Though I believe that the piece “Unwelcome: The Muslim Next Door” did an overall good job in showing the irrational intolerance against the mosque expansion project, I see two issues within.
First, Muslims should be allowed to define our faith for ourselves including us having our own scholars define our sacred terms such as shari’ah, a word mentioned in the Qur’an. We have scholars and experts in shari’ah who are Muslims such as Dr. Sherman Jackson and Dr. Intisar Rabb. That Noah Feldman was chosen as the expert on shari’ah to speak for us seemed like a familiar motif of the authoritative White male (who doesn’t believe in Islam) speaking on behalf of minorities. It was insensitive to me.
Furthermore, the term “shari’ah” was discussed overall in a negative context. If shar’iah was framed correctly in the story as not being a set of laws but objectives in which we Muslims seek to live our lives for the pleasure of G-d, that would have been more beneficial in clarifying misconceptions.
Unfortunately even the young Muslim female shown who appears not to be very educated about Islam herself was trapped in the shari’ah is not even here but is a possible threat frame. I watched this play out with another community leader, and we were dumbfounded.
It was a good effort, but a golden opportunity was missed. I hope that it can be re-visted.
Imam Dawud Walid