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Threat of Sharia Should Be Taken Seriously

Nina Shea

If the central point of a recent USA Today op-ed on Sharia is any indication of most American opinion-makers’ knowledge of Islamic law, we are in a good deal of trouble.

In “The Sharia myth sweeps America,” writer Amy Sullivan tries to deemphasize the role of Sharia in the Muslim world and in Dearborn, Michigan.

She writes, “Dearborn’s Muslims have not sought to see the city run in accordance with Sharia.” If that’s what she thinks, Ms. Sullivan must not pay much attention to the news. In September, after Muslim complaints, four Christians were prosecuted for breaching the peace by discussing Christianity at the 2010 Arab Festival, held in Dearborn’s public streets. Though they were acquitted of that charge, one, “apostate” from Islam Negeen Mayel, was convicted in a district court of failure to obey a police order when she refused to stop filming her other three co-religionists as they preached the Gospel. As police said in court, however, the filming was perfectly legal.

Ms. Sullivan must also not know that in April, also in Dearborn, a court convicted and briefly jailed Koran-burning Florida pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp who sought to protest non-violently outside a mosque for refusal to post a “peace” bond. The defense, backed by an ACLU amicus brief, argued that charging a demonstration fee based on the anticipated negative reaction to the message conveyed in the demonstration constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech.

Countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan and Afghanistan routinely enforce elements of Sharia, including apostasy and blasphemy laws. Those found guilty of leaving or criticizing Islam are punished by imprisonment or fine, if they’re lucky and by death if they’re not. As renowned Muslim reformer, the late Egyptian scholar Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd, pointed out: “Having been at the receiving end of such allegations and driven from my home in Egypt to exile in the Netherlands I can state with conviction that charges of apostasy and blasphemy are key weapons in the fundamentalists’ arsenal, strategically employed to prevent reform of Muslim societies and instead confine the world’s Muslim population to a bleak, colorless prison of socio-cultural and political conformity.”

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, the United Nations’ largest voting bloc, is in the midst of pushing for universal Islamic blasphemy rules and Europe has begun to comply, using hate-speech bans and public order and blasphemy laws. In Denmark in May, Lars Hedegaard, head of the Free Press Society, was convicted of denigrating Islam for authoring a book critical of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.

Writers like Ms. Sullivan, who implies GOP presidential hopefuls are engaging in “fear mongering” by publicly stating their opposition to Sharia in U.S. courts, do a disservice to their readers when they try for reasons of political correctness to minimize a very real threat to First Amendment freedoms. Discussion of Sharia is long overdue and the GOP is right to be having it.

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