Our recent episode of 49th Parallel featuring Andy Sullivan unleashed a torrent of passionate, sometimes inflamed responses from those with obviously grave concerns over the threat of the infiltration of Shariah Law in North America, and from those who still passionately oppose construction of what has been called the “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York. (Listen to the episode here…)
Sullivan is the founder of “The 911 Hard Hat Pledge;” a group defined on its website as “one American’s response to the proposed construction of a mosque at Ground Zero.” Sullivan’s campaign has since expanded to include opposition to the intrusion of Shariah Law into American society- a concern many Americans and Canadians seem to share.
Is there a legitimate threat and if not- why are American and Canadian Muslims so reluctant to participate in this debate?
Whether or not the threat is real- the concerns certainly are; fueled in no small part by European integration and tolerance of Shariah practices which are now being nearly universally reversed and rejected. Germany, France and the United Kingdom have all begun the process of reversing “multiculturalism” in regard to their Muslim populations. They are now openly insisting that Muslims assimilate into the host culture- even as they preserve their religious identity.
Paul Cooper at News Real Blog quoted several European leaders. (Read “Euro-Leaders Finally Learning to Reject Islamist Multiculturalism.”)
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron:
“We won’t defeat terrorism simply by the actions we take outside our borders. Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries…We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. We have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream…We’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy:
“Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want… a society where communities coexist side by side…If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France… We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that wasreceiving him.”
And most telling perhaps, German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
“(In) the beginning of the 1960s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country. We kidded ourselves a while. We said: ‘They won’t stay, [after some time] they will be gone,’ but this isn’t reality. And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side by side and to enjoy each other … has failed, utterly failed.”
Are those fearful of a Shariah invasion in North America justified? Do the experiences of failed policies in Europe lend credence to these fears?
Cooper adds his own thoughts:
“America has been pushing multiculturalism for over 30 years now. And now that Sharia law is being promoted in the U.S., what will we do? That question rocked the nation with last year’s battle over the World Trade Center mosque, but the country never gave a final answer. Hopefully we will one day learn follow the example of our friends in Europe have now set.”
The fact is the United States founded arguably the earliest multicultural democratic society. While it may look by today’s standards as if the United States was created by a group of white Christians of British decent, the fact is that the Colonies were comprised of extremely diverse cultures and distinct religious practices, even among those who identified as Christian. Various regions and sects identified with specific ethnocentric and theological characteristics which made them, from their respective points of view, unique and often superior to others.
What held this diverse population together enough to form the first true democratic republic in history?
The most important factor was the recognition that the Rule of Law must hold the superior position in civic and political life. No one man would be above the law, and while citizens would be guaranteed free practice of religion; no religious practice would trump the law that protected the rights of others. That is the root of the “separation of church and state” so often cited today.
Americans have witnessed the problems Shariah Law and multiculturalism have caused in Europe. At the same time, America and Canada, being by nature multicultural societies, may feel even more vulnerable to an intrusion by Shariah Law.
If American and Canadian citizens are active and involved- this simply cannot happen.
Would you support legislation that permitted honor killing? Would any act of pedophilia be tolerated even if it is permitted in a religious context? Does the free expression of religion trump American or Canadian jurisprudence in any way?
You are free to practice your religion, provided that practice does not violate the law or infringe on the rights, safety and peaceable conduct of others.
Now the question turns to whether or not most American and Canadian Muslims even favor a universal application of Shariah Law in North America.
Rather than being segregated as they have been in Europe, the vast majority of Muslim immigrants in North America have already assimilated into American and Canadian society and it seems by and large that they’re enjoying and appreciate the freedoms and progressive nature of Western culture. They’ve become successful business people and professionals. They’ve established strong religious communities and have integrated themselves into every segment of American and Canadian society.
So why don’t more Muslims speak out and reassure their fellow citizens in North America that they’re not out to mold the West into a new age Islamic caliphate?
“Many American Muslims are recent immigrants, having arrived since the passage of the monumental 1965 Immigration Law. Most of this swell of immigrants has been composed of political and economic refugees—educated individuals with business skills and the ambition to integrate and move into the suburbs.
From “Islamic studies professors on the mosque: It’s complicated” by Mark Hay on CapitalNewYork.com. He continues…
“’They’re so successful, integrated so easily; you’ll not find that in the world normally, by any means,’ said (Peter) Awn (dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Columbia University and an expert in the role of Islam in the politics and societies of modern Muslim populations.) ‘This is a diverse population not spoiling for a fight.’”
Here’s an interesting perspective cited from “The Future of Shari’a: Negotiating Islam in the context of the Secular State,” a project by Prof. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory School of Law.
“According to a discussion held with the Muslims of Toronto, Canada, the Muslim community believes that the post- 9/11 world scenario has increasingly alienated them as a people belonging to a certain faith instead of treating them as equal citizens of the state. While the discriminatory treatment for the Muslim immigrants is on the rise, it is even more felt by the citizens as well: many Muslims, particularly those who perceived themselves as common Canadians prior to 9/11, feel as though their Canadian citizenship has diminished after the incident. Some advise, therefore, that Muslims be cautious about their behavior and attitude because they are “under attack.” Further, “Muslims in North America [have] become more concerned with ‘condemning terrorism’ and ‘being friendly’ to the public perspective instead of trying to be themselves and be proud of it,” according to one participant. Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims, especially those who are “visibly Muslims” (e.g., an African Canadian who wears Muslim symbols, or a hijabi woman), have undeniably increased throughout Canada.”
Are Muslims keeping quiet because they fear retribution? That fear may be justified, but it must also be faced. In a free society, silence does nothing but provide fertile soil for ignorance, misunderstanding and prejudice. Freedom is protected by open and honest dialog and debate.
The post continues…
“…(the) West does not acknowledge the fact that Islam is not practiced the same way by all Muslims everywhere. Unfortunately, ‘Every time one Muslim says something unreasonable, the media makes it representative of Islam itself, but when another Muslim says something positive, that’s only his/her opinion!’ Muslims demand, then, that while their misdeeds not necessarily be concealed, their positive contribution to society also be recognized and appreciated.”
Well then, you’ve got to blow your own horn! Our contemporary culture is a noisy, fast-moving and aggressive environment where the loudest and proudest will get the most attention- especially in the media. We have greater access to communication than any generation in history; if you want your voice to be heard you’d better use it.
We continually appealed for a member of a credible Muslim group to come on The 49th Parallel program and debate with Andy Sullivan and the rest of us. Our debate style is passionate, but respectful. You must be prepared to face tough questions and you must be ready to support your claims- but you will be heard.
There is no way to reach an understanding without full and open dialog. If the typical American or Canadian Muslim does in fact desire to be a full and participatory citizen, it’s time to speak up and participate in this debate.
Unless there is an organized covert effort to install Shariah Law in the United States and Canada, then you must put aside any fear of speaking your mind. Unless the proposed project in New York is in fact intended as a monument to Islamic triumph over the infidel- it’s time to share your true feelings.
Your comments are welcome!
And- an interesting story from Australia, where the debate over Shariah Law is a hot political issue:
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