I’m writing this letter in response to F. Craig West’s editorial “Islam: Religion of Peace or Fascist Political Movement?” in your December 2010 issue of The Byline.
I recognize that Mr. West is writing in response to what he feels is a skewed view presented by Joshua Hendrickson’s article in your November issue of the paper. Much of what Mr. West covers in his editorial are some very interesting statements. I’m interested in facts, positive or negative, and factual information about Islam and its presumed threat against the U.S. Constitution. It is something we should educate ourselves about, and not just make assumptions and vague interpretations.
Quote: “Islam is more a political system than it is a religion, and it is a system that believes it is the ONLY true religion, and that all others MUST become subject to Islam and Sharia law or die.” (F. Craig West, 2010)
In the article “The Basics of the Political System in Islam (part 1 of 2): Islam a Total Way of Life”, the author states “As we have mentioned, in Islam God is acknowledged the sole sovereign of human affairs, so there has never been a distinction between religious and state authority. In Christendom, the distinction between the two authorities are said to be based upon records in the New Testament of Jesus, asking his followers to render unto Caesar what was his and unto God what was His. Therefore throughout Christian history until the present times, there have always been two authorities: ‘God and Caesar’, or ‘the church and state.’ “(http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/224/, 2006).
Additionally, it is also stated in the article that “Thus, the ideal Islamic state is a community governed by the Law revealed by God. This does not entail that such a state is necessarily a theocracy under direct rule of the learned men of religion, nor is it an autocracy that vests absolute power in the ruler. The function of the Islamic state is to provide security and order so that Muslims can carry out both their religious and worldly duties.”
In contrast, it’s doesn’t take much digging to discover that many people, especially Christian people in America, feel that our founding fathers, our government, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are heavily influenced by Christian principles, if not divinely inspired.
In the article “American Government and Christianity” by Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries he writes,“The founding of this country as well as the framing of the key political documents rests upon a Christian foundation. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the United States is a Christian nation, although some framers used that term. But it does mean that the foundations of this republic presuppose a Christian view of human nature and God’s providence.” (http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4218181/k.6FE8/American_Government_and_Christianity.htm, 2004) Anderson goes on in the article to site numerous historical resources of the religious stance of our founding fathers, and their supposed intent on shaping the growth on the new world on religious (Christian) principles.
I find it very interesting that descriptions of the Islamic State and relationship of our government and Christianity appear very similar. It would be my belief that these descriptions are the prevailing mindset of both moderate Muslims and Christians.
With regards to it being the ONLY religion, well, it isn’t a secret that many religions across the earth claim to be the one true religion. Islam makes such claims, as in “The True Religion” by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips (http://islamworld.net/docs/true.html), and also Christianity as evidenced by this article from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (http://carm.org/christianity/christian-doctrine/christianity-one-true-religion).
With respect to the statement “…MUST become subject to Islam and Sharia or die.” The subject of Sharia Law, even within Muslim countries, follows many different interpretations and implementations. “Each of the approximately 50 Islamic states and countries that have, to varying degrees, Sharia law, has applied layers of doctrine upon the original religious texts resulting in a multitude of different interpretations and different legal results.” (http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/S/ShariaLaw.aspx).
The article goes on to provide examples of many of human rights abuses in Nigeria and Somali based on Islam and to a greater extent cultural factors. In my research I found several statements from the Quran that support violence against “non-believers” or “victory” over them (http://www.truthbeknown.com/islamquotes.htm), but in all honesty what ancient culture and its religious facets haven’t historically had such stances? It is my belief that cultural factors play a much larger role in what both moderates and extremist believe and act upon. There are many examples of violence and what we would deem as immoral and unethical behavior today that is described in the Christian Bible, such as slavery (http://etori.tripod.com/slave-verses.html), or violence (http://www.rsrevision.com/GCSE/christian_perspectives/peace/violence/bible.htm) , and its stance on human rights and treatment of women (http://www.religioustolerance.org/imm_bibl.htm). However, who but the very extremist or fundamentalist among both groups use select passages to support their stance? Am I to believe that ALL Christians are committing violence against “enemies of God” as stated in this website: “Before they could possess the land, however, they had to drive out the enemies of God. These enemies had been there for generations practicing witchcraft, idolatry and doing abominable things before the Lord. The enemy of God’s people did not just pack up and leave, they had to be driven
out.”(McCarroll, 2006). Of course not, yet we as an American people seem extraordinarily quick to judge and demonize virtually any Muslim (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20019405-503544.html) and Muslims themselves are subsequently terrorist and the “new” face of fear in our country, whereas before it was the Communists/Socialists. We even sometimes forget that Islam is progressive in some areas that Christianity wasn’t (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/globalconnections/mideast/questions/women/) and instead choose to take a rather “medieval” view of the Middle East.
