At 1:41 of the video above, a questioner at Suhail Khan’s panel on conservative “inclusion” holds up a paper that apparently Khan had had distributed. It was an article by law professor Marshall Breger of Catholic University, “Why Jews Can’t Criticize Sharia Law.” Khan, in response to the questioner, claimed falsely that the American Conservative Union (ACU) had barred me, Pamela Geller, David Horowitz and Frank Gaffney.
Having been thus called out, I renewed my challenge to Khan to debate when I saw him in the hotel lobby. He responded with wild hysteria:
Meanwhile, the falsehoods in Breger’s piece warrant some attention.
Similarities between Judaism and Islam are easy to see. Both are monotheistic religions for whom the Lord is One. Both are religions based on revelation. In both, law is central, and personal and social existence is governed by a divinely ordained legal system.
This is all true, of course, but note the selectivity. Breger doesn’t mention, even to minimize or gloss over, the Qur’an’s assertion that Jews are the “most hostile of men to the believers” (5:82), or that Allah transformed the Sabbath-breaking Jews into apes and pigs (2:62-66; 5:59-60; 7:166); or that Jews are under Allah’s curse (2:89; 3:112; 9:30). Apparently he is banking on his readers’ not knowing about such passages, or about the deeply ingrained tendency toward antisemitism within Islam.
These things would interfere with his thesis, so he ignores them — not exactly inspiring confidence in the knowledgeable reader. I’ve been falsely accused myself of not discussing all the peaceful and tolerant passages of the Qur’an, but in reality I have extensive discussions of those passages in my books Onward Muslim Soldiers and The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, as well as in many other places. It is a common tactic on the Left simply to ignore material that seems to cast doubts upon one’s thesis, but it never results in a strong argument or a sound presentation — yet Breger does this repeatedly.
There are also many obvious parallels between Judaism’s legal system, known as halacha, and the Islamic legal order of sharia. Both purport to instruct us in how to attend to every aspect of one’s life: one’s getting up and one’s going out, one’s sexual practice and one’s business practices. For some adherents of each, religious law also dictates political life, such as for whom to vote.
Sharia doesn’t just dictate “for whom to vote.” It contains a comprehensive and supremacist political system that asserts authority over unbelievers, proclaims itself superior to all rivals, and mandates that its adherents must fight in various ways to impose it upon unbelieving societies, subjugating the unbelievers as inferiors under its rule. There is nothing like this in Judaism: no imperative to wage war against unbelievers and subjugate them under Jewish law.
Despite this kinship, there are those in the Jewish community who would condemn Islam and sharia, arguing that, unlike Judaism, Islam is not worthy of the protections of American law.
Breger’s language here is manipulative: “Islam is not worthy of the protections of American law” — as if those opposing Sharia were supremacists, no doubt race supremacists, who find Sharia inferior. This language is ironic, since it is Sharia that considers non-Muslims unworthy of equal protection under the law, while anti-Sharia advocates are trying to preserve the principle of equality of rights for all. The question here is not whether or not “Islam is worthy of the protections of American law,” but whether the freedoms guaranteed by American law can survive the incorporation of Sharia principles into American society.
David Yerushalmi, author of a model law banning sharia, argues that sharia differs from halacha because of its different “threat matrix.” Sharia, he tells us, requires faithful Muslims to impose Islamic law on the world “violently,” and its adherents should be charged with sedition against the United States.
Common tactic: state a principle of Islamic law or doctrine as coming from an anti-jihad writer, as if that writer invented the principle. Ignore the principle’s strong foundations in Islamic law.
But I won’t ignore them. Here’s just one small sample from a manual of Islamic law endorsed by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam, as “conforming to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community”: Muslim must make “war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” (‘Umdat al-Salik, o9.8). David Yerushalmi did not write that book.
Rabbi Jon Hausman, a self-styled “warrior rabbi” from Massachusetts, tells us that in Judaism, unlike Islam, the law of the state is the law (in Aramaic, dina d”malchuta dina) so you don’t have to worry about such religious “imperialism.”
