Last month ACT for America organized 28 anti-Sharia rallies across the United States, one in Roseville, California, near the state capital of Sacramento. ACT described the demonstration as “against Sharia law and for human rights.” According to their statement:
“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.” Sharia law is “incompatible with Western democracy” and the rally contended that those who practice Sharia law cannot assimilate into American culture.
Protestors from ANSWER, the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism coalition, included organizer Jamier Sale. As he told reporters, “We’re here because this anti-sharia march sounds more like a march against Muslims.” The event was peaceful and prompted a dialogue of sorts.
Mairaj Syed, an assistant professor of Religious Studies at UC Davis, explained that Sharia law can “differ from person to person,” because of differing interpretations of the Quran. Sharia “kind of regulates behavior,” but honor killings and child marriages were examples of “outdated and extremist forms of Islam.” For Syed, ACT was ascribing such acts to “all Muslims at all times.”
Davis musician Gabe Lewin wondered “what is controversial about being anti-Sharia law?” This law, “demands the death penalty for apostasy, blasphemy, sorcery and adultery. As a liberal person who believes in freedom of and from religion, I oppose this.” Lewin also expected, “any person of any faith to agree that this law is wrong anywhere in the universe.”
Yes, Lewin wrote, “we should ‘co-exist’ so long as that does not mean tolerating this form of violence and persecution of homosexuals and depriving women of basic human rights! As an ardent liberal I strongly believe this.”
That prompted a response from Davis Muslim Hands, an affiliate of UK-based Muslim Hands, one of 36 Islamic charities Israel banned in 2008 for links to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Those connections did not emerge in the Muslim Hands’ letter to the Davis Enterprise contending that “demonstrations against Sharia are thinly disguised anti-Muslim protests.”
“Sharia refers to a set of rules derived by human scholars from the sacred Islamic texts,” the letter stated. “These rules provide Muslims guidance in religious worship and in worldly matters like visiting the sick, taking care of our parents, marriage, inheritance, investments and so on. They are not ‘Islamic law’ — an incorrect translation. The scholarly origins of Sharia allow for flexibility and diversity in the application of the rules. . . Muslims practice Sharia similarly to Jews who follow Halakhah or to Catholics who obey the magisterium.”
The “dreadful examples” cited by Mr. Lewin are “a false equation of Sharia with centuries-old criminal laws for major crimes which are not accepted as valid by most modern practicing Muslims today. . . . The misapplication of these laws by un-Islamic groups contradicts both the letter and spirit of Sharia” and “there is no Muslim group or individual seeking to enforce Sharia.”
Plenty to ponder in all that, and lawyers, in particular, might want to spot-weld the takeaway: “banning Sharia means banning observant Muslims from performing any religious practice, violates the First Amendment, and sets precedent for targeting other minority religions.”
The letter’s signatories included Anne Kjemtrup, Dalia Ghanem, Eaman Ismail, Ahmed Gawish, Kamal Lemseffer, Shaymaa Hassouna, Saif Islam, Hasina Mamtaz and Hamza El-Nakhal, a former member of CAIR’s executive committee in Sacramento. Like the Hamas connection of Muslim Hands, that did not emerge in the local media, which billed El-Nakhal as the former “president” of the Davis Islamic Center.
That mosque had been the target of a “hate crime” by Lauren Kirk-Coehlo, 30, a UC Berkeley alum who on January 22 slapped strips of bacon on the door, broke windows and flattened bicycle tires. In the surveillance video, supplied by CAIR, the vandal wears a red hat resembling Trump’s MAGA design and practically poses for the camera.
Kirk-Coehlo could have drawn a prison sentence of six years but on June 16 she drew only five years probation. For Hamza El-Nakhal the light sentence was “very troubling not only to Muslims, but to African Americans and Latinos I have spoken with.” El-Nakhal also said Kirk-Coehlo was “almost family,” and went to school with his two daughters.
El-Nakhal and his Muslim Hands team also called ACT for America an “Islamophobic group” and duly linked readers to the Southern Poverty Law Center. As it happens, one of the ACT for America rallies took place in San Bernardino, at the site where in December of 2015 Islamic terrorists Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 innocents and wounded many others.
Police on the scene described the onslaught as the “worst thing imaginable,” with victims screaming for help and dying on every hand. An internet search turns up no statement on the San Bernardino attack from Davis Muslim Hands.