Magazine article Church & State

Will the Real Theocrats Please Stand Up? Law Based in Religion Is Indeed a Threat in America-But the People Pushing It Aren't Who Some Think

Magazine article Church & State

Will the Real Theocrats Please Stand Up? Law Based in Religion Is Indeed a Threat in America-But the People Pushing It Aren't Who Some Think

Article excerpt

Hate crimes in America against Muslims have risen to levels not seen since 9/11. President Donald J. Trump inflamed and rode Islamophobia to the White House, drawing the overwhelming support of a key anti-Islam voting constituency --right-wing evangelical Christians. Upon taking office, Trump signed an executive order travel ban targeting immigrants from seven Muslim nations, and all refugees. Many of his evangelical Christian supporters cheered, but their joy was short lived as courts quickly blocked the president's unconstitutional action.

Trump claimed, without basis, that his ban was necessary to protect the United States from Islamic terrorists. In reality, there have been no terrorist acts to date committed on American soil by persons from the nations Trump targeted.

Trump systematically exploits the emotional, irrational fears all too common in today's America. The truth is that you and I are far more likely to be killed by lightning, a dog attack, hornets or wasps, suicide, murder, a home-grown Christian terrorist attack, choking, suffocation, walking, drowning, poisoning, pollution, a heat wave, electricity or radiation, an airplane accident, a stray asteroid or almost anything else you can imagine than by Muslim refugees.

Irrational fear of Muslims, however, extends beyond refugees. Many Americans also obsess over the illusionary prospect of "Sharia law" infiltrating courtrooms in the United States.

Which begs the question: what is "Sharia law"?

Practicing Muslims believe in one God, Allah, and the Prophet Muhammad (570-632 A.D.). "Allah" is a derivation of the Old Testament, Hebrew "Elohim" and is the same God that Jews and Christians worship. But Muslims depart from Judeo-Christian monotheists in their belief in Muhammad as a special messenger from God who dictated the words of God as preserved in the Quran, Islam's sacred book.

In a fashion similar to the scope and function of canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, Sharia is Islamic law in the form of legal, moral and ethical philosophy.

Evolving after Muhammad's death and drawing from the Quran and Sunnah (essentially the collected teachings and sayings of Muhammad), Sharia is divine, immutable, comprehensive, interpretive in nature and defines how an individual Muslim is to conduct his or her life and behave toward others. It also governs the manner in which Islamic communities, groups, social structures and economic organizations interact.

Sharia, in other words, is the prescribed religious path that Muslims follow. And like other religious paths, Sharia is highly interpretive and in practice is expressed in divergent directions.

On the conservative end of the Islamic spectrum, many Muslim-dominant nations have enshrined Sharia, to varying degrees, into constitutional theocracies--including Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Such nations often adhere to fundamentalist expressions of Islam in denying freedom of religion, freedom of thought, gender equality or sexual freedom. In turn, fundamentalist Islam is sometimes a breeding ground for extremism or terrorism, a violent offshoot that American national security analysts estimate represents a miniscule .007 percent of the world's Muslim population.

Few Muslims approve of extremism, and many living within Islamic* dominant nations are also opposed to the far lesser--yet still harsh--conservative, theocratic interpretation and application of Sharia. Nonetheless, scholarly polls and surveys of Muslims worldwide most of whom live in Islamic nations - indicate that the majority do not approve of separation of religion and state as practiced in the United States, but rather support the integration of Sharia, in varying degrees, with modern governance.

Apart from Islamic-dominant nations, however, a more progressive expression of Muslim faith is common, with the United States leading the way. …

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