I attended a debate recently. The issue: Is Islam a Religion of Peace, and is Shariah, or Islamic law, consistent with the U.S. Constitution? Arguing in the affirmative was Suhail, whom I would consider a moderate Muslim. Arguing in the negative was Frank, an American who considers Islam to be a threat to Western civilization. The following is an abridged version of the actual debate. See what you think.

Suhail: The U.S. Constitution protects us all from discrimination on the basis of religious belief. All faiths are American faiths, and are protected. There are no religious tests here, and American Muslims have integrated themselves into American life. They serve their country, even in the military. Muslims respect Jews and Christians as “people of the book,” and all three religions worship the same God of Abraham. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, and play by the rules. Racists want hate, not the truth. They say that Islam is violent, but similar racist remarks were said about Catholics and Jews. Anti-Muslim is Anti-Semitism on training wheels. Many Muslims condemned 9/11. Racist rhetoric leads to violence, and we must not succumb to prejudice.

Frank: I look at this from a national security perspective. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Shariah law finds its roots in the Quran. There is a principle in the Quran called “abrogation” (Sura 2:106) by which earlier Quranic passages, which are more tolerant of other religions, are superseded by later passages. Therefore, the Medina passages, which are extreme and intolerant, are seen by the Islamic authorities as replacing previous passages. “Fight and slay the unbelievers where you find them.” “Fight them, even the people of the book.” “Take not the Jews or Christians for your friends…” The early, peaceful passages are superseded by these Medina passages, and are a part of the directive to assure the triumph of Islam. This is according to the 4 Sunni schools, and the Shia schools as well. It is God’s will for Islam to rule the world and Jihad is the obligation of all Muslims. If you disagree, you are an apostate. Ultimately, Jihad will call for violence, but until that is possible, a “soft Jihad” is recommended, by which Muslim are to work from within to destroy Western civilization, so that Allah’s religion is made supreme. Therefore, some Muslims are a 5th column which promotes the destruction of the Constitution in the form of Shariah law.

Suhail: “Abrogation” is generally not accepted, except by terrorists and racists. All religions contain perverse passages in Holy Scripture, exhorting people to violence. The Medina period was a time of war, which explains the Prophet’s rhetoric. History proves that Islam was tolerant of other religions. Mainstream Muslims believe in peace. Shariah is interpretive law, and is not dogmatic. The word “Jihad” conflates Islam with politics, which is what Bin Laden wants. People who support terrorism do so for political reasons. People who oppose terrorism do so for religious reasons. We should not give our religion to the terrorists. We cannot allow the terrorists to set the agenda with regard to religious belief.

Frank: As part of its “soft Jihad” agenda, the Muslim Brotherhood seeks the following:
1. To dominate Muslims, to radicalize them, and to recruit them to Jihad.
2. To intimidate opponents.
3. To create parallel societies, with their own sets of laws, preferential arrangements, dress codes, etc., by which Shariah is used to subvert the U.S. Constitution.

Sahriah is a very strict regiment in 75% of U.S. mosques. The “stealth” or “soft” Jihad will eventually lead to violent Jihad.

Suhail: Terrorists are trying to co-opt Islam. I don’t want to give them my religion. Mainstream Muslims are not extreme, and wearing a headscarf is no “soft Jihad.” People should be able to practice their faith without being suspect.

Frank: Other religions, like Judaism and Christianity, acknowledge the national authority of the state. Shariah does not. All the recognized authoritative Islamic sources endorse using Shariah to displace secular law. Islam seeks to curb free speech in order to stop criticism.

Suhail: Islam is an interpretive law. You interpret it for the land you live in.

Frank: Shariah is not a matter on interpretation. Non-Muslims will have 3 choices: 1. Accept Islam, 2. Accept dhimmitude status, or 3. Die. It’s not just Al Qaeda’s whack interpretation. No. Al Qaeda reflects authoritative Islam.

Suhail: Is there a clash of civilizations? No. It’s a clash between those who believe in civilization, and those, like the terrorists, who don’t. Three Muslim countries elected women as heads of state. Most Muslims are comfortable with modernity. The terrorists are not manifesting Islam, and should not be allowed to set the agenda. When Jews were persecuted by the Christians, where did they go? To Muslim states. Many scholars interpret Shariah as consistent with the Constitution and with modernity.

Frank: Many moderate Muslims reject Shariah, but Wahabbis are winning in many areas. They will extinguish the moderate practice of Islam. Islam is waging Jihad against the civilized world. It’s not just the extremists. The mainstream accepts this authoritative version of the faith. Just look at the authoritative texts. Our country is on the line.

