Monday, May 9, 2011

Tennessee Senate Fails Sharia 101

Sharia is a set of beliefs, laws, opinions, and traditions which represent the existential ideal way in which a Muslim should live. Sharia comes from the root ش-ر-ع meaning road or path. Halacha in Judaism has a similar meaning, both literally and with regards to the law. Just as Halacha is filled with discrepancies, debates, and conflicting opinions, so too is Sharia. Sharia is not omnipotent in a legal sense. That is to say, my legal obligation to stop at a red light is not governed by the Sharia. Nor is my obligation to pay taxes to a non-Muslim government, nor is my obligation to obey the laws of my non-Islamic country. Those who argue otherwise tend to base their assertion on statements from Muslims who either lack proper Islamic legal authority, or represent a tiny minority of Muslim scholars with very little influence. The vast majority of Muslims and Muslim scholars, for example, would not consider the intentional killing of civilians consistent with Sharia.

In that regard, the text of the proposed Tennessee Sharia Bill is both puzzling and deeply disturbing. Here is a list of statements in the first 4 pages of the bill which are simply inaccurate:

"Sharia serves as national and local law in several foreign jurisdictions"

- Some Arab legal systems are based on Sharia, but a "Sharia state" does not currently exist.

"Sharia as a political doctrine requires all its adherents to actively support the establishment of a political society based upon sharia."

- Support does not mean overthrowing the government or engaging in illegal activity.

"Sharia requires all its adherents to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic."

- Blatantly false. That would be inconsistent with Sharia.

"The unchanging and ultimate aim of jihad is the imposition of sharia on all states and nations."

- The ultimate aim of all five types of Jihad is personal improvement.

"Sharia requires the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions."

- Again, blatantly false.

"The imposition of sharia on non-sharia adherent states is to be brought about both by criminal and violent means."
- False.

"The knowing adherence to sharia and to foreign sharia authorities constitutes a conspiracy."
- If being Muslim is a conspiracy then this would be true.

"The knowing adherence to sharia and to foreign sharia authorities is prima facie evidence of an act in support of the overthrow of the United States government."
- Unless you think being Muslim means wanting to overthrow the government, false.

"The threat from sharia-based jihad and terrorism presents a real and present danger to the lawful governance of this state."
- Really Tennessee? Really?

"This part neither targets, nor incidentally prohibits or inhibits, the peaceful practice of any religion."
- By equating adherence to Sharia with overthrowing the government, the law inhibits the freedom of religion of Muslims in Tennessee.

" 'Sharia' means the set of rules, precepts, instructions, or edicts which are said to emanate directly or indirectly from the god of Allah or the prophet Mohammed and which include directly or indirectly the encouragement of any person to support the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States or Tennessee Constitutions."
- First, not everything included in Sharia is binding as this text suggests. Secondly, the Prophet repeated the word of Allah so he's not himself that prolific a legal source. Use of the phrase "god of Allah" implies the existence of other gods, yet Islam is monotheistic and based theologically on both Judaism and Christianity.

As a disclaimer to the reader in general (and Andrew Exum in particular), I have nothing against the fine State of Tennessee. This particular bill, however, is based on an extremely flawed understanding of Sharia, and sets a dangerous precedent which promotes fear and ignorance, rather than knowledge and smart policy-making.

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