by Sheila Musaji
As I wrote previously in the article Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakha Arbitration Courts, as an American Muslim I would be opposed to any suggestion that Sharia replace our American legal system for American Muslims or any other Americans, and I would be the first to fight any such possibility. This being said, as I also noted in that article, the inclusion of Sharia (Islamic) or Halakha (Jewish) or Canon (Catholic) law arbitration or any other form of religious alternative dispute resolution that might be utilized by those who so choose after signing a binding arbitration agreement (signed by both parties in a dispute), or that might file an amicus brief with the court is not an alarming new idea. In fact, it is an existing option for religious communities. Any decision rendered by a tribunal or a panel of mediators is subject to appeal to the courts and must be consistent with American law and our Constitution. ... There are sometimes differences between religious and constitutional law as for example the difference in American law and halakha law on the subject of self incrimination. In such cases the American legal system would ignore the rulings of the religious courts. ... All in all, it would seem that faith based arbitration is an existing part of our legal system, and that considering sharia as somehow less acceptable than halakha has no basis in anything other than prejudice and stereotyping.
America is a secular and democratic nation with a clearly marked wall between church and state (thank God!). One of the reasons America has been a beacon to the world is the freedom that all Americans have to practice any (or no) religion. As an American Muslim I don’t believe that America can be defined as anything but a secular democracy (secular meaning neutral towards religion, not devoid of religion or hostile to religion) in which all religions are free to worship.
I don’t want to see Shariah, or Biblical law, or any other religious law replace the Constitution, and I don’t want to see any kind of a theocracy in place based on any religion. I agree with Rabbi Arthur Waskow that “When those who claim their path alone bespeaks God’s Will control the State to enforce their will as God’s, it is God Who suffers.”
There have been some who have suggested that because some Muslim majority countries do not allow the same freedoms to Christians and other minorities, therefore American Muslims should not be allowed the freedom to practice Islam, or that if they are “granted this privilege”, they should be grateful. I am grateful to the founding fathers and generations of leaders who followed them for establishing and protecting a system that gives this right to all of us and who set up and maintained a wall between church and state so that no majority can ever be in a position to control or decide who does and doesn’t have the right to practice their religion. I owe no gratitude to those who think that my freedom and rights as an American are something they can give or take away because this is “their country”. My rights (and obligations) are granted to me by my citizenship. This is “our country”, all of us. Unless American Christians are to be held responsible for every country on earth with a Christian majority (for example Rwanda and Bosnia), then it is a little hypocritical to think that American Muslims have any control over what goes on in other countries. Like any other American I may have an opinion about events in other countries and may even work to make that opinion known, but I have no control. I am not responsible for what happens in other countries, and whether or not there are injustices in other countries why should that make it necessary for Americans to commit the same injustices in order to even the score. I am an American citizen and a Muslim - and I have the right under the constitution to practice my religion (as does everyone else of every faith). If some countries do not give the same rights to others, shame on them, but to think that this would justify removing my rights is nonsense.
The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments to the Constitution) are the foundation of this country. They represent the ideal of America. America is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation. That’s a fact. Members of many religious groups, races, nationalities, etc. are equally Americans, and none of them are going anywhere. We are all in this together, and as Americans are all protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the United States. That is fortunate, and something we must all work together to protect, as it is obvious that some among us just ‘don’t get it’. It is obvious that our religious communities differ from each other, and that each of us feels called to observe their own faith. It should be possible to do this while recognizing that we do hold many values in common, and that we can build on these in order to work together for the common good. We can be good Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, etc. and also be fellow citizens of this great nation.
If some start talking about this being a “Christian nation”, or a nation of any specific majority group, that is a direct attack on the first amendment. The separation of church and state is a critical protection for all of us, without that we would have the rule of whatever religion happened to be in the majority at any particular time in history and that would lead to a tyranny of the majority. Right now there are about 300 million people in the U.S. About 51% of Americans are Protestants (with Southern Baptists the single largest group), 24% are Catholics, and the rest other religions, or no religion at all.
The point is that things don’t remain the same. If we begin the this is a “Christian country” game, is this based on who is in the majority? If so, does this mean that we are a Protestant nation? What will happen if the slender 51% majority margin shifts? Since the Southern Baptists are the majority among the Protestants, does this mean that we are a Southern Baptist nation? What would this mean for the majority and for all the minorities. Those people who ‘don’t get the Constitution’ also must ‘not get history’ because history shows that this would mean the end of America as the land of the free.
