[Kevin is the head of Summit Ministries, Oxford] Summit Oxford Study Centre
“I don’t know why anyone would see us as a threat.”
As we were driving toward Heathrow, in London, our Sudanese taxi driver, a Muslim, noted how he enjoyed living in Oxford. “It is very peaceful here,” he noted. During our conversation I described how our Summit Oxford students read the Qur’an, spend hours reading Hadiths, and meet with an imam.
“Oh,” he blurted, “are you familiar with that book about how civilizations clash?”
I was surprised. Could he be alluding to Samuel Huntington’s book, The Clash of Civilizations?1 I confessed that I had only read about forty pages and didn’t have an opinion. “I don’t know why anyone would see us as a threat,” he said.
Indeed, why would anyone see this man as a threat? He was an amiable chap with a perpetual smile. I certainly didn’t see him as a threat.
We spoke of immigration in Europe, how skilled immigrants are granted jobs, homes, healthcare, education, and other services. Indeed, they are given places to reside in peaceful societies, ones typically more peaceful than their home countries. We observed how immigrants tended to congregate in neighborhoods. I noted that as these populations grew, so did their voice and the significance of their vote.
Then a question came to me. “If you were able to vote to implement Sharia in Oxford, would you?” His smile enlarged and his response was immediate: “Of course, that is our culture, our heritage.” This troubled me.
“But if Sharia were implemented,” I reasoned, “then the very people who had granted jobs, healthcare, and peaceful residences might find, in turn, that their peace and security would be taken away. They would be persecuted or prosecuted if they did not comply with Sharia.”
Silence ensued for several minutes. Our driver’s smile slowly morphed to a pursed frown. He lifted his sunglasses and placed them on his furrowed brow. He tipped his head to the side, and again, deep in thought. Sighing, he yielded, “Well, I suppose that they could see us…as a threat.”
Just then I realized what had eluded me for years: Islamic terrorists have as their goal the global rule of Sharia. However, this also is the hope of many, perhaps most, non-violent Muslims. Their goal is identical; their means differ.
Sharia Is Islam
Islamic law, Sharia, is integral to Islam. Exemplified by Muhammad, Sharia is the “way” of Islamic life. It derives from the Qur’an and the hadiths (oral traditions), and developed over Islam’s first few centuries. It is expansive, addressing personal morality, religious rituals, family life, food, trade, dealings with unbelievers, governing, and international relations. Here are some restrictions, prohibitions, and punishments listed in the Sharia manual, The Reliance of the Traveller:2
Jihad for the promotion of Islam is mandatory for all Muslims
Claims of rape require four male witnesses
Female testimony is worth half that of males
Muslim men may marry up to four women who may be Muslims, Christians or Jews
Non-Muslims may not criticize or mock (blaspheme) Muhammad, the Qur’an, or Islam
Non-Muslims must wear distinguishing clothing in Islamic states
Jews and Christians are forbidden to build new synagogues or churches in Islamic states
Existing churches and synagogues may not be repaired
Non-Muslims must pay additional taxes to assure safety
Violations of Sharia may lead to persecution, exile, prosecution, incarceration, torture, or death. Even outside of Islamic states, Muslims may feel permitted or obliged to enact Sharia punishments upon apostates and blasphemers. Discriminatory systems naturally foster social and judicial discrimination. Attempts to romanticize Sharia are put to the lie as Sharia oppresses so many,3especially women,4 apostates,5 and non-Muslims.6
Revelations from an April 2013 Pew poll are instructive and puzzling.7 Some 90 percent of Muslims surveyed favor freedom of religion, and yet over 75 percent of the Muslims surveyed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Niger, Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh, Djibouti, and Thailand desire Sharia to be the law of the land. Of those desiring Sharia, over 70 percent in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, and Egypt want whippings and thieves’ hands amputated; over 80 percent in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestinian Territories, and Egypt, and over 50 percent in Jordan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Tajikistan favor stoning for adultery; over 75 percent in Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and over 60 percent in the Palestinian Territories and Malaysia approve death for apostasy.
