In June, Americans in about two dozen cities joined a “March Against Sharia.” For these protesters, the Arabic term is a code word for the oppression of women and men in the name of God — horrors like stoning and beheading. Since such brutalities do indeed happen in the name of Shariah, they may have had a point. But there were also points that they missed.
In Arabic, “Shariah” literally means “the way.” More specifically, it refers to the body of Islamic rules that Muslims see as God’s will — based either on the Quran or on the Prophet Muhammad’s reported words and deeds. It is conceptually impossible, therefore, for a Muslim who is serious about his faith to condemn Shariah. But the implementation of Shariah, which is called “fiqh,” or jurisprudence, is open to interpretation and discussion.
Much of Shariah is about personal observance: A good Muslim should pray five times a day while turned toward Mecca, for example, or should fast daily throughout Ramadan. Of course, there is no problem with these acts of personal piety — unless they are coerced. They should be welcome in any society with religious liberty.
However, a part of Shariah is about public law, including the penal code. And there are clear conflicts here with modern standards of human rights. First, Shariah lays out corporal punishments, such as chopping off hands, stoning, flogging and beheading. The Islamic legal code also proscribes crimes like apostasy, blasphemy and extramarital sex — none of which can be a crime at all in any liberal society.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Perhaps Trump isn’t interested in the truth. The rest of us should be, though, because understanding the truth about Islam is the best way to fight extremism within it. The alternative is to misunderstand and misrepresent the majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, the very people who have the greatest stake in the fight. (Remember, the vast majority of victims of Islamic extremist attacks are Muslims.)
So, what exactly is the truth about Sharia, and how does that help us combat extremism? In short, there is a difference between personal, spiritual Sharia and the political incorporation of Sharia into law. And within both, there are progressive interpretations as well as more fundamentalist conservative interpretations. So the word Sharia doesn’t mean one thing.
“Every practicing Muslim — whether traditional or conservative or progressive — in some way follows Sharia,” says Wajahat Ali, a Virginia-based writer and creative director of Affinis Labs
. “There’s no book called Sharia. You can’t rent it. It’s subject to human interpretation and is malleable, thus explaining how Muslims have existed for 1,400 years in nearly every society.”
I spoke with Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, I could hear his dogs barking in the background. Being a dog lover — some Muslims believe dogs are impure — is one of the least of the supposed offenses that has made the UCLA professor the subject of denunciation and threats. He is an American lawyer and an Islamic jurist, a professor of Islamic law at UCLA, and the head of its Islamic studies program. His latest book, “Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari’ah in the Modern Age,” explains what sharia, or Islamic law, is and isn’t, and what it means for contemporary Islam. His scholarly critique of Islamist terrorism and Wahhabi extremism make him an important guide in understanding last week’s violent events in France.
How do you think most Muslims react to news like the Paris shootings?
On the one hand, you’re fighting morally with the terrorists themselves, but you are worried about bigotry and prejudice.
The Islam these people envision is disastrous. It’s not … the Islam I was raised with, not the Islam of my mother, my father, my neighbors, my friends.- Khaled M. Abou El Fadl
There are three possible reactions: Some people say, yes, I am a Muslim, but don’t look at me, I didn’t commit the crime. When a Jew or Christian does something in the name of Judaism or Christianity, we don’t hold all Jews or Christians responsible, so don’t expect us to be apologetic about the criminality of criminal Muslims. The second response is denial: It must be some conspiracy because a good Muslim cannot possibly do that. This response is becoming less popular. Third, politically active Muslims try to explain that in Islam there is radicalism that goes back to a deep history of colonialism; they try to engage in this sophisticated worldview hoping to avoid further barbarity.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LA TIMES