Response to an Islamophobic Rant

A response to this ===>  fear mongering article.

What’s so bonk, the fundamental flaw, about Richard’s argument is that it starts with an attack of one religion for using private arbitration courts, but entirely ignores all of the other religions who use it as well. If he is really concerned about the possibility of religious laws usurping the US secular system, then he should be arguing against private religious arbitration as a whole. That would be the principled and objective argument, which many legal scholars are making. But that is not what Richard is doing. Rather, he is attacking an entire group of people who want to peacefully live within the guidelines of their religious faith and traditions. Where were Richard’s cries of foul when the Jewish community originally laid the groundwork for the practice of faith-based private arbitration?

These private religious arbitration courts can’t usurp the US secular legal system. In other words, these courts do not give the religious people free reign to avoid state and federal laws. (i.e., a religious court could not say, ’Since you dishonored your husband, he can rape your sister.’ and then have this horrible decision hold up in our secular legal order.) This important point is not in dispute amongst law scholars, and was also made crystal clear in this case. Furthermore, these private religious arbitration courts are only used for people who consent to a private contract, and have zero authority to apply any of the religious laws on anybody but the consenting people to the contract. In other words, there is ZERO threat that the 95+% of non-Muslim Americans will have Islamic law applied anywhere in their American daily lives, not now or in the foreseeable future. And any talk of this “creeping Sharia in the US” at this current juncture is fear mongering, despite the attempts of those who desperately want to turn a non-issue into an issue to score partisan points for the GOP.

Next: to believe that a tiny tiny minority could (miraculously) start imposing Sharia law on the greater populace of America is just… nutty paranoia and irrational fear, and is not worthy of serious discussion. It is a non-issue. But Richard wants to make this into an issue because he’s a supposed volunteer based Republican party operative who needs to drum up fear to rally the GOP base. 

Notice how Richard also conveniently accuses the Left (“The Left has some splaining to do!”) of this supposed “creeping Sharia in the US.” How is faith-based private arbitration the fault of the Left, when many of the Jewish and Christian right were the ones who laid the groundwork for this arbitration? Sloppy and prejudicial work, Richard.

The point that the supposed creeping “Sharia law take-over of Europe” is “proof” that it could happen in the US is nonsense too, and quickly falls apart upon scrutiny. First, the European political systems are designed differently than the Madisonian system we have in America. The Madisonian system was specifically designed to keep a tiny minority in check and from imposing its will on the entire society. It is arguably what helped the US avoid Communists and Fascists in the early 20th century from gaining power; and, God willing, it will keep Trump the Demagogue and his white fascist TrumpTroopers from gaining power.

Second, the European political systems have been horrible in helping to integrate and assimilate the Muslim immigrants. Also, the ratio of Muslim immigrants in Europe versus America is not even comparable. Third, the argument completely fails to take notice of the fact that Muslim Americans are actually integrating and assimilating very well here in America. In other words, their religious faith is compatible with the values of the US secular system.

Finally, believing that American Muslims want to impose Sharia law on Americans also reveals how deeply disconnected Richard is from the American Muslim community. Hint: the vast majority of them are perfectly happy living in a secular system that allows them to peacefully practice their faith; and in no way do they want to impose their religious beliefs on non-Muslim Americans. My personal relationships with Muslims from Egypt, UAE, Qatar, Libya, Chechnya, and Iraq show this as true. Polls also show it is true.

Are there orthodox American Muslims who want to implement Sharia law in America, as the heavily biased right-wing Christian think tank suggests? Sure. There is also orthodox Christians who want to implement a Christian theocracy. Even so, how would this tiny minority of people usurp the US secular political system? The European example doesn’t hold water, and suggesting only the future will reveal the merits of Richard’s nutty argument is a convenient way to release the argument from the control of the present ( a present which currently shows that private religious arbitration is NOT imposing its will on the US public legal order.)

And there is nothing more arrogant and pathetic than a white non-Muslim telling American Muslims what their faith is all about, and that they are unable to live within the values of the US secular legal order. This arrogance was on full display last night when Richard wildly suggested that an American Muslim woman who was educated at Harvard Law does not somehow stack up to his “superior” non-Muslim, non-legally trained mind on Muslims and the law. This, folks, is a perfect example of the extreme prejudice that grips the minds of fearful white men in the GOP. 

So go meet your American Muslim neighbors, Richard! Though this will require him to leave his gated white community. But they won’t bite you, nor will they try to enforce Sharia on you. Who knows? you might actually learn something. 

In a later Twitter conversation Richard mockingly asked me, “What do they teach in schools these days?” Well, one of the things they teach these days is to listen to all people’s perspectives, rather than preach to them. They teach us to sit in a classroom with people of various differing perspectives and have very difficult conversations about politics. 

These experiences showed me the value of listening to American Muslims, and Arab Muslim students, on what they think of their religion and the current political issues in their countries. I sat in awe as a Saudi student talked about why they are afraid to speak up for change in their country. I was thankful as I sat and listened to the American Muslim woman from Libya explain why she wears the hijab and how nobody forces her to do so. I was blown away by the gentleman from Qatar who explained that Muslim women in his country are actually paid more than men. I was speechless as I listened to the Egyptian share his experience living through the Arab spring. 

I could go on about the very fruitful discussions we have in college classes on how to deal with very difficult and complex political situations. But, I’ll stop and simply suggest that maybe it is not “what they are teaching at school these days” that is the problem… rather maybe the problem is the narrow minds of people like Richard.

Now as to Richard’s “challenge to Progressives.” His challenge is a non-sequitur, at least in my eyes because I never put forth a statement that claimed I “passionately defend” Sharia law, or the Islamic faith. My defense throughout this entire argument is premised on the belief that ALL religious communities should be able to practice their faith and traditions, as long as it doesn’t harm another or infringe on US secular laws.

I’m a secular agnostic, a small (d)emocrat, who is comfortable living within a pluralist society. I will NOT tolerate ANY religion that seeks to impose its beliefs on me or on all of society. In other words, if private religious arbitration starts to somehow impose its religious laws on all of society, I will be the first to fight for our secular system. 

So I ask Richard to please refrain from ever again suggesting that I am not fighting for the values of the US secular system.

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