American Muslim communities are experiencing a great upsurge of anti-Muslim propaganda and right-wing political activity, partly as a response to the Trump presidential campaign, the refugee crisis and as a response to events in war zones across the Muslim world. 

State legislatures are even passing special laws denouncing “shariah” law. Much of the vitriol is aimed at preventing “shariah” from ever being introduced to the USA, as though it is some sort of alien threat. The popular notion of shariah amongst such fearful opponents is that of the stoning of adulterers, the chopping off of the hands of thieves, the occasional crucifixion for certain crimes and the killing non-believers. Such fears have of course been fed by the atrocities of deviant killing machines like ISIS, Boko Haram and other organisations which are mainly targeting Muslims. The letter signed by over 120 international Islamic scholars to the ISIS leader in 2014 gives a good indication of how these groups deviate from Islam. [www.lettertobaghdadi.com/] Huffington Post reported on it 25 September 2014.

There is considerable confusion over just what is implied by the term “shariah.”  It is basically a set of principles, not a series of laws.  These principles are derived from the Quran and the words of the Prophet Muhammad (s). All Islamic scholars agree upon the six principles of this Righteous Path – Shariah.  They are:

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  1. The right to the protection of life.
  2. The right to the protection of family.
  3. The right to the protection of education (intellect)
  4. The right to the protection of property (access to resources).
  5. The right to the protection of human dignity.
  6. The right to the protection of religion

Detailed laws derived from the Quran and Sunnah were developed in the interpretive literature over the centuries. This is known as the fiqh.  While the Quran and Sunnah are regarded as the foundation, the interpretations are not seen in the same light. They change over time and with location. A good outline on this matter is contained in an article by Sumbul Ali-Karmali, who has a degree in Islamic Law,  “Who’s Afraid of Sharia,” [Huffington Post, September 3, 2010]. “The fiqh was meant to develop and change according to the time and place – it has internal methodologies for that to happen. It is not static, but flexible. No religion gets to be 1400 years old and the second largest in the world unless its flexible and adaptable.”

Part of this Islamic Path to Righteousness is respect for the religion of others, in accord with the Quranic verse “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: Whoever rejects Taghut [forces of Satan] and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.”   Baqarah 256

The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, binding on all who are part of his Ummah, put this into action at a very early period. These Covenants recognized the diversity of the peoples and religions of the region and showed an acceptance of different religions and cultures which took many centuries to evolve in Europe.   [Morrow. John Andrew. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with Christians of the World. Angelico press/Sophia Perennis. USA. 2013].

Ignorant fear mongering around the issue of creeping shariah law is a political tactic being used by those groups wishing to incite hatred and division in the Australian community. They do not even seem to be aware of what it is or of the very basic fact that the Quran and Sunnah, the foundation of shariah, mandate Muslims to respect the law of the land in which they live.

Australia has not yet reached the level of public incitement against Muslims we witness in the USA but it may develop.