Monday, April 09, 2007

American Sharia?

An article on Sharia in the US by Raymond Ibrahim in NationalReview. [Never heard of this man before, Googled him, the only piece of info I could find is that he is a research librarian at the Library of Congress.]

Ibrahim points to recent stories like Muslim (Somalis if I recall) cabbies in Minneapolis not picking up fares for people with liquor. And also some Muslim grocery clerks not scanning pork, forcing the customers to do it.

Minneapolis' Muslim population is mostly Somali, making them (think Hirshi Ali) one of the more hard core of Muslim immigrant groups in this country.

Other such issues pointed to by Ibrahim:
Muslims in Seattle have requested (and been granted) regularly scheduled hours for their exclusive use of public pools; an all-Muslim-girls basketball team at a Chicago university demanded that men be barred from attending their matches; some 200 Muslim women signed a petition at a Michigan fitness center demanding separate workout times for men and women, or at least the erection of a screen divider between the men’s and women’s section (which was granted).
Of course Ibrahim would do well to inform his readers (which he doesn't) that at least on the first two--the cab drivers and pork grocery attendants--those are not in fact sharia rules. A number of American Imams have said that such actions are not rules laid down in Islamic law. It is haram (forbidden) to consume pork and alcohol, no doubt, but not to drive people with liquor in your car nor touch pork.

What those type of actions show is rather groups who are afraid of the clear secularizing tendencies within their communities, over compensating and showing their Muslim-ness in stark contrast to the outside society.

As to the other issues, pools and gyms. While I have no problem with individuals petitioning say a school for a separate boys and girls swim time, I also have no problem with schools saying no. On this point I would agree with Ibrahim than PC culture is ultimately unhelpful.

Given the ethnic history of the US, and the co-existence of say Hasidic orthodox Jews in this country, things like Catholic schools, Jewish schools, etc. I don't have a problem with Muslim communities having separate schools (as long as they pass standards set by state like Catholic schools) wherein they could choose to have cordoned off boys/girls gym situations.

Another point, one often pointed out Bernard Lewis, under the Ottomans, minority groups controlled their own civil, legal, and religious affairs. There were Muslim, Christian, and Jewish law codes.

Ibrahim concludes the article (my emphasis):
“Straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel” has long been a sure sign of hypocrisy. All Muslims who freely migrate to the West must understand that they can’t have it both ways — that they can’t have their cake and eat it, too. They must choose between either strictly upholding the laws and customs of 7th-century Arabia (in which case they should remain in their “sharia friendly” countries of origin) or, if prosperity and comfort is their first choice, let them relocate to the West, but prepare to assimilate — that is, compromise — to some degree. It’s a simple question of priorities.
I agree with that statement but not I think in the way Ibrahim understands it. A couple of things to recall.

1.America has the freest expression of Islam in the world. The most progressive, by the standards within Islam, law is coming and will continue to come out of America.

As I said with the cab drives, grocery clerks we see that tendency starting which is why they are going even more hardcore than Arab and Muslim countries elsewhere in the world, where Islamic identity is not an issue--because society is Islamic.

Joining gyms and sports leagues with non-Muslim children is the beginning of adaptation and compromise. Of course that adaptation is only going to go so far so fast, otherwise it will never succeed. This is where Ibrahim falters in my view. Sharia has always been evolving. Here Ibrahim is buying the line of many a so-called fundamentalist Muslim, that the sharia, the tendencies of the 7th century Arabia define Islam for all time.

For every 2 steps into society, it will be one back. I am not suggesting--see above on gyms--that this means the larger non-Muslim American society can not pass legislation that will not be make such groups always happy all the time. It is a pluralistic society with one legal code enshrined for all, and I definitely want to keep it that way, but the possibility of slipping into xenophobia is quite strong.

I'm not btw suggesting that is what Ibrahim is explicitly doing, just that this is a danger--telling people they should go back to their countries, when I would venture a good number of these students are likely born in the United States making them US citizens. Just a caution to be aware of. Particularly given the history of fear of all manner of waves of immigrants: anti-Asian, Catholic, East European, Jewish, the list goes on and on.

What I do favor, to the degree that it is prudent and not PC, guilt-ridden, multiculturalism, is to make accommodations for people voluntarily. Instead of government enforcement.

Nobody btw is following exactly 7th century custom. Saudi Arabia forbids women from driving--find that in the Qu'ran anywhere?

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