Suhail: You see before you two worldviews, extreme and moderate. It’s up to you to decide. Bin Laden, and other racists like him, foster hate. Terrorism is political, not religious. Faith brings strength to America, and all faiths should be allowed to participate in American democracy.

Frank: We are confronting a dangerous ideology bent on our destruction. A 5th column is working to do us in and we should fight back. This ideology wants to impose Shariah on the whole world. It’s not just Bin Laden who says this. The authoritative interpretations of Islam concur. Our only hope is to mobilize the support of Muslim moderates against the supporters of Shariah.

Who do you think is right? Or could they both be right and wrong at the same time?

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Comment by windsfeather on October 20, 2008 at 2:48am
In Mecca they had a gathering of religious leaders. This was a first to ever happen within the Shites and Sunni Clerics. They denounced the radical groups that present a front to the interpretive law, the religious leaders of many faiths condemed the use of violence and polictics with regard to Islam.
google this and you will see it on the front pages of many papers. They said and I quote, "The good for the good."

People who support terrorism do so for political reasons. People who oppose terrorism do so for religious reasons.

Lets note that Suhail denounced terrorism as the clerics did and he seperated their political goals from religion.
Comment by Hiba on October 18, 2008 at 4:23pm

By looking at the role of politics through the history we will find that different leaders from all religions tried to control large spots of the world regarding to many economical, ideological ..... etc aspects.
We can speak about the role of mainly UK, France, and ten Italy in the Arab world during the last century, shall Arabs and Muslims stayed calm then?

The point is that many characters and coalitions, governments and ideologies left an important impact somewhere in the history which played a role in forming a public opinion about that country or their religion after then, our role as peacemakers is to try to reflect the good face and the good intentions so the world wouldn’t go deeper in the hate game which is being enhanced by many media and other tools.

we cant separate politics and ideological interests sometimes, this is not only about Islam, this is about countries individuals and global powers as well.
Comment by Neri Bar-On on October 18, 2008 at 11:53am
Elaine and John,

As Ana's comment is not here any more we can look at the dynamic of your conversation while non of us is Muslim.

We usually see people who have different perspective of the conflict as "extreme enemies" and try to bring the truth out by ... calling them wacko/terrorists/totalitarian left and then someone with different perspective say that your sources is the wacko/terrorists/totalitarian left one.

This is the origin of the blame game, we try to educate others while we need to educate ourselves.

One of the meaning I learned of Jihad is a war within yourself to get into G-D field of peace. This is a major battle for all of us. we are all in Jihad.

Comment by Neri Bar-On on October 17, 2008 at 9:21pm

It sounds as you are in Jihad against the Muslims believers ...

All religions at their most complex evaluation of "what it is all about?" find the same complex understanding of all of us sharing one reality while the different religions developed in different times and different culture stage now we can recognize that all share same deep wisdom.

Yes there is Jihad concept in Islam, but for the depth of religion the focus is not on the simple texts (as some believers always accept unconditionally) but rather the full reflection and higher spiritual understanding which we know now point on the same G-D with the same conclusions of Moral behavior.

We confuse the popular interpretation of Islam which is similar to the popular interpretation of Judaism and Christianity as Islam while Islam attracted great people as Maimonides who's major contribution to Jewish life remains the Mishneh Torah, his code of Jewish law widly accepted in major Jewish traditions.

Maimonides further explains his view regarding Islam in a letter that he wrote to a certain Obadiah the Proselyte, who, having previously been a Muslim, certainly knew the particulars of the religion, and had declared that it was not idolatry. Because of his opinion, he was ridiculed by his teacher, who claimed that the Islamic religious service at Mecca was idolatrous in that it involved the ritual of throwing stones which constituted worship of "Merkulius."

Maimonides' answer to this is unequivocal.

The Ishmaelites are not at all idolaters; [idolatry] has long been severed from their mouths and hearts; and they attribute to God a proper unity, a unity concerning which there is no doubt. And because they lie about us, and falsely attribute to us the statement that God has a son,(270 is no reason for us to lie about them and say that they are idolaters . . . And should anyone say that the house that they honor [the Kaaba] is a house of idolatry and an idol is hidden within it, which their ancestors used to worship, then what of it? The hearts of those who bow down toward it today are [directed] only toward Heaven . . . [Regarding] the Ishmaelites today - idolatry has been severed from the mouths of all of them [including] women and children. Their error and foolishness is in other things which cannot be put into writing because of the renegades and wicked among Israel [i.e., apostates]. But as regards the unity of God they have no error at all.
(SOURCE Islam and the halakhah Summer, 1993 by Marc B. Shapiro)


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