Shariaphobia Isn't Islamophobia

Shariaphobia Isn't Islamophobia

By NOAH LOREY | June 14, 2017

Protests and counter-protests occurred across the country Sunday as a number of individuals associated with a group, known as ACT for America, came out to rally against Sharia law and its alleged implementation in the United States.

Counter groups decried the protests as Islamophobic and organized their own protests in response.

What both of these groups and traditional media fail to acknowledge is understandable, but reprehensible; the issue of Sharia and its interaction with the West is far more nuanced than perceived by the majority of American society.

The ACT for America protestors were quick to iterate that they are not anti-Muslim, but rather anti-Sharia, which allegedly promotes female genital mutilation, stoning, and so-called “honor killings” according to their webpage.  Many Muslims here in the United States do not consider these examples parts of Sharia, and insist that ACT for America has used the issue of Sharia to propagandize and demonize Islam in America.

ACT for America and many other groups cling to the rather false notion that Sharia has somehow made “inroads” into the current American legal system. Whether or not instances such as honor killings are included in Sharia by Muslims and legal scholars specifically, there is no denying that the protests have drawn attention to issues that need resolution in the Middle East.

While Sharia might not have a vice grip on Dearborn, Michigan, it is a very real entity in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive cars, interact with men who are not family members, or obtain a passport without express permission. Some of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world are found in the Middle East and Africa, including some 87% in Egypt. In Iran, an individual can be imprisoned or even executed for being gay. Lesbian sex is punished by the considerably lesser sentence of 100 lashes, with the death penalty only being brought forward after indictment of a fourth offence.

Why any individual, who claims to be a proponent of social justice, would denounce protests against policies like these as “Islamophobic” is beyond me. There is obviously no equivalent for these sorts of legal punishments in the United States, or most of the Western world. Women and homosexuals are not executed for their identities. However, ACT for America is not entirely wrong that Islamic law has made inroads in the West.

In the United Kingdom, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal and the Islamic Sharia Council are both organizations that have developed to resolve disputes (mostly civic and commercial, but a few criminal) in certain British cities. Under the 1996 Arbitration Act, rulings by the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal can actually be seen as legally binding. Many contest that rulings in these tribunals unfairly discriminate against women.

I am not necessarily proposing anything outright here about Sharia law or Islam in America in general. I am asserting that the situation deserves a much closer look by both sides than it has been given.

Nowhere in America has there been moves made to replace local law or the Constitution with Islamic law, despite some dozen states passing laws that explicitly ban Sharia from somehow entering the legal system. The fear of such implementation has spilled over into a broader, more generalized fear of Muslims in America.

The enactment of such terrible things overseas, such as the restriction of women’s autonomy and the murder of members of the LGBT community, deserves strong condemnation and retaliation. Misplaced cries of Islamophobia only exacerbate the situation and harm any hope of reform abroad.

When Adolf Hitler murdered homosexuals in 1945, it was seen as an unspeakable terror and tragedy. When Ayatollah Khamenei sanctions the same acts in 2017, what are we to call it?

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