Guest commentary: Understanding Shari’a — its guidelines of faith don’t conflict with laws of the land

http://www.freep.com/article/20110428/OPINION05/104280407/Guest-commentary-Understand-Shari-its-guidelines-faith-don-t-conflict-laws-land?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

By Dawud Walid

DETROIT FREE PRESS GUEST WRITER

Apr 28, 2011

With anti-Islam legislation proposed in Texas in which a legislator states that Dearborn is governed by Islamic law to the recent media circus surrounding Pastor Terry Jones, the term sharia has become perhaps the most misunderstood term in America’s contemporary lexicon.

Sharia is generally defined by Oxford Professor Tariq Ramadan as a “path towards faithfulness” meaning the Muslims’ compass towards living life pleasing to God.  As sharia’s original meaning is a path towards water, Islam teaches that souls need spiritual and intellect water to sustain and protect their physical and material selves in societies.  To be clear, sharia does not mean a fixed codex of laws but is a guidepost towards promoting well-being.

The 14th century Spanish Muslim jurist Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi stated that the basic objectives of sharia are five – the protection of religion, life, intellect, property and posterity.  To meet these objectives in worship, social transactions and judicial proceedings, varying schools of jurisprudence arose based upon textual interpretations and cultural environments.  Like Jewish Halakha, which was practiced in Muslim Spain for almost seven centuries, there are laws between God and man and rules that govern relations between people within Islam.

Sharia, thus, guides Muslims in the entire life from how to eat and pray to the need for being just with all humans for the pleasure of the Divine.  What can be eaten, the exact words to be said in ritual prayers and the system in which justice can be found, however, can vary.  Hence, Dr. Ramadan stated that the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution is “sharia compliant” because American Muslims can adhere to the laws of the land while congruently striving to fulfill the requirements of the Islamic faith.

Adhering to the rule of law and order in any country while prohibiting vigilantism, which can lead to anarchy is within the sharia.  The Qur’an states, “Oh you who believe! Fulfill (all) obligations,” and “fulfill (every) covenant, and surely (every) covenant will be questioned about.”  Therefore, American Muslims must fulfill their social contracts with the state, not simply as being law-abiding citizens but also as obeying a Divine mandate.

Islamic jurisprudence is not incumbent on people who do not believe in Islam, nor do American Muslims have the desire, much less the authority, to force one particular form of Islamic jurisprudence on the Muslim community.  Many Muslims, who have immigrated to America from lands such as Egypt and Tunisia can attest to fact that they can practice Islam more freely under our system of government than the countries in which they migrated from.  This is a fact.

As our nation witnessed merchants of fear proclaiming that Catholics were going to secretly take over the country to have the Pope and Catholic Law rule America, we are seeing from the likes of Newt Gingrich, himself a Catholic, propagating the same regarding Muslims and sharia.  As we better our understanding of Islam and the long history of Muslims in America, I hope that more of us can challenge the likes of Jones and Gingrich, who are seeking to divide fellow Americans for a quick moment of fame or to gain cheap political points.

Dawud Walid is executive director of CAIR-MI.

Due credit to Muslims for sending the right message on Terry Jones

http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/04/25/due-credit-to-muslims-for-sending-the-right-message-on-terry-jones/

Due credit to Muslims for sending the right message on Terry Jones

by Tim Kowal on April 25, 2011

Pointing out the recent stories concerning Terry Jones’s plans to protest outside Dearborn, Michigan’s largest mosque—and noting that a local CAIR leader, Dawud Walid, among others, rightly and admirably criticized the legal attempts to shut down Jones’s speech—commenter BSK invites me to defend my argument that American Muslims have a “messaging” problem.  As readers will recall, I previously pointed out that many Americans harbor suspicions whether “moderate Islam” bears any problematic underlying connection to the “radical Islam” or “Islamism” practiced by our shadowy ideological enemies.  I argued that, even if we assume no such connections exist in reality, one of the reasons connections do exist in perception has to do with a “messaging” problem and, further, that moderate Muslims might be able to take steps to address it.  Given Dearborn Muslims’ apparently unequivocal message supporting Jones’s First Amendment right to voice his message—even while they strongly condemn that message—BSK and James Hanley suggest that those critical of Muslim messaging should at least acknowledge that Mr. Walid and other moderate Muslims got the messaging basically right here.  (See also here, here, and here.)

