On June 10, ACT for America conducted so-called “March against Sharia” events in some 20 states and 28 cities across America. In the announcement on their webpage they state,
“We, at ACT for America, are committed to protecting women and children from Sharia Law and its impact on Muslim women and children including honor killing and Female Genital Mutilation. We must ensure that every woman and child enjoy the protection afforded by the U.S. Constitution.”
Muslim groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) took a hard-line stance against the march stating that it would contribute to “the creation of the environment in which violence [against Muslims] feels permissible”. Counter protests were organized in several locations.[Cue screeching tires soundtrack…] Woah. Let me get this straight. Act for America claims to be protesting honor killing and FGM, and ensuring that women and children enjoy the protection of the Constitution, and CAIR chooses to counter-protest? What am I missing here? With Islamophobia already lethally enflamed, do we really need this sort of confrontation in the streets?
A careful reading of the ACT for America paragraph cited above reveals highly misleading language. While calling their event a “March against Sharia”, they attempt to portray their intent as protective of girls and women who are victims of honor killing and FGM, which they falsely claim are included in Sharia law. They then invoke the United States Constitution as the source of protection for these victimized women.
Sandwiched between Sharia law and the United States Constitution are women and girls who are innocent victims of honor killings and FGM. The language is so deceptive and confusing that one might be tempted to believe that it was a deliberate attempt to incite both those who suffer from Islamophobia and the Muslims themselves.
By naming the event, “March against Sharia”, the Muslim community, which considers Sharia law to be the heart and soul of the expression of their faith, is immediately triggered, feeling that the march is directly targeting them and their religion. As part of the mainstream of Islam representing 1.5 billion people who practice a very moderate form of Sharia law, this group seems unaware of the only perception in America of Sharia law as that practiced by the Taliban and ISIS, involving beheading of infidels, amputation for thieves, and stoning of the morally impure.
At the same time, others might naturally feel compelled to march for the protection of innocent female victims, while still others are triggered by the invocation of the United States Constitution as under attack from Sharia law. And both groups are under the mistaken impression that Sharia law is the source of honor killings and FGM.
The dark genius of the ACT for America paragraph is that it pits both sides against one another while concealing the fact that each is protesting something completely different. Those in support of ACT for America believe they are protesting against ISIS, beheading, stoning, and FGM, while Muslims believe they are protesting for their constitutional right to practice their peace-loving and harmless form of Islam.
Islamophobia is on a dangerous upward climb, and has already proven lethal for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Gathering reactionary crowds of angry people on opposite sides of the issue is an inadequate strategy for defusing this powder keg. I propose a more proactive approach. I recommend that, before the next “March against Sharia” threatens to light the frightening fuse, Muslim and supportive non-Muslim groups such as churches and interfaith groups begin an educational program to make rank-and-file Americans aware of what Sharia law means to over 1.5 billion mainstream Muslims. And I challenge those same Americans to take responsibility for the information they consume, and find good sources for learning about what Sharia law really is. I offer the following recommendations:
- Sadakat Kadri, Heaven on Earth a Journey Through Shari’a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World, New York, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012
- On honor-killing and FGM, Wikipedia.com has well referenced articles.
- http://www.maff.solutions-aero.com/awareness/sharia-law/ (brief article on Sharia law)
Founder, Muslim-American Friendship Foundation