Truly, the best protection for everyone is to maintain America as a secular democracy under the Constitution. Anything else will lead inevitably to persecution and tyranny.
When people begin saying things like those quoted in the statements below, they really need to stop and think about what they are saying, and the rest of us need to listen to what they are saying and take them seriously, and counter their speech with more speech.
As soon as we begin to define ourselves in terms of any religion we limit the participation of others. No matter who is in the majority, they do not own this nation, and every minority must have equal rights and status - otherwise this will no longer be America.
It is often stated by bigots that American Muslims are some sort of a fifth colum in this country just waiting to implement Shariah law and destroy the Constitution. Actually most American Muslims are only too aware of the freedoms they have in America. I know that there are some such deranged Muslims who would like to see the wall of separation come down, and they should either go back where they came from if they are immigrants, or if they were born here, they should make hijra (emigrate) to a predominantly Muslim country. Mainstream American Muslims will continue to fight against individuals like Anjem Choudary and groups like the Islamic Thinkers who proposed a “March for Sharia” Which Does Not Represent American Muslims. Whatever thought process, or lack thereof that these Muslims are following to come to this conclusion is deeply flawed, not only on an Islamic basis (see the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) Resolution: On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans), but also on a common sense basis. If you are 1% of the population of the nation, and you are claiming that your goal is to “fly an Islamic flag from the Whitehouse” or to “replace the Constitution with Sharia law”, that is like waving a red cloth in front of 100 angry bulls. It is ridiculous, foolhardy, and dangerous, not just for yourself but for the entire Muslim community who will inevitably be accused of secretly sharing your view and will bear the brunt of any backlash resulting from your words or actions. Only a desire for self-destruction could lead a person not to see that the Constitution of the U.S. is the only thing protecting the Muslim community as well as any other minority community. If these Muslims stay here and continue with this sort of rhetoric, they will be resisted by all patriotic Americans.
However, they are not the only ones who ‘don’t get it’.
There have been a number of statements made, in too many cases by clergymen and politicians particularly among the GOP which make it very clear that there are some who don’t “hold these truths to be self evident” and need to be reminded that our freedom came at a price and must be defended by all of us.
I would ask that you consider the following quotes, and ask yourself what is the actual meaning of what they are saying. I submit that they are suggesting a series of anti-American goals — a religious test for citizenship, - the establishment of a theocracy, - domination of others who are not of the same race or religion, - tearing down the wall of separation between church and state, - excluding some from citizenship, - forbidding other religions to worship freely, - changing the Constitution to align with their particular religious beliefs, - excluding some from equality under the law, - and not only domination of this nation, but world domination — and these goals are a clear and present danger to our liberty as a nation. These sorts of statements are even more dangerous when being expressed by the majority community. Their Crusade for domination would result in injustices as great as those committed by the Taliban, and must be resisted just as strongly.
Former Atty. General Bob Ashcroft who said that America has “no King but Jesus”.
Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell who said in the book America’s Providential History “The goal of America’s Providential History is to equip Christians to be able to introduce Biblical principles into the public affairs of America, and every nation in the world, and in so doing bring Godly change throughout the world. We will be learning how to establish a Biblical form (and power) of government in America and we will see how our present governmental structures must be changed. Since the principles we will be learning are valid in every society and in any time in history, they will be able to be applied throughout the world and not just in America. As we learn to operate nations on Biblical principles, we will be bringing liberty to the nations of the world and hence fulfilling part of God’s plan for the nations.”
Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama, just hours into office, said that people who have not accepted Jesus as their savior are not his “brothers and sisters.” 1/2011
Gary Cass, executive director of Reclaiming America who said “The most humble Christian is more qualified for office than the best-educated pagan. We built quite a little grass-roots machine out there [in San Diego]. Now it’s my burden to multiply that success all across America.”
Rev. David Chilton who said “The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics” and “They have a choice: Either submit to His government and law, accepting His non-negotiable terms of surrender and peace, or be smashed to bits by the rod of His anger.
Roberta Combs, President of the Christian Coalition who said “We need to bring the spiritual and the political and the legislature together. We need to take back our country. When kids can’t pray in school, that should tell you something. We need to get prayer back in school, and that’s just the beginning of many, many things that need to be changed.”
Rev. W.A. Criswell who said “There is no such thing as separation of church and state. It is merely a figment of the imagination of infidels.”