It’s a good point, and it deserves a response on a few different levels.

First, as to the Dearborn controversy in particular, I agree that the responses from CAIR and other members of the Dearborn Muslim community to Terry Jones generally have been correct and fairly well stated.  This certainly needs to be acknowledged.  And while acknowledging Muslims got it right with respect to Dearborn, it should further be acknowledged that Muslims also get it right with respect to most issues of public concern that touch on Islam generally.  In other words, it should not be suggested that the example of the Muslim response in Dearborn is an outlier.  To the contrary, moderate Muslims provide a consistent voice of reason that generally reflects a sound grasp of American principles of free speech, free exercise of religion, traditional moral values, and personal responsibility.  Thus, with respect to the content of Muslim “messaging,” American Muslims certainly do a much better job than Muslims in other parts of the world.  (E.g., I still say that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad’s response to the Itamar settlement attacks was cagey and backhanded.)

On another level, however, it might be said that while moderate Muslims often do get the messaging right, their ability to get that message out to a wide audience has been unfortunately limited.  I have heard this argument made in conjunction with the observation that American Jews, for example, have by contrast been very successful at messaging to a wide audience.  This is a corollary to the thesis of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby, panned by several critics as a conspiracy theory based on anecdotal evidence.  At any rate, I understand that many Muslims harbor frustration that, despite having roughly the same numerical population in the U.S. as Muslims, American Jews have a much greater and more favorable presence in the media and politics.  BSK points out other factors that have generally aided broader Jewish acceptance in the U.S., such as that Jews are often identified as “white,” and thus more palatable to white America; Americans have sympathy for Jews as victims, whether directly or indirectly, of the Holocaust; and that Judaism has not been ideologically associated with acts of terrorism like Islam has.

The generalization related to me by one Muslim, on the other hand, is that American Muslims, for whatever reason, tend to prefer to “keep their heads down” by focusing on their own families, businesses, and private communities, and generally do not seek to draw attention to themselves. That is certainly not a wrong position to take—quite the contrary.  But perhaps it is naïve under the circumstances, and perhaps more moderate Muslims should seek to get involved in media and politics and think tanks and the like.  Then again, perhaps BSK is also right that more people who complain about American Muslims’ “messaging” problems should spend equal time pitching in, underscoring how Muslims share our core values, and acknowledging where Muslims get the messaging right.  To that end, I appreciate and accept the invitation to so acknowledge.

To circle back around to just a couple more points about the substance of Muslim messaging, this segment from Fox’s Dearborn affiliate shows Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini responding to Terry Jones’s concerns over the spread of Sharia.  In that response, Imam Al-Qazqini points out that Jones does not have a sound understanding of Sharia (which Jones admitted), and that Sharia does not mandate “stoning” as Jones claimed.  Fair enough.  But the response fails to address the broader concern about Sharia, which really involves two questions:  What is it?  And do American Muslims want it imposed in this country?  These are both complex questions, so I don’t fault Imam Al-Qazqini for not engaging them in depth.  But there does seem to be a generally sense of avoidance of these questions by the moderate Muslim community.

However, there might be a good reason for this.  For example, it may be that Imam Al-Qazqini calculated, probably correctly, that it would be imprudent at this time to put Americans to a choice between their religious principles and their constitutional principles.  That is, whatever Sharia involves, surely American Muslims would be entitled to enact them into law according to the same democratic process that American Christians, for example, believe entitle them to democratically express their own values—such as the definition of marriage.  Bringing such questions to the fore would stir up a lot of moral, legal, religious, and political passions, thus potentially subjecting American Muslims to more ill will rather than less.  Thus, caution on the Sharia question is probably wise.

