Monday, April 18, 2011

"A Solution in Search of a Problem"

Honestly, it's hard to say what the solution for a nonexistent problem is. While some states, like Tennessee, have been proposing very broadly stated laws that could be interpreted as an outlaw of Sharia Law practice period, others have been less severe but still equally ignorant. Some states, like Wisconsin, proposed these bans to keep US court rulings from considering Islamic tenets in cases involving honor killings or arranged marriages. Not only has situations of a judge considering religious law yet to arise in our court systems, but there is already a law that prohibits U.S. officials from imposing religious rules on Americans through legislation or court orders. It's called the First Amendment! All in all, this entire situation seems like a solution in search of a problem. The fear of the Middle Eastern culture has driven government officials to Orientalism. They are merely addressing a problem that doesn’t exist.
            Though there have been reports of alleged honor killing in the US, I am unsure of whether or not this is the actual situation. It seems quite possible that the media is merely throwing the words “honor killing” around in a very orientalism like way. I am not saying that an honor killing has never taken place in the US, but one must consider that possibility that these situations are merely run of the mill crimes just like the many others that are committed every single day. The only difference being that this law breaker was Muslim. When a Western man murders his wife for cheating on him, is it an honor killing?  

            Though there are Sharia Law courts in Britain, I do not think that this is a solution for America. Once I have researched this more, I may change my mind, but it is unlikely.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Terms that Apply to Sharia Law

The terms that I am going to apply to my situation are Assimilation, Orientalism, and/or The Mark of the Plural.
I have decided to include assimilation as a term, because I have heard it mentioned numerous times in reference to Sharia Law. Assimilation is the idea that the “outsiders” are to be absorbed into the dominant culture, including their beliefs and customs. Many news personnel have used this word to present an implausible solution for Islamic immigrants in dealing with the opposition against them. Calling for an entire culture and religion to assimilate into “Western Life” seems strangely unfair to me. And who's to say they aren't already assimilated?
I am also considering both Orientalism and/or The Mark of the Plural. These terms have similar definition and for purpose of simplicity I would like to choose one, but we’ll see what happens.
Orientalism is a way of regarding the Orient. It is a constellation of false assumptions underlying the Western attitude toward the Middle East. Orientalism has a huge impact on this situation. The American prejudice against the Arab world has been emphasized tremendously throughout the news coverage. Our political leaders are assuming that those of the Islamic faith will practice Sharia Law in a way that will violate our laws. Yet, this hasn’t occurred before. They are basing this piece of legislator off of the extreme actions of a few Islamic countries, even though this is not the norm. Most individuals practice Sharia Law in a peaceful, nonthreatening way. But because we have only seen the extreme side of Sharia (body parts removed, stoning, executions) displayed in the media, we assume that all Muslims follow it in the same way. That’s like assuming all Christians carry out their Sunday services in the same manner, which we all know is not true. Yet, we’ve orientalized these people to the point that they “are all the same”, which leads into the Mark of the Plural.
The Mark of the Plural is the idea that the colonized is never characterized in an individual manner. He/She is only referred to collectively. “They are this” and “They are all the same”. More than likely, I will just stick with assimilation and orientalism, but I would like to keep my options open. The Mark of the Plural applies to this situation in the way that our leaders are assuming that all Muslims practice their religion to the same extent. Sharia Law is much like the moral standard that the Bible leaves for Christians to follow. Do we all interpret and follow the Bible in the same way? No. So, why should we assume that all Muslims are the same?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Background/History of the Ban of Sharia Law

So, last week I got a little excited and covered quite a bit of this week’s assignment in my previous blog. I’ll just try to add some additional sources and information.  Also, I’m thinking of including the possibility of establishing Sharia courts similar to those currently functioning in Britain to my paper. This would be a possible solution, but that’s for a later blog! I just needed to note it to remind myself. J
I wanted to include this excerpt from an ABC News article, because it is almost exactly how I felt last week when I was reading up on the proposed ban of Shariah.  
‘Charles Haynes, a senior scholar with the Nashville-based First Amendment Center, said the legislation defines Shariah in a harsh way that "only a very small minority of Muslims would agree with. It's an attempt to demonize an entire religion because of how some radical Islamists interpret Shariah. It's wrong-headed and unconstitutional," he said. He added that the law also is unnecessary: "If there were Muslims in the U.S. that interpreted Shariah law in some extreme way, they already are prohibited from violating our laws. There is no need for special legislation to prohibit people from being violent."’
Many proponents of the bill say it is necessary to prevent “homegrown terror”. The bill labels those who follow Sharia as “treasonous”.  I find this statement completely ridiculous. Sharia Law includes such things as when to wash one’s feet or pray, as well as not to steal. Also, to my knowledge, there has not been a situation of Sharia Law being carried out in an extreme way within the US. During the 1500’s, the first Islamic immigrants arrived in the United States. So, we’re proposing to ban something that has been in practice for 500 years, yet has offered no offense?
There was a program on CNN last night about the current Sharia Law situation. I didn’t catch the woman’s name, but she stated that the only solution would be for all of the Muslims currently living within the US to assimilate into Western culture.  Do people realize that all of our ancestors immigrated to this country for the possibility of a future of freedom? Who are we to call for assimilation? This country was founded on the fundamentals of freedom, yet some people seem to forget that. I think the problem definitely lies in the media. On a daily basis, we’re only shown the bad side of Islam; the individuals who are extremist. So, it’s engrained into the American mind that all of Islam is the same, that “they’re all out to get us”. When truth be told, most of the Muslims practicing within the US wouldn’t even consider these individuals true Muslims, because of their radical actions. It’s truly the Mark of the Plural at its best.
Tennessee isn’t the only state proposing a ban of Sharia Law. More than a dozen states are also considering taking similar action, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. The particular action varies from outlawing the use within the court system to making practicing Sharia Law, in any way, a felony.
Oklahoma was the first state to suggest a bill to guard against the non-existent threat of Sharia law. U.S. District Court Judge Vicki Miles-LeGrange ruled that the measure, which passed by a large margin in an election, would be suspended until a hearing on Nov. 22, when she will listen to arguments on whether the court's temporary injunction should become permanent.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sharia Law: The Current Boogeyman of the South

