Tariq Ramadan: Shariah Law and U.S. Constitution Go Hand-In-Hand
A small group of about a dozen protesters gathered outside theEmbassy Suites in Anaheim where a prominent Muslim theologian was scheduled to deliver a lecture on Shariah - the Islamic legal code akin to canon law in Christianity or Judaic law in Judaism. The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California invited Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University and a man who was once banned from entering the United States.
The protesters waved American flags and signs that read anti-Shariah slogans, reflecting a larger movement in America that currently calls for the ban of Shariah law. In two dozen states, politicians have introduced legislation prohibiting the courts from taking into account Shariah, which has problematic implications for Muslims. States like Tennessee, Louisianaand Arizona have passed bills that ban judges from consulting Shariah law, or any type of foreign and religious laws. South Carolina andFlorida legislatures are currently considering anti-Sharia measures.
The two-year-long anti-Shariah battle has prompted Muslim organizations like CAIR andMPAC to decry the proposed bans as anti-religious freedom. In his lecture, Dr. Ramadan said there is room for Shariah to operate within the United States' common legal framework, just like there is room for Canon law and Judaic law.
"Everything which is good in this country is our Shariah," he said to a crowd of more than 400 community members. "It's an integrative system. It's not a closed system coming to colonize others."
"You'll find many things in the [U.S.] Constitution that are similar to Shariah," said Ramadan. Shariah, more specifically, is a set of laws for Muslims related to family, marriage, creed, burial practices, ethics, morality, and punishments; anti-Sharia proponents mainly criticize the rulings on punishment, which Dr. Ramadan, along with other Muslim scholars, contend is in need of serious reform, and unjustly implemented in places like Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Ramadan also noted that historically Shariah and Judaic law inspired European law. "When you have people approach you and say, 'You need to respect our system,' you can tell them that we are already inside," he said. "The problem is that we are ignorant of our own history."
Many audience members welcomed his words, with frequent head nods and smiles when he delivered punchy points, but Dr. Ramadan is not welcomed everywhere. He is banned from six countries including Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. In 2004, the Bush administration invoked the Patriot Act to ban the Muslim academic from entering the United States. The State Department lifted that ban in January, 2010. Since then, Ramadan has honored multiple speaking engagements in the United States, including this year's spring tour where he has delivered speeches in Washington D.C., New York andMassachusetts, and will end at Berkeley.
The Swiss-born, Egyptian academic is the grandson of Hassan El-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; the once outlawed group now leads the Egyptian parliament. Ramadan's father, Said Ramadan, is attributed with bringing the Brotherhood to Germany where it spread throughout the rest of Europe.