Along the same lines, Tom Van Dyke points out another detail about the Dearborn story that helps illustrate why more “messaging” is still needed.  According to the Detroit Free Press,  Imam Al-Qazqini “cautioned the Dearborn Police chief that some Muslims in his mosque feel that the burning of a Quran is worse than 1,000 deaths,” and “expressed concern about how some young members of his mosque might react to Jones.”  These statements were offered in support of the county’s request to enjoin Jones’s demonstration on the basis that Jones’s speech, combined with the beliefs of local Muslims, would reasonably lead to violence.

Again, it is not Imam Al-Qazqini’s duty, or any other Muslim’s duty to predict or explain how other individuals might act upon their religious beliefs.  But the fact that such statements are being made in our courts, and relied upon in court rulings, suggests there is still some real work to be done to dispel the perceived connections between Islam and violence.  Attempts to dismiss these perceptions as nothing more than bigotry are woefully inadequate and fail to advance the cause of American Muslims or civil discourse generally.

Jones’ Jesus stunt and his inadvertent supporters

From yesterday’s shenanigans in which Terry Jones was detained for a few hours after refusing to pay a $1 peace bond given after a trial by a jury of his peers, Jones is now stating that the verdict against him is proof that shari’ah is in Dearborn.

Wait one minute!  Terry Jones stood trial in a court in Wayne County being judged by an ordinance within the state of Michigan by a Christian judge and by a jury which consisted of no Muslims, yet he’s crying that  the verdict against him is due to shari’ah in Dearborn?!

As I stated on “Let It Rip” on FOX 2 last night (see the 1st video of the 3 segments), Jones wanted to get arrested.  I forecasted weeks ago that his coming on “Good Friday” was a ploy to paint himself as being oppressed by the so-called “pro-shari’ah” Dearborn government as Jesus Christ was oppressed by the Roman occupational government in Palestine.  It would have been better for his fundraising if he would have stay until Sunday in police custody then arose from jail as Christianity teaches Christ was resurrected.

As Jones is an ignoramus and a charlatan of a pastor, I still affirm that much of the hoopla could have been averted if Jones would have been allowed to protest in front of the Islamic Center of America.  Having been defended via an ACLU brief, he’s now fashioned himself as a 1st Amendment martyr.  Jones’ plan to come back to Dearborn to protest in front of the Islamic Center of America next week could have been averted.

I continue to say that Wayne County Prosecutor’s office raised Jones’ profile with the legal injunction against him.  Furthermore, the Prosecutor’s argument that a riot would have broken out in Dearborn ala the Afghanistan United Nation office tragedy was a diss to Metro Detroit Muslims.  The ACTS 17 group came to Dearborn without being harmed and the radical Westboro Baptist Church protested recently in front of the same mosque without incident.  The Imams Council of this area, which I am a part of, intentionally coordinated interfaith activities with Christians to divert the chance of confrontation.  The only persons who were extremely rowdy yet non-violent relating to Jones being in Dearborn were from BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), and they are not Muslims!

Also the argument that there could have been a dangerous situation and that he shouldn’t speak in front of the mosque because of a potential riot is bogus from another perspective.  If anyone speaks and is not planning violence against persons or structures, he/she should not be blocked simply because of the potential that someone may harm them.  His carrying a gun is a non-issue though the klutz  discharged his firearm Thursday night at the FOX 2 parking lot in a car.  The liability of potential violence is not upon the speaker if he is not telling people to be violent.  Any violent acts would be the criminality of the perpetrators of violence.  Most public figures, who take controversial stances including myself, have received death threats.   Should other speakers be barred because they may say something politically incorrect in front of particular locations to reinforce their points?  I don’t think so.

So though I despise the burning of the Torah, Psalms, Gospel and Qur’an and I believe that it is wrong to protest in front of houses of worship from a spiritual perspective, I also think that we can go down a dangerous path when we begin blocking persons from speaking on public property at any location.  It’s Jones today, and it could be you and me tomorrow.

So now Jones will come back to Dearborn, he will probably take some sort of legal action against Wayne County and Dearborn.  Instead of this mess going away, it’s going to continue to put him in the news, which is what he wants.  Perhaps this all could have been behind us in Michigan regarding Jones, but this seems like it was only round 1.