Rep. Don Davis of NC who forwarded a message to all of his colleagues in the legislature that read in part ”Two things made this country great: White men & Christianity. Every problem that has arrisen (sic) can be traced back to our departure from God’s Law and the disenfranchisement of White men.”
Rev. Jerry Falwell who suggested that Muslims be excluded from federal faith-based initiative money because the religion is “bigoted” and “teaches hate.” Rev. Jerry Fallwell also said “Atheistic secular humanists should be removed from office and Christians should be elected…Government and true Christianity are inseparable.” And, “Most American children do not know that this is a Christian nation... [O]ur Constitution won’t work in Russia, won’t work in Haiti, won’t work in Iraq. It only works where the people believe in the Christ of the Bible. The United States of America.”
The Family Research Council who believes that ”[W]hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country’s heritage. Our Founders expected that Christianity—and no other religion—would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples’ consciences and their right to worship.”
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association who said “It is time, I suggest, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military. The reason is simple: the more devout a Muslim is, the more of a threat he is to national security.”
Rev. Jeff Fugate who said ”If you don’t want a Christian nation, then go to one of the many nations that are heathen already, rather than perverting ours. You’re welcome to come, but leave your religions, your bibles, all your other things back where you came from.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who asserted in Senate testimony that while habeas corpus is “one of our most cherished rights,” the Constitution does not expressly guarantee habeas rights to United States residents or citizens. “There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away.”
Rev. Franklin Graham who said ”This country was not built by Hindus, nor Muslims, nor atheists. It was built by Christian men and women.”
Rev. George Grant who said ”Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land - of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ. It is to reinstitute the authority of God’s Word as supreme over all judgments, over all legislation, over all declarations, constitutions, and confederations. True Christian political action seeks to rein the passions of men and curb the pattern of digression under God’s rule.”
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who said “I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”
Sen. Inhofe who believes that “our religion” guides our foreign policy, and that for example, Israel has a right to the land because God said so.
Rev. D. James Kennedy who said ”This is our land. This is our world. This is our heritage, and with God’s help, we shall reclaim this nation for Jesus Christ. And no power on earth can stop us.”
Rev. D. James Kennedy who said “Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.”
Beverly LaHaye, President of Concerned Women for America who said “Yes, religion and politics do mix. America is a nation based on biblical principles. Christian values dominate our government. The test of those values is the Bible. Politicians who do not use the bible to guide their public and private lives do not belong in office.” And “Today instead of protecting our right to freely exercise our religious faith in public places, publicly honoring our God and Creator as our forefathers did, we are forbidden to speak, to pray aloud, to read the Bible, to even teach Judeo-Christian values in our public schools and other public places because of an imaginary ‘wall of separation’ conjured by non-believers.” (Fundraising letter for Concerned Women of America, 1988).
Rev. Joseph Morecraft who said ”Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody’s pseudo-right to worship an idol.”
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who said “Buddhism was considered a false religion by the forefathers. It is not my definition of religion, no. It was not their definition of religion under the First Amendment of the Constitution.” Moore who objected to a Muslim being elected to Congress and compared the Qur’an to Mein Kampf. Bishop Carlton Pearson who said “We are going to remove the mythical separation of church and state.”
Gary North who said “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant - baptism and holy communion - must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.” Gary North also said “This is God’s world, not Satan’s. Christians are the lawful heirs, not non-Christians.”
Bishop Carlton Pearson who said “We are going to remove the mythical separation of church and state.”
Gary Potter of Catholics for Christian Political Action who said ”When the Christian majority takes over this country ... pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil and the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil.”
Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition who said “What Christians have got to do is to take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time and onestate at a time ... I honestly believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians ... andChristian values.”
Rev. Pat Robertson who said that “those who believe in the Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims” Rev. Pat Robertson also said “The Constitution of the United States, is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society.”
Jim Rudd who said in The Covenant News ”Civil officials have a God ordained duty to execute sodomites.”
Rev. R. J. Rushdoony who said “All who are content with a humanistic law system and do not strive to replace it with Biblical law are guilty of idolatry. They have forsaken the covenant of their God, and they are asking us to serve other gods. They are thus idolaters, and are, in our generation, when our world is idolatrous and our states also, to be objects of missionary activity. They must be called out of their idolatry into the service of the living God.” (Law and Society: Volume II of the Institutes of Biblical Law (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982), pp. 468, 316). And, “The church today has fallen prey to the heresy of democracy.” (The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973), p. 747).
