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Posted June 20, 2018 by Mark Anderson in Islam & the West Leave a comment

Is the sharia really anti-American?

When Donald Trump first promised to ban Muslims, Americans on the secular left were aghast. They found it unthinkable that a country whose founders came seeking religious freedom and whose First Amendment enshrines that right could ban people for religious reasons. Many hoped the promise was just inflated campaign rhetoric that would evaporate in the heat of reality should Trump win the election.

But Trump quickly demonstrated that it wasn’t just talk. His appointment of Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton as Attorney General, Secretary of State, and national security advisor, respectively, further indicates how hardline he is on Islam. All three men subscribe to views preached by the Center for Security Policy (CSP). Founded in 1988, the CSP considers the sharia a totalitarian political program like communism and adherence to it a “seditious assault” on the American Constitution.[1] Accordingly, the CSP argues that American Muslims who adhere to the sharia are essentially closet jihadists who should have their citizenship revoked.[2] Sadly, many evangelical Christians are CSP supporters.

Initially, those on America’s political left simply shook their heads and rolled their eyes at the CSP, so impassably far was its view from their own romanticized version of Islam. America’s conservative elite also ignored the CSP, as belonging to the lunatic fringe. Now those on the left gasp apprehensively at the harshness of its assessment, while conservatives either rally to its cry or hold their tongues.

The question is, Is there any basis for calling sharia adherence seditious? And we must stick to facts here. We can’t let age-old hostility, newfound romanticism, or our craving for simple answers to complex questions cloud our judgment.

Unfortunately, the question demands a yes-no answer because Islam’s mission has always had two sides. Its friendly side is about spreading the Muslim faith nonviolently, as the Sufis have done for centuries. All Muslims are mission-minded in this sense. Muslims are divided, however, on whether or not Islam’s geopolitical vision is the lens through which to view the faith. The sharia answers affirmatively by envisioning a centralized Islamic state, under a single leader, with worldwide domination as its stated goal. This state is dictatorial in that it won’t let its citizens embrace, say, secularism—no matter how much they want to. Also, it will forbid Muslim citizens from renouncing their faith, on pain of death, meaning that it demands complete subservience. All these things mark it as totalitarian.

But a black-and-white approach won’t do here because sharia adherents don’t move lock-step with each other. There are as many gradations to sharia adherence among Muslims, as there are to adherence to papal authority among Roman Catholics. Some Muslims reject the sharia entirely, while others obey the sharia only to the degree that it fits their nonviolence, meaning that they

  • Engage only in Islam’s peaceful spread
  • Have no interest in Islam’s geopolitical expansionism
  • Want only peace with their non-Muslim neighbors

Thus, while the CSP may label the sharia totalitarian and adherence to it seditious, some Muslims unwilling to renounce the sharia wholesale nevertheless reject its totalitarian aspect.

This raises other questions: What if these Muslims are lying or could later be pressed to embrace Islam’s coercive expansionism? What should we do with Islamists who, with the Muslim Brotherhood, claim to embrace only nonviolent, democratically-led expansionism? And is the sharia not open to change? All those questions must be explored in future articles. But be assured that answering the question “Is the Qur’an seditious?” with either a simple yes or a simple fails to grasp Islam’s complexity.

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/06/the-report-on-global-jihad-co-authored-by-a-senior-nsc-official/561680/; see also, https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Secure_Freedom_Strategy_01-23-15.pdf   Accessed June 6, 2018.

[2] That means they could face deportation, assuming that they’re not native-born Americans, as many of them are.

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