Hausman is a “warrior rabbi” — i.e., see, Islam is not more violent than Judaism because of Qaradawi and dozens of other imams preaching jihad violence, suicide killing, hate and supremacism: Judaism has Jon Hausman!
These commentators” understanding of both sharia and halacha is markedly defective.
1. As Hausman surely knows, the reach of dina d”malchuta dina is debated among rabbinic commentators. Some limit the application of the Jewish legal system to property issues, others extend it to apply to all secular law that does not violate Jewish law. In any case, Hausman’s suggestion that halacha is a personal legal system””not relevant to civic life and politics””neglects both Jewish history and halacha itself. In Baghdad during the Middle Ages and in Poland during the time of the Council of the Four Lands, from the 16th to the 18th centuries, for instance, Jewish communities had their own courts, and Jewish law was enforced by secular authorities. And even today, thousands of Jews in both the United States and Israel look to rabbinic courts and halacha to resolve all manner of civil disputes.
Here again, Breger ignores the coercive and supremacist aspects of Islamic law, which, unlike Jewish law, asserts authority over unbelievers.
While clearly some Muslims do view sharia as a hegemonic political force, the vast majority of Muslims, especially those living in the West, view sharia no differently from the way Jews view the halachic system: as an overarching guide to ordering one’s life.
The first of those Misunderstanders of Islam to “view sharia as a hegemonic political force” was Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, who said, “Islam must dominate, and not be dominated” and “I have been commanded to fight against people until they confess that there is no god but Allah and I am his messenger.”
Muslim jurists have always drawn on sharia to mandate that fellow Muslims obey the laws of the land in matters that sharia does not prohibit.
Indeed. But only until they have the strength to bring the laws of the land into conformity with Sharia, via the prescribed fighting (which may or may not involve hot warfare), as I quoted above.
In numerous instances (see Koran 5:11), Muslims are told to “honor their contracts” and so to honor the “social contract” represented by the law of the land. The Fiqh Council of North America, the leading interpreter of Islamic law in the United States, ruled as recently as September 2011 that “there is no inherent conflict between the normative values of Islam and the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
Everywhere Sharia has ever been implemented, and where it is implemented today (notably in Saudi Arabia and Iran), it has denied the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, equality of rights for women, and equality of rights for non-Muslims. The Fiqh Council of North America would apparently have us believe that this was all an anomaly, and that some form of Sharia that has never existed in the world and is fully compatible with the Constitution is actually the real thing.
2. Daniel Pipes recounts in a 2009 article an incident in England when the Indian Muslim owner of an old age home near Manchester proposed to switch to serving only halal food in the facility. After residents complained, the owner retracted the policy. To Pipes, the owner’s desire to remove pork from the menu, even though apparently not implemented, is proof that Islam wishes to impose itself on all around it. But is this drive for “imperium” the only explanation?
Indeed, Jewish law would have great sympathy for the position taken by the Indian entrepreneur. Though there are gray areas, Jewish law generally holds that one cannot benefit (or profit) from the sale of mixed milk and meat products. The legal compendium the Shulhan Aruch forbids Jews from selling non-kosher products on a regular basis (Yoreh De”ah 117.1). And anyone who has read Daphne Barak-Erez’s 2007 monograph Outlawed Pigs: Law, Religion, and Culture in Israel will appreciate the difficulties of commerce in pork products (or “white meat” as it is politely called) in Israel.
Pipes’ point here is that the Muslim was trying to impose Islam’s restriction on pork upon non-Muslims. There are numerous instances of Islam wishing “to impose itself on all around it” — see, for example, here and here. The “old age home near Manchester” probably had an overwhelmingly non-Muslim clientele. That is a far cry from Jews not wanting to sell non-kosher products — if Judaism had an imperative to subjugate unbelievers that large numbers of Jews were working toward implementing, Breger’s analogy might hold. But only then.
