Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Examining the Anti-Shariah Movement in America

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Examining the Anti-Shariah Movement in America

Article excerpt

In light of the ongoing controversy regarding Islam and shariah in America, the Center for American Progress hosted a July 26 discussion at its Washington, DC headquarters to clarify the issue. The Center's director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Sally Steenland, and Shireen Zaman, executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, introduced the discussion by panelists Prof. Asifa Quraishi, Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy and Faiz Shakir. Contrary to a belief that has swept through the nation since the 9/11 attacks, "American Muslims are not part of an American sleeper-cell," Zaman said. The increase in hate crimes against Islam in America proves that the country's open and diverse vision of a religiously free community "has become clouded," she lamented.

Professor Quraishi, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and an assistant professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, explained what shariah meant to her as a Muslim, and also its greater meaning in Islam. Directly translated, shariah means "divine path," or "street." According to Quraishi, the broader understanding is that shariah is the path God wants his followers to take. The answers of how God wants you to lead your life are not always written, she elaborated, but are interpretations taken from the Qur'an known as fiqh laws, which Muslims follow in order to serve God through shariah. Quraishi noted that the many different schools of fiqh have caused confusion over shariah to spread in the West. People simply do not understand that shariah is not a specific set of laws, she said, and that Muslims follow their own fiqh to fulfill shariah.

The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, stated that "all religious law stems from one purpose: how do I show my commitment to God?" Because of the differing interpretations of shariah within Islam and its historical presence in various Islamic-ruled nations, he noted, some fear has grown among Americans over Islam's growing presence in this country. Concern has been raised in the past few months as such politicians as Herman Cain and Michele Bachman warn their followers that shariah will soon replace U. …

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