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From the Blog
Will (Shariah) play in Peoria?
By a 33-3 vote, the Kansas Senate approved the so-called Sharia law ban. The law would prohibit laws of foreign countries from being used to decide Kansas court cases. While the bill does not specifically name the Islamic moral code of Sharia law, the bill is modeled after similar measures in other states.
A few months ago, I was at the Revive the Islamic Spirit conference in Long Beach, California where notable speakers including Imam Suhaib Webb and Prof. Sherman Jackson gave their opinion on the topic: Will Sharia Play in Peoria? Contrary to my thinking, it was an elephant in the room session as people wondered quietly how ‘Shariah’ the way we understood it would be implemented in Mainstream America.
See, I had my reservations about Shariah growing up.
As a matter of fact, I had fears about Shariah because whenever we were naughty, my mom would say in my native language “ma da seria (Shariah) fun e” which literary translates to “I will create Shariah for you” and which we understood as, "I will spank you". Those words were good enough to keep our bad behavior in check rather promptly. To me as a child, Shariah was synonymous with punishment, really bad punishment.
For us as children, this understanding served its purpose, we didn't misbehave. However, what it did was that it twisted our understanding of what Shariah truly is. But fortunately, my father and two siblings are Attorneys so I grew up around lawyers, law books and practically in a law firm. By the time we were too old to be spanked and for those words to mean much, we knew enough about law; all kinds of law including and perhaps especially Shariah law.
We would learn in Sunday school that Shariah is a set of codes and principles according to Islam for Muslims to live their lives. It includes laws on economics, manners, politics, morals, hygiene, civic engagement and the criminal laws for which it is most infamous.
If me who grew up in a predominantly Muslim environment had this fear of Shariah, then what about Muslims who grew up in America? What about non-Muslims?
When non-Muslims talk about Shariah as something strange, alien and worse ‘evil’ I exercise caution before placing blame on them. Sometimes when I ask Muslims who live here in America about the probability of having Shariah law in our country, they are rather defensive in the protection of their presumed innocence, ‘No, we do not have a hidden agenda; we are not calling for Shariah in America’.
The truth of the matter is that Shariah is already here in America. It is not a foreign law, of a foreign people in a foreign country. Whatever calls to good is calling on behalf of the law of Allah-Shariah. The American constitution calls to good; it upholds the rights of its citizens- taking care of the weak and oppressed, it ensures that civil relations are in order, it calls for people to act in the best interest of themselves and others- it is making a call on behalf of Shariah.
Shariah is not only about punishment (Hudud), the scary tales of 80 lashes for fornication. Many cultural nuances are falsely attributed to it, hence we must be careful to know what is provided for by Shariah and what is not.
The way the application of the law is biased and prejudiced in many parts of the world, the practice of Shariah law in majority Muslim countries is not immune to abuse. The law, any law has and continues to be used as a means to discriminate against the poor and low class in society. It is used to perpetuate injustice and also to silence the voice of truth and reason.
Have we seen innocent people incarcerated in America prisons for many years, only to be exonerated later by DNA evidence? Absolutely! In the same way, we have witnessed innocent people being persecuted under Shariah law. Perhaps, in reality, the law is not reason free from passion after all.
Yes, I don't think the understanding of Shariah law is easy to buy, and I don't think this article can help eliminate the fear in the minds of many- Muslims including about Shariah. We have not said it is easy to sell either. However, it is necessary for us to seek its correct understanding. Whatever is prescribed by Allah is for our own benefit. The objectives of Islamic law – Maqasid Al-Shariah is to bring good to us in this world.
The true understanding of Shariah is an obligation for Muslims, but perhaps for everyone in America so that collectively, we do not become victims of ignorance and fall prey to political ideologies, like the ones perpetuated by the infamous anti “Shariah Bill” in Kansas, whose only strength and promise to uphold democracy is to stand for the opposition of Shariah.
I don’t think that I will see a judge chopping a man's hands for stealing in Peoria, or a woman getting flogged 80 lashes for having extra-marital affairs, but I see Shariah at play in Peoria time and time again.
I recently returned to Peoria for the wedding of my dear Indian friend. She was getting married to a British man, and although they would end up settling in London, they had little town America in their plans. Just like the traditional way of doing things, he journeyed to her parents’ home in Peoria to formally ask her parents for her hand in Marriage. That was the right thing to do, that was what she wanted and that was Shariah playing in Peoria.