3. Critics of Islam make much of the Shiite legal doctrine of taqquia and the related concept of kitman, which allow one to dissemble or evade by misdirection in order to save a life or community from imminent destruction (see Koran 16:106). For these critics, the takeaway is that Muslims lie when it is in their interest, so we cannot trust their promises or make treaties with them.
But numerous Koranic references tell the believer to “mix not the truth with falsehood nor conceal the truth when you know what it is” (2:42). And further, “Conceal not [the truth]; for whomever conceals it is burdened with sin” (2:283).
Again, we must look to Jewish law analogues. Even the Chofetz Chaim, the rabbinic scholar most associated with truth-telling, allows “white lies” when they will produce social and interpersonal peace. (No threat of imminent destruction is required.) Maimonides allows one to lie about one’s religion to save one’s own life. And does anyone remember the Marranos?
Certainly taqiyya as a specific concept was indeed elaborated by Shi’tes who were under threat from Sunnis. But the concept itself is rooted in the Qur’an, and consequently is found among both Sunnis and Shi’ites.
Qur’an 3:28 warns believers not to take unbelievers as “friends or helpers” (ÙŽØ£ÙŽÙˆÙ’Ù„ÙÙŠÙŽØ§ — a word that means more than casual friendship, but something like alliance), “unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them.” This is a foundation of the idea that believers may legitimately deceive unbelievers when under pressure. The word used for “guard” in the Arabic is tuqÄtan (ØªÙÙ‚ÙŽØ§Ø©Ù‹), the verbal noun from taqiyyatan — hence the familiar term taqiyya.
The renowned Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir says that the phrase “unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them” means that “believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers” may “show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda’ said, ‘We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.’ Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, ‘The Tuqyah [taqiyya] is allowed until the Day of Resurrection.” While many Muslim spokesmen today maintain that taqiyya is solely a Shi’ite doctrine, shunned by Sunnis, the great Islamic scholar Ignaz Goldziher points out that while it was formulated by Shi’ites, “it is accepted as legitimate by other Muslims as well, on the authority of Qur’an 3:28.” The Sunnis of Al-Qaeda practice it today.
Also, there is Muhammad’s statement, “war is deceit.” He also allowed for lying in battle and between a husband and wife. And when he gave permission to one of his followers, Muhammad bin Maslama, to murder one of his critics, Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, he also gave Muhammad bin Maslama permission to lie to Ka’b in order to lure him close enough to be killed.
And Muhammad is the “excellent example of conduct” for Muslims (Qur’an 33:21).
Do other religious traditions allow for withholding of the truth in some circumstances? Yes, but how exactly is this relevant to whether or not Muslim spokesmen may be deceiving us here and now about Sharia and other matters?
My point is not to analyze the nuances of halacha, let alone sharia, but rather to underscore the inconsistency of attacking Islam for activities that Jewish law and practice would also permit, or even require.
These broadside attacks on sharia are reminiscent of Jewish polemical literature after the rise of Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries designed to show Judaism as superior. Later scholars such as the Meiri, though, moved on from polemics to classify Islam as a monotheistic religion close to Judaism. While there are certainly fundamentalist interpretations of Islam that we rightfully find dangerous and deplorable, it is time that Jews in America go beyond “gotcha” polemics and stop treating sharia and Islam as illegitimate expressions of man’s search for the divine.
Sure. If they’d drop the supremacism, subjugation and killing, we’d all get along just fine.
Of course, I am shouting into the wind. You may read this, but Marshall Breger and Suhail Khan probably won’t, and if they do, they almost certainly will not respond except with smears and invective, a la Khan’s performance in the second video above. Those who came to our SRO CPAC event (photos and video here) heard the truth, and a few others will read this. But those advancing lies and half-truths in service of fooling Americans into letting our guard down in the face of a serious threat to our freedoms have all the power and all the microphones. Unless and until that changes, the situation will grow progressively worse.