Mr. West also claims in his article that “we must listen to the leaders of Islamic nations, their Imams, and observe their actions.” In the Oct. 11th issue of Time Magazine, author Jumana Farouky states that “It is time that Muslims and Christians recognized just how similar they are — the fate of the world depends on it. That’s the message being sent out today by 138 Muslim leaders and scholars in an open letter to their Christian counterparts saying that world peace hinges on greater understanding between the two faiths. “(http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1670291,00.html#ixzz17SVzanme). In my opinion, that is a significant number of Muslim leaders making a pledge to try to find some common ground with Christian leaders. That isn’t to say there are many Muslim leaders that provide inflammatory language, but how should they be viewed? Do Christians hold Pat Robertson to the same standard as other extremist in his comments regarding Hati, women, politics, homosexuals, and other “enemies” of God? (http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/funnyquotes/a/patrobertson.htm)
Mr. West also spends a great deal of time on talking points regarding Muslim immigration. To the effect that a) Muslims do not wish to assimilate themselves into America/American culture and b) outside of not assimilating they are enforcing their standards and laws onto the United States. Outside of case in New Jersey where a judge heard testimony from an Imam in regards to the cultural and religious implications on a domestic dispute between two Muslim citizens residing in this country from Morocco. It should be important to note that, while thankfully this verdict was overturned, the case was more having to do with properly identifying whether abuse and assault took place and not if it was “Sharia Law impeding the laws of the United States.” The judge ruled that he found acts of domestic assault and harassment to have occurred,.However the judge felt that the defendant (the husband) did not act with criminal intent when he repeatedly insisted upon intercourse with his wife despite the plaintiff’s wishes to the contrary.
Additionally it was ruled “In this particular case, this court does not believe that a final restraining order is necessary under the circumstances. There’s no need for the parties to be associated with one another. They are divorced now. They don’t live together. They don’t have to be together. . . .” ((http://lawlibrary.rutgers.edu/courts/appellate/a6107-08.opn.html). What started a lot of the controversy was the judge’s opinion “The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.” This is where I feel, given the evidence and testimony, that there should have been a ruling that issued a restraining order and also convicted him on sexual assault and/or criminal sexual contact. This, in my opinion, is a failing by the judge, which I do not see from the docket of the case being a situation where “the United States cow-towed to Sharia Law.” Which, given the outrage expressed in media and Internet caused a vote in Oklahoma to be passed that barred courts from considering Islamic law in U.S courts (recently blocked) (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/11/08/oklahomas-ban-shariah-law-blocked-critics-say-attorney-general-failed-respond/).
Where does that slippery slope get us? Do we also bar Canon (Catholic) law from being a consideration in U.S. courts? How about Jewish Law? It is of my opinion where some of the confusion comes from is there is a difference between referring to foreign law, as outlined in this New York Times article by author Adam Liptak (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/us/12ginsburg.html) and relying upon it to form a decision.
Lastly, on the topic of immigration and assimilation of Muslims in America, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), it states “Taking these and other complications into account, a statistical picture is emerging that points to a total Muslim population in the United States of about three million, of which immigrants make up two-thirds to three-quarters. Accepting that this number is necessarily rough, it does point to somewhat over two million Muslim immigrants, or slightly less than one percent of the U.S. national population.” (http://www.cis.org/articles/2002/back802.html). Yes, even current figures hold to that 2.5 million mark, of which it is stated roughly 10% of that are illegal.
As to Mr. West’s comments on assimilation, I offer these statistics from CIS:
“Interest in coming to America remains very strong in the Middle East even after September 11. In October 2001, the Department of State received approximately 1.5 million applications from the Middle East (not including Pakistan) for the visa lottery, a program which awards 50,000 green cards each year to randomly selected applicants.”
“Middle Eastern immigrants are one of the most educated immigrant groups in America. In 2000, 49 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 28 percent of natives.”
“There is little evidence of discrimination in the job market against the group. Median earnings in 2000 for Middle Eastern men were $39,000, slightly higher than the $38,000 average for native workers.”
“Citizenship rates are relatively high among Middle Easterners, with 55 percent holding American citizenship, compared to 38 percent of immigrants overall.”
Also: “While many Middle Easterners are well-educated and prosperous, a significant share are poor and make use of America’s welfare system. In 2000, nearly one in five Middle Eastern immigrants and their young children lived in poverty, compared to about one in 10 natives; 23 percent used at least one major welfare program, compared to only 15 percent of natives.”
It’s also important to note that it is only in recent history that immigrants from the Mideast are not wholly Muslim. According to the same source cited above: “While the Mideast itself is overwhelmingly Muslim (approximately 98 percent), historically this has not been true of immigrants to the United States from that part of the world. For much of this century, the vast majority of Middle Easterners in the United States were Christians, mostly Maronites from Lebanon, or Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Chaldeans, and a small number of Jews fleeing predominately Muslim countries. In recent decades this situation has changed significantly.”
In conclusion, I feel that Mr. West’s opinions, although valid and based on his personal experience, at least statistically do not reflect what is actually happening with regards to how Muslims are immigrating and assimilating themselves into America.
Furthermore, while example upon example can be pulled from both the Quran and the Bible illustrating support for violence, human rights abuses, and malicious domination, it is more important that cultural facets and interpretations of those passages change to reflect the views widely held by modern society and incorporate them as smoothly as possible, and are not strictly what Mr. West feels they are on a universal level. I am not presenting this material to be in support of political correctness, but simply a search for the facts and the truth of the matter, be they positive or negative.
Mr. West also slams biased corporate media for portraying “propaganda”, but how are we to know that his sources are not afflicted with the same bias? They just happen to be a bias that supports his beliefs and furthers his thought processes. I agree with him in that we need to do our homework and come to some sort of informed decision, but I hesitate to use the word “conclusion” because in matters of faith and politics it is my belief that the system is fluid and conforms to our view of “reality” depending on the information we receive and process.
RCC IT Network Services