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Thursday
Jun302016

Do We Need to Fear Sharia Law in America?

Donald Trump doesn’t want to allow Muslims to enter the United States. His fear is that they may be terrorists. Many Americans agree with Trump and particularly, they are concerned about refugees from the current Middle Eastern wars arriving within our borders. But the fear of Muslims goes deeper than simply that a small percentage of them might be terrorists. There is also the issue of Sharia Law. Numerous protests against the building of mosques and against the immigration of refugees have included signs proclaiming, “we will not be ruled by Sharia Law.” The fear seems to be that Muslim immigrants will be able to impose their own religious laws upon the rest of America.

Sharia law is law based upon the Koran, or the Hadiths, the reputed sayings of Monammed, based on their status as sacred texts, but is not necessarily related to how one practices religion. Most, but not all Muslim countries have some form of Sharia law, most often alongside civil law and in most cases related to family matters and inheritance. This is true also of many countries, including Western democracies such as Germany and the U.K., in which Muslims are a minority population and in which Sharia law may be applied to their lives if they choose (but in no Western country does it supercede civil law). Sharia law has also brought outrage in a number of Western European countries where some Muslims Imams have asked to have Sharia law be the official law in high density Muslim population regions, causing the majority population to react with fear and horror. Courts, governments and social institutions in some countries such as Germany, France, Austria and the U.K. have addressed this issue of freedom to follow Sharia law within their countries’ borders. Routinely, court rulings have declared laws and opinions dictated by religion or by Sharia “courts” or “councils” as unofficial, unenforceable and illegal if they conflict with civil law.

What is true of Western democracies in Europe and the Americas is that written constitutions determine what is allowed and what is not and, in virtually all Western nations except the Vatican, religion is independent from government. The United States was founded as a nation with the purpose of guaranteeing rights upon which the government could not infringe. The rules of one or another religious denomination do not determine American law, nor change which rights are protected under our constitution. Even if one religion becomes the majority religion within the country, our laws must be independent of that or any other religion’s precepts. These are the guarantees provided by the United States Constitution. Such constitutional rights are based upon Enlightenment thinking about the rights of individuals and the need to constrain the power of the state. There is no reason to think that our constitutional protections will change because we allow a certain type of immigrant to enter our country.

The real danger to our rights in the United States is our own fear. Out of fear of the consequences of immigration, Donald Trump has suggested that we no longer allow “birthright citizenship” as guaranteed by the constitution. His suggestion of a religious test to determine who enters the country and who does not, would also violate constitutionally guaranteed rights against making laws directed at certain religions. Every day we see challenges to free speech in America. Universities attempt to ban speech they deem “offensive” to certain groups, despite its expression being guaranteed by the constitution. Those who champion unpopular and racist ideas, including Neo-Nazis, but also in the eyes of many, Donald Trump’s own supporters, have been attacked and prevented from speaking by violent protesters claiming to be “defending freedom,” while they are taking it away from those with whom they disagree. Women who dress in traditional Muslim garb are jeered at and sometimes attacked by those who are somehow by offended by this expression of religious faith ( in France, a democratic country,  students are not allowed to wear Muslim head coverings to school). Hard won rights of women to make their own decisions about their bodies and for those who are not heterosexual to marry are challenged everyday by people and groups who feel those rights are at odds with their Christian faith.

The constitution of the United States ultimately determines what may and what may not become a law within this country. The fear that Sharia law may become the law of the land is unfounded.  We have many religions within the United States that impose rules upon their members. Catholics are not allowed to divorce. Neither devout orthodox Jews nor devout orthodox Muslims eat pork. Mormons are supposed to tithe 10% of their income to their church. And of course, neither Church’s nor closely-held corporations can be forced to comply with provisions of the Affordable Care Act that mandate inclusion of birth control within the health insurance they provide to employees, if this conflicts with their religion (The Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision). Some Native American tribes are allowed to use illegal hallucinogens in their religious services because it is a traditional part of their religion (The Religoius Freedom Restoration Act). These practices and even constitutionally guaranteed exceptions to federal laws are not regarded as a threat to anyone else’s freedom within the United States.

There is nothing threatening in a Muslim following Islam in his or her own activities and no reason it should impinge upon anyone else’s freedom. It is only the mindset that government should enforce religious tenets which causes a problem and this is not a point of view unique to one religion (in the U.S., a Christian, Arizona legislator recently attempted to pass a bill that would require everyone in that state to attend church). What is called for is a fierce adherence to the principles of individual freedom, which are the source of our democratic rule in Western countries. If, out of fear, we begin to violate the constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and of freedom to practice one’s religion, of freedom from laws directed specifically at one religion or another, of birthright citizenship, of the right to immigrate to our country based upon such things as merit, family ties, and refugee status instead of on religion, then we, ourselves, not Sharia Law, are our own greatest threat to freedom in America.

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  • Response
    I think people in America are very fearful of the Muslims.They are wrong in this way.Muslims are also human and no one need to fear from them.America itself killed many people in Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and even Pakistan by their droon attacks.But the Muslims are not fear of america ...

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