Freedom of religion for Christians has been under attack for some time, but liberal opinion makers haven’t evinced much concern. Indeed, judging by their non-reaction to the fining or jailing of Christian pastors in Canada and Europe who have spoken out against same-sex marriage, the opinion elites seem perfectly willing to sacrifice Christian religious freedom on the altar of gay rights.
But when it comes to the religious freedom of Muslims, it’s a different matter. As a result of the Ground Zero mosque controversy, the liberal elites have suddenly become stout defenders of religious freedom. Moreover, they seem to have taken an absolutist stance on its meaning. Although the politicians and pundits who defend the mosque builders rail against extremists, they themselves have adopted an extremist interpretation of religious freedom—one which makes it equivalent to carte blanche.
Like the highly prized “letters of transit” in Casablanca, the words “freedom of religion” now seem to confer unlimited authority. “They cannot be rescinded, not even questioned,” says Signor Ugarte of the letters of transit. Apparently, the same now holds true for religious freedom. If you’re an Imam, all you have to do is show your First Amendment papers, and you can build your mosque wherever you like—no questions asked.
Yet, as most Americans realize, there are no unlimited rights in our society. Try exercising your Second Amendment rights without getting the necessary permits and you could end up in jail. Use your licensed gun in an irresponsible way, and your right will be abruptly taken away. The same is true for freedom of speech. Libel laws, obscenity laws, national security laws, even laws about “disturbing the peace” put limits on our freedom of speech. Likewise, the free exercise of religion does not extend to suicide cults, or virgin sacrifice, or to church-sanctioned polygamy.
With all the current talk about safeguarding the right of Muslims to religious freedom, it’s instructive to note that U.S. law already prohibits the free exercise of Islam. If this comes as news to some, it’s because we tend to forget that Islam is not just a faith, but also an all encompassing political, legal, and moral system. The embodiment of that system is called “Sharia law,” and the full practice of Islam requires compliance with it. Muslims are bound by these laws because they are believed to be divine commandments. The trouble is, dozens of shariah law provisions are violations of state and federal laws. Here are some examples:
Under shariah law a Muslim girl can be contracted for marriage at any age. The marriage can be consummated when she is eight or nine. The laws of the United States frown upon such arrangements.
Under Sharia a man may marry up to four wives (simultaneously). U.S. law prohibits the practice of polygamy.
Under Sharia law, a man can easily divorce his wife, but a woman cannot divorce her husband without his consent. U.S. divorce courts don’t see things in quite the same way.
Sharia law: Muslim women are forbidden from marrying a non-Muslim.
U.S. law: In this, as in so many other respects, Islamic law is null and void. American citizens are free to marry outside their religion.
Sharia law: the testimony of a woman in court is worth half the value of a man’s testimony.
U.S. law: “Tell it to the judge!”
Sharia law: Muslim men have permission to beat their wives for disobedience.
U.S. law: In U.S. law this Sharia provision is referred to as “domestic abuse battery.”
Sharia law: adultery is punishable by lashing and stoning to death.
U.S. law: “Let he who throws the first stone be prepared for life behind bars.”
Sharia law: homosexuality is punishable by death.
U.S. law: “Abdul, meet your cellmate, Butch.”
Sharia law: thieves may be punished with amputation.
U.S. law: the Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”
Sharia law: a Muslim who rejects Islam must be killed.
U.S. law: under U.S. laws this form of Islamic justice is referred to as “first- degree murder.”
Sharia law: non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims under the law.
U.S. law: “all men are created equal.”
Sharia law: Sharia law supersedes any system of man-made laws.
U.S. law: Article VI. “This Constitution shall be…the supreme law of the land.”
And so on. A side-by-side comparison of state and federal laws with Sharia laws reveals that in the U.S. the free exercise of Islam is, in many respects, already prohibited. The only way to guarantee Muslims complete freedom to practice their religion would be to rewrite the Constitution and the U.S. Criminal Code to make them Sharia compliant. In other word, free exercise of religion for Muslims would necessitate the abrogation of constitutional rights for U.S. citizens—including the right to freedom of religion.
