Loyalty oaths in America have their roots in the Civil War era, but in the 50s, they were an ugly product of the "Red Scare." Some people, including university professors, were asked to sign them as testimony to their not being a communist, or a communist sympathizer.
Now comes a proposal for a different type of loyalty oath, which may help answer the question: how do we tell the difference between a peaceful Muslim and a non-peaceful Muslim who wants to kill us? Granting that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists, is there a method by which we can do a better job of exposing those who are?
This week, the "Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding" is being presented to the European Parliament. According to Gerard Batten, a member of the European Parliament from London, who contributed the foreword, and the charter's author, Sam Solomon, a Sharia law expert, the charter will "enable Muslims from all strands of belief to make it plain that they reject those extremist interpretations of their religious texts that promote or excuse violence and bring Islam into conflict with the modern world."
The Charter calls upon Muslims to:
- Respect non-Muslim religions and issue a fatwa (an Islamic religious decree) prohibiting the use of force, violence or threats to their followers.
- Respect all civilizations, cultures and traditions and promote understanding of the precedence of national laws over Sharia law.
- Respect Western freedoms, especially of belief and expression and prohibit violent reaction against people who make use of these freedoms.
- Prohibit the issuing of any fatwa that would result in violence or threat against individuals or institutions.
- Request Islamic institutions to revise and issue new interpretations of Qur'anic verses calling for Jihad and violence against non-Muslims.
Solomon says, "We call on organizations representing the Islamic faith Š to endorse and sign this Charter as an example to all European Muslims." By doing so, they will make it clear that "Islam is a religion of peace Š and that acts of terrorism committed in its name are the acts of misguided individuals who have misunderstood and misinterpreted its teaching."
In the charter's foreword, Gerard Batten (MEP) writes, "The Western European view of religion, achieved after centuries of bloodshed, conflict and division, is that religion is a matter of private belief and conscience. Islamic fundamentalists do not share this view. They believe in Islamic theocracy. Such views are simply incompatible with Western liberal democracy. The vast majority of Muslims that non-Muslims meet in everyday life are decent, respectable, law-abiding and hardworking. Western governments and societies have to offer them their support while standing firm against the extremists." The charter is "a great step forward in this process."
What would Solomon suggest be done to those who refuse to sign the charter, as many refused to sign earlier loyalty oaths? How does one encourage compliance? Sam Solomon answers that question via e-mail: "This charter is like a passport application. If someone lies, he will be prosecuted. Once agreed upon, it would give power to the authorities to bring them to justice. Though we know they can lie, this time it would not be an individual, it would be their leaders, and would be like putting their noses in the dust, and accepting it for what it is worth, that the real cause of terrorism is the interpretation of Qur'anic verses by certain factions of their religion. One way or another, they have never been challenged like this ever before."
As the European Parliament is often much slower than the American Congress, the charter begins first as a discussion document. Sponsors hope it will create interest and discussion among the European public, as well as in the European Parliament. They are hoping one of the MEPs, possibly Gerard Batten, will put forward a proposal to introduce this charter as a bill.
Batten and Solomon see this as a "no lose" proposition. If the bill passes with an enforcement mechanism, Muslim leaders who sign would be held accountable under the law for any violation. If they don't sign, the law and public opinion may have something to say about their refusal.
Does anyone have a better strategy for sorting out the violent Muslims from the peaceful ones among us? And be sure, they are among us, as we experienced on 9/11.