Opinion: Antidote to Anti-Shariah Movement

The article below expresses the personal views of the author

A recent article in The New York Times, Behind an Anti-Shariah Push, showcased the crusading efforts of Mr. David Yerushalmi, a 56 year old Hasidic Jew. His circle of support include like minded prominent visionaries, thought leaders and presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Sara Palin, Pamela Geller, Frank Gaffney all alleged experts on culture, financial systems, history and religion.

Mr. Yerushalmi has been taught Arabic and Shariah by two Islamic scholars, but won’t reveal their identities. The premise of his position is that Islamic law, or Shariah, ‘presents the greatest threat to American freedom since the cold war,’ whereby USA would eventually stand for United States of Afghanistan!

[Actually the biggest threat to America may be S&P recently downgrading US debt, from AAA to AA+, with the insulting negative outlook, and stating ‘… America’s governance and policymaking [is] becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed…’]

Mr. Yerushalmi makes some interesting comments, and three of them require either additional elaborations or placing into context for a more informed understanding.

First, he states Islamic militants have not perverted Islam, rather, the Islamic doctrine seeks global hegemony and overseas Muslims support Islamic rule. Its interesting to know he and his inner circle believe in something that we, Muslims, do not believe; Islamic militants have not only attempted to pervert the religion, but also highjack its core peaceful teaching with their diametrically opposite ideology of hate and murder.

As Timothy McVeigh and Anders Behring Breivik, the so called ‘Christian terrorist,’ did not represent Christian values, Tamil Tigers not represent all Tamils, Ayuman Shinto not represent all Japanese, IRA not represent all Catholics, the late Osama Bin Ladin and his ilk neither represented Islamic values, Muslim culture nor Arab outlook.

A sampling of state of Muslims overseas includes:

1. Most of the word’s internal conflicts are in Muslim majority countries, witness the brutality in Syria, Yemen, Libya, change of leadership in Tunisia and Egypt, and financial accommodations in Saudi, Oman, Kuwait.

2. Extremists have killed more Muslims than non-Muslims, look at the Shabab Islamic movement contributing to the famine in Somalia, hence, we are ‘fighting’ the same enemy.

3. Brain drain in Muslim countries due to lack of education, economics, opportunities and repression and corruption in their homes countries, they are not looking to establish Islamic caliphate in the US.

Why doesn’t Mr. Yerushalmi not use examples of Muslims in Muslim majority countries like Malaysia (multi-ethnic/multi culture) Turkey (led by an Islamist party) instead of continual focus on sensational headlines from Saudi, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran? Its easy to get one’s point across and influence masses, via a cooperating media, in presenting text out of context.

There are problems in all 240 countries of the world, but what is the point of importing the actions of few to spread fear amongst the many? Albert Einstein said it best, ‘Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition [instilling fear] from mediocre minds.’

Is the fear mongering done to access funds for self serving studies?

Second, according to his groups study, 82% of Imams in 100 Mosques surveyed in the US espouse and promote violence. Much like Peter King’s hearings concerning Radicalization of Muslims in America, there was no ‘smoking gun’ that appeared in Congress, and, we, Muslims, would like the names of the 80% of the Imams so that they can be either ‘de-frocked’ or deported. The mosque, much like a Church or Synagogue, is a sanctuary, to connect with God and find solace, and those that use the pulpit otherwise are ‘… buying the life of this world at the price of the hereafter …’ (2:86).

In the US, there is a cross section presence of Muslims from the 57 Muslim countries. The American Muslims come in different colors, shapes, sizes and, yes, even ‘beliefs.’ There are different sects in Islam and represented in US by, say, Mosques : Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadis, Nation of Islam, etc., hence, put three Muslims in a room and get four opinions.

Thus, the self-high profile Imam Faisal Rauf, initial face behind ground zero mosque and State Department’s ambassador to Muslim world, do not represent the US Muslims, notwithstanding US government endorsement.

Another example of Muslims inability to get their ‘act’ together in unison is the Eid-il-Fitr celebration, marking end of the holy month of Ramadan, is (unfortunately) often end held on different days.

