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.