Glenn Beck talks about a spooky alliance between Islamists and leftists. Newt Gingrich calls sharia law abhorrent and urges the western world to ban it. Bill O’Reilly says that sharia law allows for things that most Americans think are illegal. Sean Hannity challenges Imam Rauf’s agenda of imposing sharia law on America. Are conservatives erecting a sharia bogeyman -- or is there a real threat?
There is an easy answer that does not require historical knowledge, political insight or religious study. It is possible to know if sharia is a threat to American culture by looking at the amount of sharia influence accepted in Europe. As Europeans have been swallowing bits and pieces of sharia cultural codes, they have normalized enough sharia practice for Americans to assess whether the same process is occurring here.
First, civilizational jihad operates by stealth. Islamists are not going to announce that there is a plan to subtly and incrementally inject sharia-compliant practices into western culture. The concessions Europeans have made resulted from coordinated public relations campaigns that cornered the culture into caving or being called intolerant. Thus, a seemingly innocuous accommodation like serving halal (Muslim approved) foods in public school cafeterias – as part of a year-round, daily regime – becomes a soothing matter of kindness and tolerance and is not honestly recognized as preferring one group’s socio-religious demands. Since sharia touches every area of a practicing Muslim’s life -- personal, social, familial, political, and legal -- there are many more such demands to be made of compliant communities.
For example, many French are outraged by the closure of streets in districts of Paris and Marseille for Friday prayers. As Muslims barricade the streets, they block traffic for curb-to-curb prayers in defiance of laws in this strictly secular society. Police are nearby, now to keep this new order. This practice started on the sidewalks as a demand for larger state-funded mosques and now spreads by sections of streets. This creeping expansion of turf is an instructive metaphor for western culture’s initial willingness to compromise and ultimate inability to draw a line. The west’s lack of cultural identity is allowing what cannot be accomplished at the ballot box to be accomplished by multicultural coercion.
Currently, there are hundreds of Muslim enclaves in France where sharia practices dominate and the French sense of “liberte, egalite, or fraternite” do not penetrate.
The United Kingdom has authorized sharia courts for Muslims to resolve civil disputes including marital and family conflicts. Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, has observed that these sharia courts “lead to a segregated society” and “entrench division in society.” In a 2008 House of Lords appellate judgment Lord Hope said that the sharia law tenets at issue were “created by and for men in a male dominated society. There is no place . . . for equal rights between men and women.”
Recent examples show that Americans are keeping pace with Europe’s rate of Islamist accommodation. When the U.S. Government orders Bibles to be burned by the military in Afghanistan to avoid offending Muslims, but censors an American protestor who burned the Koran, this is de facto submission to sharia. When the government will not even try to protect an American cartoonist who proposes an “Everybody Draw Mohammad Cartoon Day” but tells her to go into hiding; when a radio station blacklists host’s wife for being “too anti-sharia;” when Yale University Press removed depictions of the controversial Danish cartoons from a book entitled The Cartoons That Shook the World; and, when four Dearborn Christians are arrested for handing out copies of the Gospel of St. John on a public street outside a Muslim festival, there is evidence that America is conceding important principles of individual liberty, equal protection, and constitutionally protected freedom.
The most culturally restrictive of the European concessions to Islam are the incitement-to-hate laws. Just the chance that racially-toned speech may trigger an angry reaction can provoke a criminal investigation. Several high profile “hate speech” prosecutions have demonstrated that the loss of speech freedoms will inhibit the ability of Europeans to define their culture according to their own Enlightenment values. Dearborn’s recent pre-emptive legal smackdown of Terry Jones’ demonstration near a mosque shows a similar erosion of vital expressive rights in the United States.
Each accommodation of Islamist demands is costly beyond measure when translated to a significant symbolic victory. For what the Islamists propose as an isolated act of cultural sensitivity is interpreted when conceded without a fight as powerful evidence of a culture that is morally weak and historically disconnected. While there is no tangible threat to the American way of life, it is easy to rationalize that the gains being consolidated by Islamists are not compromising American liberties. The sacrifice of expressive rights and cultural identity for temporary relief from the charges of intolerance only telegraphs willing incremental capitulation. What is lost in the race to placate the political Islamists among us is the reality that moderate Muslims are learning whether liberty-loving Americans can be trusted to keep sharia hardliners at bay.