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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.