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New York Times Sees ‘Disturbing Trend’ of Treating Islam as ‘Not a Religion’

It’s a “disturbing trend,” says Asma T. Uddin, a Muslim attorney, in the New York Times: “In recent years, state lawmakers, lawyers and influential social commentators have been making the case that Muslims are not protected by the First Amendment. Why? Because, they argue, Islam is not a religion.”

What it is, say Uddin’s targets, is a political system: “John Bennett, a Republican state legislator in Oklahoma, said in 2014, ‘Islam is not even a religion; it is a political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.’ In 2015, a former assistant United States attorney, Andrew C. McCarthy, wrote in National Review that Islam ‘should be understood as conveying a belief system that is not merely, or even primarily, religious.’ In 2016, Michael Flynn, who the next year was briefly President Trump’s national security adviser, told an ACT for America conference in Dallas that ‘Islam is a political ideology’ that ‘hides behind the notion of it being a religion.’ In a January 2018 news release, Neal Tapio of South Dakota, a Republican state senator who was planning to run for the United States House of Representatives, questioned whether the First Amendment applies to Muslims.”

Merriam Webster defines “religion” as “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” Islam certainly qualifies as a religion by that definition. Religions profess to connect human beings to the divine. Islam professes to do that. At the same time, however, it is also a political system that is authoritarian, supremacist, discriminatory, expansionist, violent, and aggressive.

Asma T. Uddin must be aware of that fact but ignores it entirely, instead giving the impression that Sharia is simply religious law, and opposition to Sharia is simply motivated by religious bigotry and “Islamophobia.”

In reality, Islamic law’s political aspects contradict Constitutional principles and American freedoms in numerous particulars, including: its denial of the freedom of speech; the institutionalized discrimination against women, non-Muslims, and other groups; its death penalty for apostasy from Islam and for homosexual activity, and more.

At a certain point there must be a national discussion about whether religious freedom grants Muslims the right to break other laws, or whether the aspects of Sharia that contradict American law are unwelcome in the United States.

Asma T. Uddin and the New York Times are trying to foreclose upon that discussion by muddling the issue.

“The laws’ backers," Uddin claims, “seem to see them as necessary stopgaps to protect against their imagined Muslim takeover of America. When an Idaho state representative, Eric Redman, a Republican, introduced his anti-Shariah bill in January, he said it was needed so that ‘foreign law’ would not ‘defile our constitutional laws’ and to ‘protect our state and our country.’ That’s a similar sentiment to the one expressed by the conservative political activist Pamela Geller, who argued in a 2016 commentary published by Breitbart that Muslim women seeking accommodations to wear a head scarf in the workplace are part of a ‘Muslim effort to impose Islam on the secular marketplace.’”