Terrorism is one thing that non-Muslims fear about Muslims, but there is another Arabic word besides “jihad” that has begun to make the rounds. Is the implementation of Sharia in the United States a credible threat?
Sharia in the UK
The fear of Sharia taking over the West is one that stems from the words and actions of certain Western European Muslims, notably those who reside in what is known as Londonistan. Although they are far from a majority, there is a vocal minority of Muslims in Western European countries who want to implement Islamic law in the areas in which they live. Western born, raised, and educated, many of them see what their parents think of as “back home” as not home at all and want their home, i.e. whichever part of Western Europe in which they live, to better reflect their version of Islamic values.
The Muslims that call for the implementation of their interpretation of Sharia law are a problem not only for non-Muslims, but for anyone who isn’t the exact same sort of Muslim that they are. All people who are interested in maintaining a society with religious and social freedom would likely not want to live in the type of country that people like Anjem Choudary would like to run. Naturally, just because people like Choudary call for Sharia law in Western countries does not necessarily mean that they are a credible threat.
One real issue is the implementation of legally-recognized tribunals in the United Kingdom that abide by Sharia rather than British law. Such tribunals exist for other religious groups as well, but there are some valid concerns over Sharia-based tribunals’ potential for human rights violations, especially against women. Though some prominent Britons have argued that allowing for them means more transparency and potential for integration for British Muslims, the fact that Islamic law especially discriminates against women is cause for concern–
for members of the Muslim community. Such tribunals’ decisions do not apply to non-Muslims (unless those non-Muslims were to seek them). Even with the real implementation of Sharia to some extent in the UK, then, alarm over the potential for Sharia being applied to non-Muslims with no affiliation to the Muslims community is a tad overblown. It is far more of an intracommunity issue and one worthy of addressing in the interests of protecting more secular Muslims and ex-Muslims, but not quite as much for the people who seem most invested in being frightened of it.
Sharia in the United States?
The trouble with Islam is that to most Westerners, especially Americans, think of Islam as if it were some monolithic body, and, by extension, that Muslims have unanimous and identical opinions, when the reality is that there is quite a bit of diversity among Muslims. It’s also very stereotypically American to espouse an us-and-them point of view when it comes to issues, not to mention the fact that things have worsened post 9-11. Part of the problem for Islam in particular is that, for a variety of reasons, most Muslims like to present a united front for non-Muslim eyes, a topic worthy of its own (yes, upcoming) post.
The statistics on American Muslims show a population that is well-educated, monied, and professional. Generally speaking, then, American Muslims are people who left countries with laws based on Sharia in order to flourish in a country where the laws are (ostensibly) based on secular values.
Logically speaking, why would people like that support the implementation of Islamic law? Short answer: they don’t. Despite fear-mongering over reality television and unconstitutional efforts to ban Sharia, there has not been any documented effort on the part of American Muslims to implement Sharia in the United States. As even someone who protested the aforementioned reality show admitted, non-Muslim Americans are not called infidels nor discriminated against for disbelieving in Islam.
Furthermore, even if American Muslims were to rally for Sharia implementation in the United States, they would find no way to do so outside of outright disobedience of the law or influencing the government in a way that would be out of reach for their particular demographic. Unlike the United Kingdom, the United States does not allow for separate legal tribunals, so even policing the Muslim community internally using Sharia would not be legally viable for American Muslims.
Fear of Sharia implementation by American Muslims can blind Americans committed to secularism to a real threat. The most powerful force in favor of the implementation of religion-based law in the United States is the Christian Right, not Islam.
Conclusion: Neither Peace Nor Pieces
None of the Abrahamic faiths can claim to have a fully peaceful history and implementation; Islam is no exception.
While terrorism affects non-Muslims and there do exist some Muslims who wish to implement Sharia law over non-Muslims, the biggest threat certain interpretations of Islam present is to Islam’s current and former followers. Most terrorist acts committed by Muslims, including 9-11, kill Muslims. In the case of Al-Qaida in particular, eight times as many Muslims as non-Muslims are killed in its attacks. The Sharia-based tribunals in the United Kingdom disadvantage Muslim women and potentially endanger ex-Muslims, given Islam’s traditionally harsh stance on apostasy and the potential for an ex-Muslim to be considered a part of the Muslim community and thus under the jurisdiction of such a tribunal.
In other words, I have far more to credibly fear from not-so-peaceful Muslims than do the protesters who helped to get Lowe’s and Kayak to pull their ads from TLC.
Arguing that Islam is all violence — or all peace — not only is untrue, but causes harmful inaccuracies in the fight for a world with less in the way of terrorism and theocracy.
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