Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Open Letter to Hysterical Sharia Conspiracy Theorists

Is this thing on? *tap* *tap*

An open letter to Hysterical Sharia Conspiracy Theorists (not that many of them are likely to read my blog):


This letter is for you if you believe that Sharia is an imminent threat to western civilisation, written by me, part of the American Left. In particular, I am one of the rare actual socialists in the United States, but one also inspired by and operating in many of the same Enlightenment traditions under which the United States was founded. My opinions on some topics are in the minority among the American Left (you have often confused non-lassiez-faire capitalism with socialism - as a socialist I can tell you that you're very wrong), and on others are likely more majorty. On many topics, I expect substantial numbers of conservatives would agree with me as well.

On the topic of Sharia, your claims are based on the ideas that:

  1. Barack Obama is a Muslim
  2. Liberal judges are likely to introduce Sharia to the United States in some form
  3. Muslims in general wish to introduce Sharia law as the law of the land in the United States
  4. Muslims are responsible for 9/11
  5. The presence of a Mosque is a step towards Sharia
All of these ideas are significantly wrong.
  • Barack Obama is not a muslim. He does not wear his faith on his sleeve, but he is a Christian - the church he is known for attending, Trunity United Church of Christ, is not a Mosque, and while the pastor of that church was had some unorthodox views on race and politics, but these views are neither uncommon nor are they limited to the left. There are many christians in America who consider religion not to be a matter to be involved in every part of their life, out of sensitivity to those around them who don't share their opinions.
  • Liberal judges, like all judges, have extensive legal experience and understanding how our legal system works, the principles on which it rests as well as those of its actual functions. As scholars, there is little reason they would seek to replace our well-honed legal system with an alien system, particularly one that has had great difficulties in adapting to modernity. As liberals, there is little reason they would accept, let alone promote Sharia law given how in most senses it would restrict traditions precious to us, built by women's liberation, the labour movement, free-speech advocates struggling against cultural conservatives, and many other such struggles dating back to our common legal heritage with England.
  • American Muslims no doubt vary in their beliefs - there may be some who desire their particular faith to dominate the land, but the vast majority of Muslims in the United States are not radicalised. Likewise, there are Christians, followers of judaism, and those of other faiths who would attempt to create religious rule over the US and replace our traditions, but they are slim in number. The strength of liberal traditions and high living standards is that they generally moderate people, pulling them into our broader culture and building enough ties across communities that provided communities are well-treated, the potential for radicalism is minimised. You have nothing more to fear from the average American mulsim than you do from the average American Christian - their traditions differ from yours, but yours never have been the only traditions in our nation. The founding fathers had considerable disagreements on that front, from the aggressive atheism of Thomas Paine or the thoughtful deism of Franklin to the traditionalists like Patrick Henry.
  • Muslims as a whole are not responsible for 9/11. Those who were responsible were or are Muslim, but they are in a minority sect, relying on hosting of a nation that was considered a rogue dangerous to its neighbours (Iran, for example, frequently suffers attacks from international islamist movements operating from Afghanistan) and acting in the company of other militant groups that have long posed threats to Muslim-majority nations. Not all of these movements are the same and some have fought each other with as much violence as they've used against Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon, and other countries. The fact that they claim to be representing the true face of Islam is a claim you should take as seriously as you might claims by the fringe christian groups who likewise kill to be the true face of Christianity. Islamists don't represent most Muslims in the west, and 9/11 was condemned by many Muslim-majority nations. 9/11 was also not a simple event, and constant US meddling in the affairs of other countries has created resentment, making it hard for people to consider the United States to be working for anything but its self-interest - we have overthrown democracies, supported regressive regimes out of interest in profit, and otherwise not acted on the high ideals we espouse. We are not unique in this, but we are powerful - many admire the ideals that we (and the rest of the rest) hold even as they are bothered by how frequently we violate these ideals and act without tolerance, without concern for anyone but ourselves, and without concerns for human dignity. Being humans, this is something we are guilty of as a species, and we have not escaped these tendencies in the west.
As liberals, you can expect that we will not support sharia as the law of the land of the United States. It doesn't align with western society nor the enlightenment foundations we've been working on. Those of us who are atheist will never accept religious rule, and we distrust those who call for a Christian government as much as those who call for an Islamic one. A christian government was not intended by the founders of this nation, and in this case we concur with their reasoning - by maintaining a secular government that is very reluctant to even dip its toe in religious water, we keep cultural struggles over values much safer for everyone involved. You may believe in some specific laws inspired by your religion or philosophy, but unless you can justify it in secular terms, the rest of society should be very suspicious of it. For those few of us who are socialist, we will not accept Sharia as the law of the land because we see socialism as the future culmination of enlightenment and liberal thought, not a regression towards religious rule. While there have occasionally been attempts to blend Islam and Socialism, they have been very rare, and the political movements in Arab nations that have been socialist have as a rule struggled against those advocating a stronger Islamic basis in society.

Sharia is a manufactured fear, like immigration reform. There may be some level of underlying issue that should be addressed, but it is neither an imminent threat nor have there been remarkable causes to worry about it so suddenly - there have been conservative presidents before and there no doubt will be conservative presidents again. I hold that you are manufacturing issues because you have not had enough to actually complain about with regards to a surprisingly centrist, technocratic president. This is understandable - for many of you, dealing with the presidency of GW Bush has been embarassing, and some political figures have rubbed your nose in it sharply enough that your pride was injured. I believe if you look at the facts of these issues carefully, you will find that you are in hysteria over relatively small issues, and like confusing those few of us who are socialists with the Democrats, you have allowed your emotions to cloud your reasoning, and you may be driven into this partly by malfunctioning news media that cross lines that traditionally have not been crossed. You can do better - conservativism has always been a large tendency in politics, and there are ways to be conservative without becoming divorced from facts. This threatens us too - as fellow americans and part of western civilisation and civilisation in general, there are challenges that cannot be aptly met without a firm reliance on the facts and efforts to keep dialogue careful and respectful. We will fail every challenge we face as a society if we are not intelligent about how we manage them. One of the weaknesses of a democratic republic like ours is if enough of the people pull enough against the fabric of society - at best we would have gridlock at every level, at worst our government would disintegrate entirely. We have a responsibility to better ourselves, and bettering society depends on efforts on part of individuals to conquer inappropriate passions, develop compassion for each other, and work from the facts. The specifics of this are things on which we may disagree, but Christians, Muslims, Jews, Seculars, and many others are part of our society and many others. Don't mistake the healthy struggles in a democracy and public discussion with the kind of struggles the US faces with Islamist militants.


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