The situation I am going to analyze is the recent government proposed ban of Sharia Law. I chose this topic, because I unfortunately do not possess a great deal of knowledge in this area. I want to learn as much as possible about this conflict, so I know where I personally stand on the issue. I am curious how the government can justify an outright attack on a religion when we claim a separation of church and state. How can we, as America, single out individuals based on their religion on one hand, and proclaim freedom and liberty on the other? Our government is riddled with politicians who haven’t the slightest clue of what Sharia Law is actually about. They are merely acting off of fear that accompanies the ignorance of Orientalism. They assume that because the law is strictly interrupted in some countries, that that is the case everywhere, which isn’t true. Many countries have a loose interpretation of the law with less severe punishments. Across the Muslim world, Sharia plays out in different ways, depending on whether the local government is secular, strictly Islamist, or somewhere in between. It also depends on how local Muslim scholars interpret the law.
Sharia Law is defined as the divinely ordained code of conduct or religious law of Islam. It is a wide-ranging body of law and personal rules, regulating matters of jurisprudence, hygiene, politics, business, banking, family, sexuality, diet, and society. Most Muslims believe that there are two primary sources for the Law: the standards set forth in the Qur’an and the example set by the Prophet Muhammad. Basically, Sharia Law outlines a way of living one’s life morally within the laws of Islam, in the same way that the Bible offers a moral code for Christians. Sharia Law is based predominantly off of the Islamic faith, so proposing to outlaw it is, in essence, proposing to outlaw the entire faith.
Also, Sharia Law is only applicable to the followers of Islam, so why does our government have such a desire to stick its nose where it doesn’t belong? It is not affecting them in any way, shape, or form. America is supposed to believe in the freedom of expression of culture and religion; a country where individuals should be able to practice their beliefs without the fear of persecution.
Unfortunately, this extreme bias is happening within our own state. Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) introduced a bill briefly before Spring Break proposing the ban of Sharia Law. The bill attempts to define Sharia law and to make following it a felony punishable by 15 years in jail. So, you think this doesn’t affect you? Who’s to say that Sharia Law will be the only religious belief up on the chopping block? If the government gets involved in this situation, who’s to say what religious group will be the next target? An open attack against one religious group is a threat to all religious practices.

I encourage you to watch this video and listen to the unfortunate opinions of some of our fellow Tennesseans. The video discusses the proposal of a Murfreesboro mosque, and the article is about the proposed ban on Sharia Law.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interesting Aspects of Colonialism

              As unfortunate as it is, I believe that the majority of Americans are guilty of Orientalism. Orientalism is defined as a way of regarding the Orient. It is a constellation of false assumptions underlying the Western attitude toward the Middle East. The majority has based their entire opinion of the Islamic world off of our media’s biased coverage, and the actions of a handful of Arabic individuals. This aspect of colonialism interests me, because I was unconsciously guilty of this attitude before taking this class or traveling to Morocco to truly experience the Arabic culture. It never occurred to me that I had been generalizing the Arabic culture before these experiences. Although it was in harmless ways, it was still out of ignorance. I thought this region of the world was similar to Aladdin and other movies I had seen, as ridiculous as that sounds. That they were in some ways stagnant and behind modern civilization.
 I think a driving factor in Orientalism is fear, unwarranted fear, but fear nonetheless. It is completely ignorant to base your opinion of an entire race or religion off of the actions of a select few. If that is the case, then every race and religion is infinitely guilty of atrocities. It completely baffles me how some individuals never even take the opportunity to truly study this region before establishing their opinion. For example, last semester a ROTC student walked into my classroom and said "Does anyone know why all of the rag heads are out on South Patio?". I immediately let him know how ridiculous that statement was. He continued to attempt to justify his actions by his involvement in the military and stated that he couldn't help but to think of Middle Eastern people in this manner. This completely sickened me! Being involved in the military is absolutely no justification for racism! Just because a handful of Arabic individuals have acted against the U.S. does not mean that all Arabic people have the same ideas or motives. Not to mention this individual has never even been to the Middle East to actually experience the situation. Fear is the ultimate source of ignorance in my opinion. It causes us to act in irrational and ignorant ways.
Another feature of colonialism that I find intriguing is the Mark of the Plural.  The colonized is never characterized in an individual manner. He/She is only referred to collectively. “They are this” and “They are all the same”. This interests me, because I feel this is an extremely easy trap to fall into. To an extent, I’m sure we are all guilty of this every day without even realizing. Saying things like, “He’s such a Murphy kid” or “She’s such a greek girl”. At the time, we think it’s harmless, but is it really no big deal? Maybe small slips like these lead to bigger issues.