Karen Lugo

Muslims are organizing discussions across America to assert that sharia is compatible with the U.S. Constitution. Since these presentations rarely involve a real debate there is no opportunity for thoughtful challenge to the questionable premise. In fact, if these “town halls” are conducted as the recent session in Garden Grove, CA, they will be characterized by partisan rants, baseless platitudes on harmonizing ambiguous values, and a total lock-down on dissent.

It is time to find out if there is a Muslim bluff to call on sharia and America foundational values. We can, and must, demand an answer to this urgent question: If American Muslims follow a unique interpretation of sharia -- as is implicit in their claim to embrace American ideals -- will they make an unequivocal statement condemning the sharia-justified violence in Islamic countries? In the face of rising violence and defiant death sentences, will American Muslims repudiate the oppression, persecution, and the killing committed in the name of sharia?

Right now, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is reported to be awaiting imminent execution under Iran’s sharia blasphemy laws; web developer Saeed Malekpour faces hanging in Iran on a trumped up corruption charge; Iranian bloggers and freedom activists are subjects of a brutal crackdown; Saudi Hamza Kashgari’s tweets are punishable by death according to Saudi sharia blasphemy laws; and, Christophobia currently rages through Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Egypt in the form of massacres of Christians, maiming, looting, and burning of churches. The silence of American Muslim leadership in the face of this gathering cyclone of human rights abuses is deafening. Their claims that sharia is supportive of fundamental human rights -- as long as they are not willing to repudiate this barbarism -- is offensive. Of course, if there is a different interpretation of sharia applied in America, Muslim leadership bears the burden of making this emphatic distinction.

Thus far, all that American Muslims have done is produce aspirational statements like this from Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America and anchor speaker at the Orange County “Sharia and the Constitution” town hall. As I asked him when Muslims would assume a leadership role in repudiating human rights abuses in the name of sharia, he gave rationalizations on how everyone suffered during the revolution in Egypt. He said that country and customs must be taken into consideration when assessing the application of sharia as he also offered that not all governments or actors in Muslim countries follow sharia. Then he tried a lopsided moral equivalence argument and countered that Americans do not speak out against the killing of innocent Muslims by predator drones. Finally, he referred me to the statements or fatwas issued on the violence in Afghanistan and “religious extremism” in general -- but this was the same fluff that characterized his prepared statement: “we should all work for peace and respect for human life.”

Political leaders are complicit in sheltering Muslims from accountability. The Orange County discussion on sharia was unilaterally declared off limits to videotaping when Rep. Loretta Sanchez told an attendee that, if he was not “official,” he must “follow the rules” and stop taping her remarks. (A key event official has since told me that there was no rule prohibiting videotaping.) One has to wonder what is her understanding of the Constitution and how she defines her responsibility to her constituents? Informed reading of constitutional rights to assemble and to speak says that a public official has no expectation of privacy (the key element needed for making a legal argument against recording) when speaking in her official capacity -- moreover at a public town hall meeting.

Rep. Sanchez may not want a youtube video in circulation showing the three Democrat congresswomen calling the legitimate congressional hearings on Islamic radicalization “witch hunts” and “a threat to national security” and “targeting Muslims.” Rep. Sanchez leveled the charge that the King hearings had one purpose and that was “to humiliate and offend the integrity of the American Muslim community.”

Symbolically, this OC panel was scheduled on the day marking the Japanese internment and the historic backdrop provided convenient parallels for official comment on the re-settlement of Japanese during WWII and ostensible mistreatment of American Muslims today. Congresswoman Judy Chu declared that Japanese Americans had been taken to “concentration camps.” Incidentally, there was no mention of the reparations paid the Japanese as signed by President Ronald Reagan. Neither was the overweening due process afforded unlawful combatant detainees noted. Nor were examples provided for the claims of mistreatment of American Muslims.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Baca said that America faced a “dilemma about what American law and the Constitution are all about.” LAPD Chief of Counter-Terrorism Downing spoke of a hate campaign “spread across America” to create untruths about sharia and he warned of the threat from “the other side of extremism” coming from those that “perpetuate hate against a small number of people.” These public servants seem to have lost sight of what is their chief duty. As Scott Swett expertly demonstrates here, America is entirely likely to suffer another Nidal Hassan massacre because the institutional lesson learned -- as illustrated by these public officials -- is that preserving diversity trumps safety.

These congressional members should also be held accountable for participating in a so-called panel on the American Constitution where they did not even attempt to vindicate American principles of self-determination, equal rights, free speech, and freedom of conscience. As irresponsible as the politician’s partisan tirades were, their willing cooperation in this farcical discussion was worse. These representatives failed to utter even one token challenge to the claim that sharia is perfectly consistent with American constitutional standards. There was no examination of this proposition in the course of the entire so-called town hall.

If our leaders will not rise to this occasion, American citizens must do so. There will never be a better time to ask America’s Muslims to take a stand for the American values of individual rights and freedom of conscience. If they do not declare for the cause of liberty now, what are we to believe about the future compatability of American constitutionalism and Muslim sharia traditions?


Karen Lugo

Karen Lugo is the Founder of the Libertas-West Project and a co-director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.