The problem is beyond slogans: “guns don’t kill people…”. I heard this same rhetoric from Muslims today while on the radio. My response was, “well alcohol doesn’t get people drunk: people get drunk.” But the alcohol is a vehicle to drunkeness. Islam, when it looks at the common good, weighs the costs of social impact and does not solely rely upon the individual’s ability to enforce self-discipline. Hence, even with its few benefits which the Qur’an acknowledges, alcohol is prohibited. Likewise, if we are in the midst of a crisis of violence then the availability of guns should be discussed and reconsidered for the public good, not solely based on individual rights.
As we take stock of the 10 years since 9/11 and the ghastly images of those two towers crashing to the ground, one thing has remained constant since September 12th: the imperative of security. Since then, we have witnessed an immediate military strike against Afghanistan, followed by saber rattling against the Axis of Evil—Iran, Syria, and North Korea; the military invasion of Iraq, climaxing with the execution of Saddam Hussain; the reorganization of the intelligence and security communities to create the Department of Homeland Security; and Justice Department legal briefs examining the scope of permissible torture to extract information that might help us win the new but nebulous ‘war on terror.’
Now-a-days, the first reaction amongst many Muslims is not to question their understanding of Revelation, but rather the tendency is to immediately insist something must be amiss with Islam itself, and thus, on these grounds alone, Islam, the Qur’an and Divine Law, can be manipulated and changed to accommodate this rash and irresponsible understanding of Islamic revelation, law, and moral injunctions.
Sally Steenland: Sharia has been in the news these past few months as states like Oklahoma have passed laws banning Sharia and other states are proposing similar laws. Most people, however, don’t actually know what Sharia is. Can you tell us what Sharia is—and what it is not?
Intisar Rabb: Sharia is the ideal law of God according to Islam. Muslims believe that the Islamic legal system is one that aims toward ideals of justice, fairness, and the good life. Sharia has tremendous diversity, as jurists and learned scholars figure out and articulate what that law is. Historically, Sharia served as a means for political dissent against arbitrary rule. It is not a monolithic doctrine of violence, as has been characterized in the recently introduced Tennessee bill that would criminalize practices of Sharia.
S: Are there similarities between Sharia and religious practices in Christianity or Judaism?
I: Yes. Sharia historically was a broad system that encompassed ritual laws, so in some ways it is like Jewish law that has rules for how to pray, how to make ablution before prayers—that sort of thing. There are also broader principles that Sharia tries to embody, such as justice and fairness.