Understanding Sharia Law

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Understanding Sharia Law
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Center for American Progress – Understanding Sharia Law. Understanding Sharia Law. Conservatives’ Skewed Interpretation Needs Debunking …

Understanding Sharia Law
Conservatives’ Skewed Interpretation Needs Debunking
Wajahat Ali and Matthew Duss March 2011

In the past year, a group of conservative pundits and analysts have identified Sharia, or Islamic religious law, as a growing threat to the United States. These pundits and analysts argue that the steady adoption of Sharia’s tenets is a strategy extremists are using to transform the United States into an Islamic state. A number of state and national politicians have adopted this interpretation and 13 states are now considering the adoption of legislation forbidding Sharia.1 A bill in the Tennessee State Senate, for example, would make adherence to Sharia punishable by 15 years in jail.2 Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for "a federal law that says Sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States."3 The fullest articulation of this "Sharia threat" argument, though, is in the September 2010 report "Sharia: The Threat to America," published by the conservative Center for Security Policy. The authors claim that their report is "concerned with the preeminent totalitarian threat of our time: the legal-political-military doctrine known within Islam as `Shariah.’" The report, according to its authors, is "designed to provide a comprehensive and articulate `second opinion’ on the official characterizations and assessments of this threat as put forth by the United States government." The report, and the broader argument, is plagued by a significant contradiction. In the CSP report’s introduction, the authors admit that Islamic moderates contest more conservative interpretations of Sharia: Sharia is the crucial fault line of Islam’s internecine struggle. On one side of the divide are Muslim reformers and authentic moderates… whose members embrace the Enlightenment’s veneration of reason and, in particular, its separation of the spiritual and secular realms. On this side of the divide, Sharia is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.4


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