Adam Serwer viewed a report by the Center for American Progress that puts to rest the right-wing scareathon that Sharia law is headed for the United States via a fifth column of American Muslims. The authors of the report, Wajahat Ali and Frank Duss, explain what Sharia law represents.
There is no one thing called Sharia. A variety of Muslim communities exist, and each understands Sharia in its own way. No official document, such as the Ten Commandments, encapsulates Sharia. It is the ideal law of God as interpreted by Muslim scholars over centuries aimed toward justice, fairness, and mercy.
Sharia is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observance such as prayer and fasting, and not with national laws.
If we viewed Christianity a threat based on that religion’s fundamentalism, there would be equal reason to be concerned; in fact, more reason to be worried since Muslims represent less than one percent of the U.S. population.
Consider that 33 percent of Americans believe the Bible to be the literal word of G-d. But despite this, American Jews nevertheless resist stoning disobedient sons and Christians do not kill non-Christians, even though this is what Christians or Jews would do if they acted, respectively, on a literal reading Luke or Deuteronomy.
The root of sharia panic is the idea that American Muslims, acting on an obtuse and Medeival interpretation of Islamic principles, will act inconcert with each other to destroy the United States and replace it with an Islamic theocracy. The point of the report is not to deny that harsh, unconscionable interpretations of sharia don’t exist, or that these don’t result in heinous violations of human rights in some Muslim countries. But the sharia panic that is driving state legislatures to try and criminalize Islam, and making GOP presidential candidates fearful of even looking tolerant of Muslims, is based on an understanding of the religion that would be analogous to treating the bombing of an abortion clinic as the only true possible interpretation of Christianity.