory for a Muslim to lie if the purpose is obligatory. That means that for the sake of abiding with Islam’s commandments, such as jihad, a Muslim is obliged to lie and should not have any feelings of guilt or shame associated with this kind of lying.
2007 Article by CAIR Watch Chairman, Joe Kaufman on Islamic Circle of America’s ‘Ties and Lies’ >HERE<