Had it not been for the devastating earthquake in Japan, the top news story this week would have been the congressional hearings U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY) has started regarding the home-grown threat of radical Islam in America.  Is Islam an inherently violent religion?  Does the insularity some Muslims have chosen as a way of life in America  actually encouraged radicalization?  Are we painting with too broad a brush to say Muslims are resistant to American culture and therefore inclined towards exclusion and even antagonism?  These are all excellent questions, though I am not sure turning them into a congressional hearing is healthy, nor all the rhetoric that inevitably goes with it. 

Meanwhile two Tennessean legislators have authored a bill recommending that Islamic shariah law be outlawed in this great state.  To be more precise, the bill states that people who choose to follow shariah law in their own life will be charged with a felony.  The premise is that as America becomes more and more Islamic there may come a day where Islam is the dominant religion and people will lobby to have shariah law replace the established law code of Tennessee.  A similar law has already been passed in Oklahoma.

Shariah law is the ethical code for life established through centuries of interpretation and legal rulings by a long line of Muslim scholars and jurists.  Shariah guides the Muslim on what to eat, what to wear, how to relate to others, how to maintain a high degree of purity, how to worship, what behaviors are immoral, and how to punish trespasses.  Shariah literally means the “way” or “path” for life. 

Yes, shariah law is what dictates that women caught in adultery are to be stoned and people caught stealing are to lose a hand.  However, these kinds of laws only account for 5% of shariah.  And, no, shariah law does not dictate “jihad” or holy war against unbelievers, as some suppose.   

This past weekend my local newspaper, The Commercial-Appeal (which has begun to be more intentional about reporting on religion), featured several stories on Islam and shariah law.  Let me draw your attention to several very good articles:

  • Check out this article by David Waters, the main religion writer, in which he heralds a group of Christians and a group of Muslims who have come together now for six weeks to talk about the other’s religion.  Waters contrasts this generous act aimed at understanding with the “absurd” law proposed in Nashville. 
  • Chris Peck, the paper’s editor, writes this editorial in which he looks at the proposed Tennessee law through the lens of the U.S. Constitution’s freedom to exercise religion and the establishment clause forbidding the institutionalization of religious law like shariah.  He makes me wonder whether this law is even necessary.  If it is not, then it only serves to alienate all Muslims, as the terrorists desire. 
  • The newspaper has set up a council of 25 religious leaders in Memphis to answer a question of religious significance each week.  This week’s was: “Are you concerned about legislative efforts to question or restrict Islamic practices?”  Check out any of the responses, most if not all of which are critical of the bill.  Let me call your attention to these three in particular:
    • Here is an excellent, first-hand response from a shariah-following Muslim scholar from Memphis, Yasir Qadhi.  I am most taken by his claim that the shariah most people talk about in America bears little resemblance to the shariah law he follows each day.  I am especially persuaded by his argument that while this law is certainly anti-Muslim it is also anti-American. 
    • Check out this response from Nabil Baykaly, another Memphis Muslim leader.  He sheds further light on the topic from an islamic point of view.   
    • Here is my friend Chris Altrock’s response.  I find it very Christ-like. 
  • Last, check out this video of Memphis Muslims praying, a religious practice guided by shariah law.      

Now, I am curious what you think. 

I will be taking several days off of blogging later this week again (I will be back strong and consistent the next week), so you might want to read through some of the linked articles later in the week.