Monday, March 28, 2011

UNWELCOME and the Lowdown on Sharia

Last night saw CNN air the special Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door, in which host Soledad O'Brien looked at the rigmarole surrounding the plans for a new mosque in Murfreesboro, TN (that I've previously discussed here, here, and here) and the subsequent lawsuit by some local residents to try and prevent it. While I think the show did a nice job of giving the anti-Muslim crowd (you know, the ones who vociferously proclaim that they're not bigots just before they say incredibly bigoted things) enough rope to hang themselves, one thing I would have liked more of was clarification once and for all of "Sharia law," the supposed "creeping" of which has been used as a Sword of Damocles in right wing circles for awhile now (as hilariously evident in the brilliant "Barney Fife as Racist" performance art by the Murfreesboro plaintiffs' attorney).

One welcome expert voice that O'Brien did bring out, however, was Noah Feldman, author of the terrific book After Jihad (among many others). Feldman, who I was first exposed to when I edited "Islam & Democracy," his 2004 lecture with Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf (the trailer for which -- also edited by me -- you can check out here), is about as authoritative a voice as I've seen on this subject, but a thorough explanation of Sharia isn't exactly something that can be boiled down to the few soundbite-sized nuggets he was given on the special. However, three years ago Feldman (who also helped draft the Iraqi constitution) wrote a far lengthier piece for the New York Times that delved fully into Sharia's many intricacies and modalities, and it's essential reading for anyone who's ever had a question about what constitutes Islamic jurisprudence, or who hears "duh-duh-DAH" in their head whenever someone mentions Sharia.

1 comment:

Fahim Bhatty said...

The real issue in my opinion was presented near the end of the program when the host asked the woman if she had ever met or talked with any of the Muslims in her community that she was so against. Her response was something like "well they never invited me". Open dialogue would definitely clear up many misconceptions. Pew Research proved that those that know a Muslim personally have a much more favorable view of Islam.

I also found it comical that some guy (dressed in white suits and bow ties no less) would make an argument in court that Islam is not a religion and Muslims are trying to implement Sharia law in this country. Unfortunately, the situation has degenerated to the extent that fifteen states in the U.S. are discussing ways to criminalize Shariah, which includes, in one case, making it a felony to wash for prayer in a public restroom. This is an affront not only to the practice of religion in America, where freedom of religion is guaranteed in our constitution, but it is also the targeting of one specific religious community, which is discrimination. Hopefully, Shariah101.org will help educate Americans when the site launches soon.

p.s. Islam & Democracy! That's where I know Feldman from...thanks!