By S. Amjad Hussain
Oct. 10, 2016
My Sept. 26 column on Shariah Law elicited negative comments by many readers. Some of them thought, erroneously, that I was advocating implementation of Shariah Law in the United States. I said no such thing.
On the contrary, after describing the variations in the Shariah Law, I emphasized that there was no chance it could ever be implemented in the United States.
Every religion has a set of guiding principles which dictate how the believers should conduct themselves — both in public and in private lives. Hadaka, the Jewish Law, for example, encompasses all aspects of Jewish life, including daily routine, food, personal hygiene, marriage, and observance of Shabbat.
Shariah also prescribes guidelines that Muslims are supposed to follow in their daily lives, and a great majority of Muslims follow them.
On the question of warfare, treatment of prisoners, and punishments for crimes, however, there are wide differences among the scholars. In this context, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are the outliers. The Shariah practiced by the so-called Islamic State or ISIS is anathema to even al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The logical question is whether these Shariah are accepted by a majority of Muslims. The answer is an emphatic no.
There is no single codified law that can be called the only Shariah Law. There are many variations in the interpretation of the Qur’an and the secondary literature, and that gives rise to vast differences of opinion among the Muslims. That is precisely why the law followed in Saudi Arabia, for example, has little resemblance to the law followed in many other Islamic countries.
Let us take the example of a Muslim who does not believe in certain punitive laws, say stoning for adultery, or beheadings for murder, but still follows certain guidelines in his or her personal life.
And suppose Newt Gingrich would, if he is able to, set up a huge screening process where every Muslim in America is asked a simple question: Do you believe in Shariah? I bet a great majority of 3 million Muslims living in America, including yours truly, would have to be forcefully expelled from the United States.
Such an impractical and dumb idea is reminiscent of the plebiscites and referendums that tin-pot dictators hold to consolidate their power and bring a fig leaf of legitimacy to their rule. One would expect something more intelligent and coherent from Mr. Gingrich, who has a doctorate in history from Tulane University and taught history at West Georgia College.
My own take is that he knows better. But during the selection process for Republican vice president — he was one of the three men under consideration — he went overboard in order to shore up his credentials as a strong anti-terrorism (read anti-Muslim) candidate.
Thanks to the concentrated efforts by a number of organizations and rich individuals, an Islamophobic industry has been churning out material that paints Islam as a monolith and Muslims as mindless robots who follow the dictates of a religion that a great majority of Muslims do not recognize.
This propaganda has permeated far and wide and has affected otherwise educated and rational people.
It was evident at a dinner I recently attended at a friend’s home. He is a Muslim, and one of his close friends, a Catholic, had invited a group of people to discuss the phenomenon of terrorism. They were particularly interested in the genesis of my 2001 book on the Taliban that I wrote after a visit to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in 2000.
During the dinner, a successful Toledo businessman, now retired, leaned over and said that Muslims and their religion were the cause of much of the turmoil in the world. I asked him if he had met any Muslims, and he said he had not. He certainly knew a few of them because one of the hosts was a Muslim and at the table there were at least three other Muslims. They did not fit his image of a Muslim.
The gentleman did not realize that the friendly and level-headed host he had known for years was a Muslim. He is not alone. There are millions of people in this country who have never met a Muslim, have not visited a mosque, or tried to learn about Islam but instead are content to accept, as gospel truth, what the Islamophobic industry dishes out.