It is a strange moral calculus that produces 90 percent approving religious freedom while 60-75 percent favor killing apostates. Given the oppressive restrictions on non-Muslims in lands ruled by Sharia, and the high levels of persecution in Muslim countries8, the promotion of religious freedom is patently unequal.9
Compliance or Violence
Under Sharia no one may criticize or mock Muhammad or the Qur’an,10 or evangelize Muslims, or leave Islam. Many Muslims actively demand compliance to Sharia or threaten or enact violence.
For instance, in 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for the assassination of Salmon Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. On November 2, 2004, in Amsterdam, a Muslim shot and mutilated Theo Van Gogh for co-creating the film Submission. Muslim rioters killed nearly two hundred people after a Danish newspaper in 2005 published cartoons that satirized Muhammad. On September 14, 2010, the Seattle Times cartoonist, Molly Norris, who called for the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” had changed her name and gone into hiding because of violent threats. Nor should we overlook the wake of persecution throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa following the so-called “Arab Spring.”11
A troubling series of incidents have occurred around Dearborn, Michigan, where Christian groups attend an annual Arab festival. Some are mild-mannered and thoughtful conversationalists; others are intentionally provocative. When crowds gather, tensions naturally rise. There have been instances of mob violence. Some security personnel have been partial, arresting or taking into custody law abiding Christians.
When lawful Christians are thus silenced, rather than violent Muslim mobs squelched, liberty is lost and Sharia restrictions effectively are met. Demands of compliance and enacting or threatening violence are rewarded. Recently the City of Dearborn paid an undisclosed amount to several Christians who were mistreated by officers and slandered by the mayor.12 Other cases are pending.
Some are tempted to suppose such occurrences are too rare to bother. The morally obtuse presume the victims deserved such threats and violence, if not censorship or arrest. However, in America we cherish freedom of speech and of religion, even if others offend us. These liberties are precious and are retained only at the cost of eternal vigilance.
Islam Is An Alternative Civilization
Since my auspicious conversation with our taxi driver, I have found Huntington’s book both insightful, concerning, and disagreeable. What he says on pages 217-218 should give us all pause:
The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is . . . the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.
Huntington is correct: Islam is an alternative civilization, a political ideology, and thus naturally conflicts with other civilizations. However, Islam’s conflicts extend as well to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, secularists, and others.
Liberty or Islamic Law
Sharia is the heart of Islam, and it pulses in direct conflict with the personal and religious liberties we take for granted. Today countless numbers suffer under the long shadow of Sharia. While some Muslims and non-Muslims have fled to the West to escape Sharia’s tyranny,13 other Muslims seek to impose Sharia even in western countries, sometimes with the aid of politicians and judges.14 But one thing should now be clear: we may have either liberty or Islamic law, not both.15
New York: Touchstone, 1996.
Nuh Ha Mim Keller, ed. and trans., The Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law…, Rev. Ed. (Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications,1991, 1994).
See Andrew G. Bostom, Sharia Versus Freedom (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2012).
See Nonie Darwish, Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008).
See Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel (London: Free Press, 2007), and Nonie Darwish, Now They Call Me Infidel (New York: Sentinel, 2006).
See Raymond Ibrahim, Crucified Again (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2013), and Robert Spencer, Not Peace but a Sword: The Great Chasm between Christianity and Islam (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013).
“The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” April 30, 2013: http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society.aspx. Opinions were collected from 39 countries (every country with more than 10 million Muslims), with over 38,000 people surveyed. Not polled were citizens of Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Sudan.
Muslim countries populate Open Doors’ 2013 World Watch List: http://www.worldwatchlist.us/world-watch-list-countries/.
See Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nomad: A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations (London/New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010).
See Andrew McCarthy, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2010, 2011), and Brooke Goldstein and Aaron Meyer, Lawfare: The War against Free Speech (Washington, D.C.: The Center for Security Policy, 2011)
Updates: www.shariahthethreat.org, www.jihadwatch.org, and www.raymondibrahim.com.