News & Politics

Peter Beinart’s Fleitz of Fancy

Peter Beinart is deeply disturbed that National Security Advisor John Bolton has chosen Fred Fleitz as his chief of staff. Writing in The Atlantic Friday, Beinart noted that Fleitz has “for the last five years served as a senior vice president at the Center for Security Policy.” According to Beinart, “for more than a decade [CSP] has been arguing that American Muslims who observe shariah, or Islamic law, don’t deserve the protections of the First Amendment.”

This sounds terrible if one knows nothing about Sharia; Beinart obviously knows nothing. In a 2016 piece condescendingly titled “How Not To Speak About Islam,” Beinart scolds Rabbi Ari Berman,president of Yeshiva University, for some of his statements about Islam, and concludes: “[U]niversity presidents should not lecture on subjects they know little about.”

Beinart should take his own advice. His claim about Fred Fleitz and the CSP is a classic example of the strawman fallacy.

In Beinart’s scenario, the CSP, overflowing with bigotry, was calling for law-abiding citizens who happen to follow a particular set of religious laws to be stripped of First Amendment protection. In a 2017 article attacking the CSP and its president, Frank Gaffney, Beinart likened opposition to Sharia to anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic prejudice in American history. “Gaffney and his allies,” Beinart warned, “view Sharia not as a religious code but as ‘a totalitarian ideology cloaked in religious garb.’ Muslims who adhere to it, therefore, should be treated not like Jews who adhere to Halacha, the body of Jewish law, or Catholics who adhere to Canon law, but like Americans who espoused ‘communism, fascism, National Socialism, or Japanese imperialism’ during times of war. They should be treated, in other words, like people seeking to overthrow the United States government.” Beinart further claims that Gaffney’s “theory resembles conspiracy theories about vulnerable minority groups in the past.”

Yet in several articles he has written attacking the CSP, Gaffney, Fleitz, and other opponents of Sharia, Beinart never gets around to explaining in any detail what Sharia actually is. Beinart never refutes even one of the CSP’s assertions about Sharia. He just presents them, as Leftist writers so often do in so many contexts, as if they were self-evidently false.

Were he to decide to educate himself about the actual doctrines of Sharia, a good place for him to start would be Reliance of the Traveller. This manual of Sharia is certified as conforming to the “practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community” by al-Azhar, the Cairo institution that is the most prestigious and influential authority in Sunni Islam. Reliance is also certified as a reliable guide to Sharia by Taha Jabir al-Alwani, president of both the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the Fiqh Council of North America, and Nuh al-Salman, the mufti of the Jordanian Armed Forces.

Does this venerable Sharia manual bear out the CSPs contention that Sharia is a “totalitarian ideology?”

The manual states that Sharia forbids criticism of itself, mandating death for someone who “mentions something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet … or Islam” (o11.10 (5)). The manual also calls for the murder of those who dare to leave the fold: “When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed” (o8.1).

As Sharia denies the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, a fully Sharia-adherent Muslim may find himself in violation of numerous American laws.

Sharia denies the equality of rights of women, and even restricts their freedom of movement. Once again, from Reliance of the Traveller: “The husband may forbid his wife to leave the home because of the hadith related by Bayhaqi that the Prophet … said: ‘It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to allow someone into her husband’s house if he is opposed, or to go out if he is averse’” (m10.4).

If a woman disobeys, her husband “may hit her” (m10.12). Would Beinart consider prosecution under domestic violence laws of a Muslim husband in the U.S. who beat his wife to be “bigoted” and “Islamophobic”?

Beinart derides Fleitz for being one of 16 authors of a 2015 CSP report that recommended the U.S. government “revoke the citizenship of naturalized Americans who, in seeking to insinuate shariah-compliant norms into civil society, have violated their oath of naturalization and allegiance to defend the Constitution of the United States.”

But does Beinart really favor the acceptance in the U.S. of such elements of Sharia as blasphemy restrictions on speech, the death penalty for apostates from Islam, and the beating of disobedient women?

If not, Beinart should clarify what action should be taken to prevent the introduction of those and other aspects of Sharia into the U.S. Beinart should also clarify when opposition to Sharia is legitimate, and when it shades over into being “Islamophobic.”

It is unlikely that he will do this. Probably he would consider the request itself to be “Islamophobic.”

Expect Beinart to continue to tar Fred Fleitz and other opponents of the aspects of Sharia that contravene American law as “bigoted.” Fleitz — and the American people — deserve better.

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