The likelihood that this may someday happen is increased by the fact that Americans are so used to their liberties that they find it difficult to imagine that any but a few could really be serious about Sharia. But Sharia laws are not like the old “blue laws” in the U.S. which remained on the books long after the point where anyone enforced them or paid attention to them. Not only is Sharia law strictly enforced in many Muslim countries, but it is also widely supported. For example, the Pew Global Attitudes Survey of Pakistani Public Opinion conducted in 2009 found that 83 percent of Pakistanis favor stoning adulterers, 80 percent favor whippings and cutting off hands for thieves, and 78 percent favor death for those who leave Islam.
Muslims in non-Muslims countries are also expected to observe Sharia. In the U. K. there are already at least 85 Sharia courts operating alongside British courts. In France, Sharia is brutally enforced within the Muslim controlled neighborhoods known as les banlieus or, as the police call them, “no-go-zones.” In the U.S., Sharia law defenses are now being mounted in criminal cases. In a 2009 New Jersey case, a judge ruled that an abusive husband could not be found guilty of criminal intent because he had acted according to his Muslim beliefs (the ruling was overturned by an appellate court). Last year the Obama administration co-sponsored a U.N. resolution with Egypt urging member states to pass laws making criticism of Islam a crime. Currently, Molly Norris, the cartoonist who proposed the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” is in hiding as a result of death threats. She is guilty of violating Islamic blasphemy laws. Perhaps she didn’t realize that many aspects of Sharia law are binding for non-Muslims as well as for Muslims.
One of the paramount obligations of Sharia is jihad. The most authoritative Islamic guides define it, not as a “spiritual struggle,” but as “warfare to establish the religion.” Jihad is the duty of every Muslim; however it is acceptable to carry on jihad in non-violent ways such as through infiltration or by means of propaganda or political warfare, or merely by supporting those who wage active jihad.
The aim of jihad, in turn, is not so much to convert everyone to Islam, but to subject everyone to Allah’s law—that is, Sharia law. Since man-made laws are considered illicit, that means that democratic governments which rely on the consent of the governed are inherently invalid. Thus, by implication, Sharia law must eventually replace the U.S. Constitution.
Just last week the Center for Security Policy issued a 117 page report on the threat to America from Sharia. The authors of the report make the case that current policy makers have a poor understanding of Islam and Islamic law which causes them to focus almost exclusively on the threat from al Qaeda, and to ignore the much greater threat of stealth jihad carried out by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The authors argue that, because of its totalitarian nature, the pursuit of Sharia in the United States “is tantamount to sedition.” They write:
[T]he obligation shariah demands of its followers…must be seen as an illegal effort to supplant our Constitution with another legal code, not a religious practice protected by that document.
The report, which was put together by a team of former high level security officials, provides a much needed challenge to official policy toward Islam. We are in a new Cold War says the report, and we might well lose it because political correctness prevents us from understanding or even naming the enemy. Sharia: The Threat to America is a well documented and penetrating analysis. If it has a drawback, it lies in the occasional suggestion that it might somehow be possible to separate Islamic faith from Islamic law. In any event, the report makes it clear that allowing Muslims the full and free exercise of their faith is a very tricky matter, and not at all the clear-cut proposition that defenders of the Ground Zero mosque suppose it to be.
It’s telling that the man behind the Ground Zero mosque—Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf—has made the advancement of Sharia law his main project. The supposedly moderate imam supports and defends a system that is at total odds with America’s Constitutional freedoms. Given the totalitarian nature of Sharia, any mosque presided over by Imam Rauf—whatever its location—should be suspect. If he wanted to build it in Buffalo or Boston, American citizens would still be justified in opposing it. After all, the multi-pronged 9⁄11 attacks were not just aimed at New York City. They were intended as an attack on America and its system of government. Imam Rauf may be personally inclined toward non-violence, but his ultimate aim seems to be not that different from the goals of the terrorists—namely, the imposition of Sharia law on the United States. In an April 24, 2009 Huffington Post essay entitled “What Shariah Law Is All About,” Rauf wrote, “What Muslims want is a judiciary that ensures that the laws are not in conflict with the Quran and the Hadith.” What he advocates, in short, is a shariah compliant America. Currently, U.S. laws are very much in conflict with the Quran and the Hadith. Our judiciary would be well-advised to keep it that way.
William Kilpatrick’s articles have appeared in FrontPage Magazine, First Things, Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Jihad Watch, World, and Investor’s Business Daily.