Friday, July 15, 2011

Sharia law is not a threat

        You can’t turn on the news these days or pick up a newspaper without seeing or reading about Islam, Muslims or Sharia law. Unfortunately, most of what you hear is from politicians with a religious viewpoint or media outlets creating an illusion of an enemy.
They sensationalize Arabic words to feed on society’s fear. The hottest topic these days is the Sharia. They claim that “Moozlims” are trying to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Sharia. Before we all run out with pitchforks and protest signs, let’s understand what Islam is, and then we can understand the Sharia.
Islam is an Arabic term deriving from two words: Salam, which means peace, and Tasleem meaning submit to the will of God. So the textbook definition for Islam is peace acquired through the submission to the will of God. Therefore, Islam conveys a practical application of God’s word to all aspects of one’s life.

Islam teaches humanity how to believe, worship and maintain their relationship with God. Islam teaches humanity the significance of family values and how to honor: mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles and cousins. Islam also teaches humanity how to deal with society, commerce, education, friends, neighbors, the poor, orphans, government, justice, property and, most important, the sanctity of human life.

The Sharia is Islamic rulings from Muslim scholars and jurists that keep Muslims on the path toward abiding faith. The source of the Sharia is the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. The Sharia covers all aspects of a Muslim’s life and explains what is prohibited and permissible.

Think of Islam as an instruction manual (the Quran and prophetic traditions) on how to live your life according to the will of God. The Sharia is the path of faith regarding those instructions.

Is Sharia a threat? According to Adam Hasner, a Republican candidate for the Senate from Florida and former state legislator, “Today there is an enemy, and that enemy is Sharia-compliant Islam.”
This statement is ridiculous. When I wash before praying, this is Sharia-compliant Islam. When I offer a greeting to someone, this is Sharia- compliant Islam. What in the world is Hasner talking about?

Some politicians, groups and individuals commonly reduce the totality of the Sharia to its penal code. The penal code within the Sharia is not unique to the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed. It is also in the Torah and Talmud and part of the teachings of Prophet Moses. Having said that, it is important to recognize that regardless of the contrast, the penal codes within these texts are not the totality of the teachings of any religion and never explained as such. Why the double standard?

It’s quite simple really — an election strategy.

Politicians who emphasize religion in over 20 states have introduced some sort of legislation regarding Islam, Sharia or “Foreign Law.” They claim that the “Moozlims” are trying to infiltrate our court systems and replace our Constitution. The fact of the matter is, not one Muslim has introduced anything to any legislative body calling for Sharia to replace the Constitution or for the Sharia to replace the law of the land. This claim is absolutely baseless and really shows how disconnected these politicians are from the real problems on the ground.

In some cases, unfortunately, this strategy is effective.

We can look at U.S. Rep. Allen West’s campaign as proof of its effectiveness. West routinely bashed Islam during his campaign, with statements such as,. “We are at war with Islam” and “Islam is not a religion.” He said that the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 were doing exactly what the Quran told them. He won in 2010.

All we can do — must do — is try to stop this kind of rhetoric. Listening to it is a waste of your time. Those who espouse such views could not care less about the innocent Americans they hurt. The most effective way to deal with this situation is through education and action.

Educate yourself on Islam. If you don’t know any Muslims, try to meet one. Say “Salam” (peace), and ask questions. Get to know them. Go to a ballgame, or go fishing. Be American together.
And when election time rolls around, send a clear message: I don’t discriminate.

Nezar Hamze is executive director of the South Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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