John Rutherford who said “The [Supreme] Court, by seeking to equate Christianity with other religions, merely assaults the one faith. The Court in essence is assailing the true God by democratizing the Christian religion.”
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama who said “The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation’s security.”
Robert Simonds, founder & president of Citizens for Excellence in Education who said “Atheistic secular humanists should be removed from office and Christians should be elected…Government and true Christianity are inseparable.”
South Carolina Legislature who wanted an officially mandated license plate to feature a large yellow cross, a stained-glass window and the words “I Believe,” The U.S. District Court ruled that it “clearly gives favored government treatment to one faith” and ordered state officials not to issue the plate.
Rev. Jimmy Swaggert who said “‘We ought to tell every other Moslem (sic) living in this nation that if you say one word, you’re gone.’ “
Randall Terry of Operation Rescue who said “America is under the judgment of God. And if we are ever going to rebuild this country, it must be under God’s law. Our goal must be simple: We must have a Christian nation built on God’s law, on the Ten Commandments. No apologies.” and who said “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you, I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good ... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty; we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.”
Paul Weyrich, founder and president of the Free Congress Foundation who said “We are talking about Christianizing America. We are talking about the Gospel in a political context.”
NOTE: All of these folks need to study The Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights. Those who believe that only Christians built this nation, and forget about Native Americans, African slaves (including Muslim slaves), Chinese railroad workers, and many other groups holding different religious beliefs, and all of whom helped to build this country, they need to study American history.
Quotes in defense of the Constitution and Bill of Rights
“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin
“We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” Abraham Lincoln, 2nd annual address to Congress.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln, 2nd Inaugural Address.
“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religion, or religions established by law.” Thomas Paine
“As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.” Thomas Paine
“The citizens of the United States . . . have the right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience. . . . [T]he Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” George Washington
“In this enlightened age and in this land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.” George Washington
”[T]he government of the United States of America is not founded in any sense on the Christian religion. . . .” (From “The Treaty with Tripoli,” approved by President Adams and unanimously ratified by the Senate.) John Adams
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” Thomas Jefferson
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Thomas Jefferson
“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” James Madison
“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church and the private school supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.” Ulysses S. Grant
“We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference.” Rutherford B. Hayes
“Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers? Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?” Barry Goldwater
“I believe in the separation of church and state and would not use my authority to violate this principle in any way.” Jimmy Carter
(The 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting state-supported prayer in public schools was) “sound and good, reaffirming something basic in the Nation’s life: separation of church and state.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish - where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source - where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials - and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. . . .
“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end - where all men and all churches are treated as equal - where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice - where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind - and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.” John F. Kennedy
Donald Trump has now brought this anti-American attack on our Constitution and freedoms to a new and frightening place. With the election campaign in full gear, we have seen a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric from the GOP candidates this year. Here are just a few articles on the trend. But any quick google search will turn up hundreds of similar articles.
- By hyping anti-Muslim ideas, GOP has made the fringe mainstream http://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/By-hyping-anti-Muslim-ideas-GOP-has-made-the-6647454.php
- CBS’ Face The Nation Lets GOP Frontrunner Donald Trump Push New, Anti-Muslim 9/11 Conspiracy Theory http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/12/06/cbs-face-the-nation-lets-gop-frontrunner-donald/207267
- Extremist anti-Muslim views of today’s GOP makes George W. Bush look like a progressive http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/the-extremist-anti-muslim-views-of-todays-gop-makes-george-w-bush-look-like-a-progressive/
- GOP embrace of anti-Islam bigotry http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/05/lindsey-graham-republican-islamophobia-2016/394070/
- Republicans pander to anti-Muslim bigotry https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pandering-to-anti-muslim-bigotry/2015/09/21/96da06a6-609a-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html
- Republicans see little downside to railing against Muslims http://nypost.com/2015/11/30/republicans-anti-muslim-rhetoric-triggers-little-political-fallout/
And, now we have a winner in this race to the bottom - Donald Trump.
Trump Calls for Ban on Muslims, Cites Deeply Flawed Poll from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.
This escalation of anti-Muslim bigotry has truly gotten out of control. Thankfully, some politicians, even in the GOP are speaking out. But, we need many more voices against what can only be seen as a prelude to fascism if it is allowed to stand. This is not the America that we know and love. This is a critical moment in our history as a nation.
Originally published 11/20/2009