Of course, what Stern was serving up here was the familiar (and absurd) conceit that in the Western world today, Muslims are what Jews used to be — the supreme victims of unjust prejudice from all quarters. No, Muslims are not the Jews of today; on the contrary, in both Europe and North America, everybody from writers, journalists, and professors to politicians, judges, and police officials tend to tiptoe around explosive truths about Islam in order to avoid offending adherents of the faith — a courtesy that these same parties extend to no one else, certainly not Jews. (Consider, for example, the staggering refusal of military officials and others to recognize the Fort Hood massacre as an act of jihad.) Meanwhile, these same parties who are so worried about offending Muslim sensitivities do not hesitate, at least in Europe, to lash out at Jews and Israel at every opportunity. Anti-Semitic bigotry — both by Muslims and by ethnic Europeans — is, now as then, Europe’s prejudice du jour.
Stern went on to celebrate the fact that twentieth-century America was built on “a Judeo-Christian ethic, respecting differences and accentuating commonalities among Jews, Catholics and Protestants,” and to argue that today that Judeo-Christian ethic needs to be expanded into “an Abrahamic ethic that welcomes Islam into the religious tapestry of American life.” All of which sounds very lovely — until you actually read the Koran and understand that Muslims are expected to regard it as having literally been dictated by Allah, expected to consider even the most brutal of its directives as binding on believers for all eternity, and expected to take to their hearts the repeated injunctions not to befriend infidels and the multitudinous exhortations to exult in the eternal torment that awaits Christians and Jews in the afterlife.
Stern further argued that forbidding sharia law in the U.S. would amount to “legally sanctioned discrimination.” No, what would amount to discrimination would be accepting the idea of one law for Muslims and another law for everyone else. (And sharia law itself, of course, with its systematic subordination of women to men — in a sharia court, a women’s testimony is worth half a man’s — is by its very nature discriminatory.) And he suggested that this campaign against sharia courts in the U.S. is rooted in the notion “that American Muslims are akin to certain extreme Muslim groups in the Middle East and in Europe.” Stern dismissed this concern, arguing that “American Muslims are a different story.”
But this, too, is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether a given set of Muslims are terrorists or the most peaceable of people; sharia is sharia. A majority of American Muslims may well be well integrated and personally tolerant — but sharia law neither assimilates nor tolerates. Stern appeared to be admitting as much when he maintained that American Muslims, in time, “will adjust their legal and theological traditions, if necessary, to accord with American values.” Well, let’s wait and see. But until it happens, why allow sharia courts to operate within the borders of a free and democratic republic?
“Anti-Shariah legislation,” Stern warned, “fosters a hostile environment that will stymie the growth of America’s tolerant strand of Islam.” But he’s got it precisely backwards. There’s nothing whatsoever “tolerant” about sharia. Why should banning a system of law that is intolerance itself hinder the growth of a tolerant Islam? Stern concluded: “The continuation of America’s pluralistic religious tradition depends on the ability to distinguish between punishing groups that support terror and blaming terrorist activities on a faith that represents roughly a quarter of the world’s population.” Once again, Stern was avoiding the real subject: this isn’t about terrorism, it’s about sharia law. And yes, while only a tiny minority of Muslims commit terrorism, sharia law applies to everyone.
Stern’s article, as it happens, came a day after the website of the Norwegian journal Minerva reported on a debate about Islam and secular society that had taken place on Facebook and been reposted on the website of IslamNet, Norway’s largest Muslim organization. The debate began with a posting by one Mohamed Abdishazan to the effect that much of sharia “belongs to a specific time in our history (during the prophet’s life)” and that today there is a need to separate “religion and politics” and to “reform” Islam’s approach to human rights.
This brought a furious reply from Fahad Qureshi, head of IslamNet: “so you think that Allah (PBUH)’s religion in its original form does not possess human rights? You know that this is kufr [infidel thinking]…and if this is so then you are a kafir [infidel] according the ijma of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah [i.e. according to Muslim scholars].”
Qureshi was far from alone in being enraged at Abdishazan. Somebody calling himself Al Suhaymin rejected the idea of a country not ruled by sharia; Fatima Al-Noor warned that “one can NOT deny Allah’s laws just because we do not see the wisdom behind these laws, or perhaps because these laws don’t suit a kuffar [infidel] society. Allah’s laws are meant for all time….to say that I am against them and want a change is KUFR!”
For good measure, Qureshi cited a fatwa in which the Saudi Arabian salafist Shaykh Ul Islam Abdulazeez ibn Baaz (1910-99) had written that sharia laws “may not be rejected by anyone, nor may they be altered…whoever claims that something else is better is a disbeliever, as is the one who claims that it is permissible to act in defiance to it…it is a duty of those placed in authority to order him to turn to Allah in repentance if he is a Muslim; he either does so or he should be killed as a disbelieving apostate from Islam.” Ibn Baaz’s fatwa quoted from the hadith (sayings of Muhammed): “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” That’s sharia in a nutshell, folks.
The IslamNet debate was illuminating in several ways. Abdishazan’s postings made it clear that there are Muslims in the West who do indeed want to be free of the dread yoke of sharia; the postings by Qureshi and his supporters made it clear that there is, at the same time, a good deal of support for sharia in Western Muslim communities. (A survey a few years back showed that no fewer than forty percent of British Muslims would like to see sharia law implemented in the UK.) And all of the postings showed that the participants on both side of this debate know very well what sharia law is. Whether they support it or not, they recognize very clearly that it’s incompatible with secular democracy and with a Western conception of human rights.
What’s Professor Stern’s problem, then? Surely he doesn’t fail to understand the truth about sharia that all these Muslims on IslamNet obviously understand? Surely his comment about Muslims “adjust[ing] their legal and theological traditions…to accord with American values” indicates that he is well aware of the incompatibility of sharia with secular democracy? Why, then, go to such awkward and feeble lengths to argue for its introduction into the U.S.? The answer lies in the inscrutable motives of the dhimmi — the bemusing readiness to betray the very best of the West in order to placate the very worst in Islam. How fortunate for the New York Times to have found yet another kindred spirit in the hollowed halls of old Eli!
Editor’s Note: See PJ columnist Barry Rubin for more on this story.