Eliyahu Stern in a New York Times Op-Ed argues that Americans have nothing to fear from the importation of Sharia law in to the United States – he likens laws banning Sharia to past attempts at excluding Jews from full civil rights:
…The suggestion that Shariah threatens American security is disturbingly reminiscent of the accusation, in 19th-century Europe, that Jewish religious law was seditious. In 1807, Napoleon convened an assembly of rabbinic authorities to address the question of whether Jewish law prevented Jews from being loyal citizens of the republic. (They said that it did not.)
Fear that Jewish law bred disloyalty was not limited to political elites; leading European philosophers also entertained the idea. Kant argued that the particularistic nature of “Jewish legislation” made Jews “hostile to all other peoples.” And Hegel contended that Jewish dietary rules and other Mosaic laws barred Jews from identifying with their fellow Prussians and called into question their ability to be civil servants…
This argument does strike a chord – not just in someone familiar with the history of anti-Semitic persecution in the Christian West, but even for those – like myself – who are Catholics and know how our ancestors were considered unsuited for American citizenship as we allegedly owed loyalty to a foreign prince, the Pope. Of course it was always nonsense to hold that Jews and Catholics couldn’t be good citizens of the United States – such views were just a hold-over of Protestant bigotries from centuries prior. And, of course, once Jews and Catholics became numerous in the United States and demonstrated their loyalty again and again, it became absurd for anyone to hold to those old bigotries. Is it the same for people of the Muslim faith? Are we just rushing to judgment before we’ve given Islamic Americans a chance to prove themselves?
Perhaps – but here is the difference: anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism pre-date the founding of the United States of America. Indeed, the Puritans who founded Massachusetts and set the stage for the growth of American liberty were, to a man and woman, ferociously opposed to any manifestation of Catholicism. When those Puritans came from Europe to America, the war between Protestantism and Catholicism was still raging in Europe (when the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock Europe was in the second year of what would become the Thirty Years War which was just a horrific war made even worse by sectarian animosities being used as a cloak for greed and cruelty). We, as it were, inherited a bigotry…but Islam never felt such animosity in America until people of the Muslim faith started to massacre Americans for no justifiable reason whatsoever.
Remember that – it is key: there is not and has not been an iota of justification for Muslims to feel hostility towards the United States. Indeed, the proper feeling among Muslims should be gratitude…gratitude that American influence was set against the European colonial powers; gratitude that when Muslim States started to steal Western assets via nationalization the United States refused to coerce Islam in to restoring the stolen property; gratitude that the United States has restrained Israel from occupying Cairo and Damascus; gratitude that we pressured Israel to give up the Sinai and the West Bank even though Israel had no cause to do so; gratitude that we have helped to topple tyrants ruling over Muslim States; gratitude that time and time again the United States has rushed aid to Muslim States stricken by disaster. The hatred felt by Muslims towards the United States is unreasonable…and the murder of Americans by people claiming to act in the name of Islam is a blot upon Muslim honor. This blot is compounded by the fact that Americans have yet to see a vigorous, Muslim campaign to stamp out the people who murder Americans.
The words “bigotry” and “mistrust” are not synonymous. We would be nothing more than bigots if we asserted that all Muslims are bad – but if we express mistrust of Muslims, the question must be asked – why? Because Muslims have unjustifiably attacked Americans. Because we have many examples of Sharia-advocates using it as a tool for persecution. Because some of the most fervent advocates for Sharia have connections to the most vile, anti-American groups. Certainly no American will object to a Muslim going to an Islamic court to clarify matters of faith and morals – no more than any American, of whatever belief, objects to a Catholic getting a ruling on the validity of a marriage. But there is enough evidence in the actions of some Muslims who advocate for Sharia to convince Americans that Sharia is not compatible with American ideals.
It doesn’t have to remain this way – in fact, in just a few, short years American attitudes can be vastly altered. All Americans will need to see is action on the part of Muslims to go after those who attack the United States and/or use Sharia as an excuse to brutalize their fellow human beings. It won’t do the least bit of good for 10,000 people to swear that 99.9% of Muslims would never dream of attacking Americans or using Sharia as a means to oppress…words are meaningless unless matched to action. It shouldn’t take American special forces and drone attacks to kill radical Islamists – Muslims should be doing it. The sort of people who carry out terrorist attacks and use Sharia for oppression are not fit for decent company…no rational, well-meaning people would tolerate such in their midst. But just as long as Islam at least appears to tolerate those sort, so will American mistrust of Islam remain, and likely grow.
You can’t excuse yourself from the act of building civilization by simply accusing others of being bigots. We, as non-Muslims, have our duties to perform…to be tolerant of differences, to show love towards our fellow men and women, to fight for what is right. Muslims have these same duties. And I say to all Muslims who wish to have a world in which mistrust of Islam is a thing of the past – get busy: you’ve a lot of work to do. Once you’ve done it, you won’t have to ask for tolerance of Sharia…it will be automatic; in fact, you’ll find Christians and Jews to be willing collaborators in helping Muslim observance of Sharia…provided it is, as some claim, just a matter of adjudicating Muslim religious practices.