Sara Palin’s comment in the article, there will be downfall of America if Shariah law is adopted, is consistent with her misinformed musings. America has outlasted socialism, fascism, racism and communism, and is much stronger with its checks and balances. The ‘over-accommodation’ of Muslims will not happen here and, more importantly, Muslims are not asking for over accommodation but a level playing field, where possible.

For example, Kosher law is well accepted in the US, including by the Muslims for food consumption. There are common areas between Jewish law and Shariah law on food (Kosher and Halal), custody, divorce, and so on. Muslims are not looking to overturn the US Constitution. Try not paying taxes to the IRS, and see what happens, over throw the constitution, a Sara Palin moment!

Are the recent remarks by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who nominated a ‘Muslim judge to the state Superior Court against conservative critics who warned that the new judge will implement Sharia law,’ common sense finally prevailing over fear mongering against Muslims/Islam?

Governor Christie goes on to say, ‘”Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all. It’s crazy … The guy’s an American citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to practice in the state of New Jersey, swearing an oath to uphold the laws of New Jersey, the constitution of the state of New Jersey, and the Constitution of the United States of America . . . .This Sharia law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”

Third, Islamic finance industry, via American banks offering funds, invest in companies deemed Shariah compliant, implying companies whose primary business may be inconsistent with American values and principles. If we look at the six index providers, from S&P to Dow Jones Indexes to MSCI to FTSE to Russell to Thomson Reuters, they all have Islamic indexes from which such funds are launched.

The largest companies in the today’s Islamic indexes include Microsoft, IBM, Pfizer, ExxonMobil, Google, and so on. Islamic equity investing is like the social-ethical investing, emphasis is on negative screening. This is where most of the Islamic fund’s money is invested.

Additionally, Mr Yerushalmi should reach out to the new IMF Director, Christine Lagarde, as she, whilst France’s Finance Minister, was instrumental in making Paris a hub for Islamic finance, or UK’s FSA in authorizing five Islamic banks, or even the central bank governor of Malaysia, Zeti Athar Aziz, as she has would be happy to explain the principle of asset backed/based financing linked to the real economy.

To date, not one Islamic financial institution has been convicted of financing terrorism, however, non-regulated money changers and charities are a different issue and must be scrutinized to the full extent of the law.

I’m sure Mr. Yerushalmi, having lived in Israel, is familiar with the Jerusalem Post (JP). In a recent editorial, Ramadan in Israel, the paper encourages further engagement with its largest minority, 1.4 million Muslims having 363 mosques (2003).

‘The celebration of Ramadan in Israel should be understood as an expression of the freedom of worship that Israel grants its largest minority group. Burkas and minarets are not banned in Israel. It is important that Israeli leaders and society see Ramadan as a way to engage with the Muslim community … Ramadan can be used both as a time to work with leaders of the Muslim community, especially in mixed towns with a history of communal tensions, and as a time to discuss issues associated with extremism, xenophobia and irredentism…’

In fairness to Mr Yerushalmi, he asks a good question in the article, ‘what is Shariah?’ May be the best way to answer it is in the negative; its neither the covert fifth column nor overt mass conversions and world domination or drink the kool-aid.

Its about having the dignity to take care of one’s family, looking after neighbours, and obeying the law of the land. One simple test question will flush out intent:

What is the identity and ideology of those Muslims and non-Muslims that wish to establish perverted medieval laws in the US that oppress women, promote non-tolerance of other faiths and ethnicities, and, have as default, thinking and action of hate and violence?

Answer: the discredited very few that is becoming smaller everyday because their message failed the stress test of humanity.

Typically, the longest lines in most countries is at the US Embassy, because America provides not only economic opportunities regardless of race, creed or color , but also has all the virtues described in the holy books, Bible, Koran, Torah, etc. The dollar bill says, In God, We Trust! Enough said.

Now, why would the hard working US Muslims want USA to stand for United Shariah of America? Its in America we are born or raised, and its America we want to make great once again, and its in on America soil we want our burial.

The Jewish and Catholic people (allegations of coup in US by the Pope via President Kennedy) have gone through what the Muslims are going through in the US, moments of mistrust and motives magnified by external events shown in real time.

Time has vindicated the Jews, Catholics and it will also vindicate the Muslims and people like Mr. Yerushalmi will have contributed to it.

The article expresses the personal views of the author