America Wants Sharia Law

no-hate

My first guest post of 2017 comes from my younger sister’s longtime friend, and thoughtful American, Kyle Twenty. No additional setup needed. Just read….

There’s been an idea germinating in my head for awhile now. This is an attempt to more fully work it out. I’m seeing increased hypocrisy amongst some of the very grassroots Christian movements using fear tactics and hate speech to justify Islamophobic actions.

It’s like this. Despite impassioned words to the opposite effect, many Americans seem to want Sharia law. As counterintuitive as it sounds, recent actions and decisions in this country have led me to believe that the same people who denounce the Islamic faith and everything it stands for, are the ones who are craving Sharia life the most. Allow me to explain.

Literally translated, Sharia means “the path to the watering hole,” or “the right path.” A recent description I encountered labels Sharia “…a religious code for living, in the same way the Bible offers a moral system for Christians.” Sharia deals with nearly every aspect of daily life, including politics, economics, banking, business law, contract law, sexuality, and social issues.

Growing up in a conservative, Midwestern, Christian family that regularly attended church, these spheres of influence were often topics for the Sunday sermon. The homilies that emanated from the preacher covered all of the above, interspersed with passages from the Bible that were meant to provide models for adapting the teachings into daily life and relationships.

I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to ceremonies from many religions of the world: Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Jewish, and yes, Islam. While I don’t pretend to understand every intricacy and nuance, all of these faiths use teachings of the past to help guide followers in the present and future. So though in name origin, “Sharia” hails from the Muslim culture, in practice the idea is part of every religious theology. In effect, all faiths have their own Sharia.

So why it is that many people who denounce Islamic Sharia have no struggle accepting Christian Sharia into their hearts and lives? It’s a rhetorical question to which I have no immediate answer. Perhaps it’s a lack of education or curiosity about other faiths. Maybe it’s a deep-rooted, hereditary fear laced with racial prejudice. Perhaps it is Christian dogma itself, which instructs the faithful to “Put no other Gods” before the Lord, or that “No one comes to the Father, if not through” (presumably) white Jesus.

Regardless of the motives, there is a decades-long movement at work in the United States to introduce more Christian law into conservative politics. Just like Islamic Sharia, many legislative leaders are interweaving religious dogma into governance, attempting to define how we should live. What is this if not Sharia?

The rampant fear of Islam and Islamic Sharia that’s overtaking the country stems from a very vocal minority of Muslims who misuse parts of the Qur’an to justify hatred and violence. These fringe members of the faith look at verses which state “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them, or “And fight with them until there is no more fight and religion should be only for Allah.” The extremists choose to interpret these words literally, without any review of context. And for convenience sake, Christians with a fear and loathing of Islam identify these same passages as “proof” of the religion’s malice. They fail to realize their own hypocrisy as they stand, clutching their King James Bibles, accusing Islamic Sharia of breeding chaos.

Before Christian Americans cast any more proverbial stones, perhaps we should take a look at our own Book. Deuteronomy 17:2-5 states that “If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel; Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.”

Even the more forgiving New Testament, which forms the basis for modern Christianity, chimes in with these two gems. Luke 19:27 – “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” Matthews 10:34 -“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

Here we have two holy texts – the Qur’an and the Bible – with verses taken out of context, inciting violence. How exactly is this different?

Based on the excerpts offered, the conclusion could be drawn that, in a vacuum, Christian Sharia is a system just as violent as the Islamic variety. But for sociopolitical expediency, we ignore the Bible’s angry rhetoric. It’s there and we make peace with it as part of a larger belief system. Yet we’re unable to afford Muslim practitioners the same latitude.

In the end, it’s very simple. “Extremists” are those who try to push the boundaries of religious law – any religion – to gain power and justify inhumanity.

I ask you to consider the following question. What are the qualitative differences between the Islamic Sharia rejected with such vitriol by so many, and the conservative Christian Sharia being used to dominate and inflict pain upon the country in 2017?

Kyle Twenty is a 15-year veteran of the broadcast industry, from which he eventually escaped to settle in the suburbs of Chicago with his wife, two children, and their assortment of pets. He spends his time trying to use logic, reason, and facts to win over the hearts and minds of others, demonstrating that there are many sides to issues of the human condition. You can contact Kyle via email at ktwenty@comcast.net, or follow him on Twitter @gpsdetour.

The Incidental Writer Takes on Hate – And Goes Viral

Max and Jen

Last Monday night I sat dejectedly in front of my laptop, tears streaming. Many people had been killed, injured and assaulted in recent days. Others had felt the sting of cruel, frightening rhetoric. My little sister was hurt. I can’t see my sister in pain. I’ve endured many challenges and am certain more lie ahead. I can grit my teeth and bear when I’m being laid bare. Jenny’s wounds are a different experience. She’s my woobie.

The Paris attacks perpetrated by ISIS caused so much shock, grief and misery – as well as unfortunately, a virulent strain of Islamophobic political and social media discourse. For reasons she’s eloquently explained herself, the casual ease with which some are discussing closing our borders to Islamic immigrants, or worse, forcing Muslim citizens to register, is a sickening blow. One that hits close to the home Jenny shares with her Muslim-American husband Max and their two girls. As an older sister accustomed to doing whatever it takes to make my girl feel safer, I felt so useless. A single threat I can use my body to block. A vast and often nameless field of online hate? I’m a female web writer. I know how overpowering that crowd can be.

Jenny sent me a text and told me she was ready to take a digital break until the post-Paris hysteria receded. I understood. A short while later, she had a surprising change of heart:

“I feel like I want to write something. If I do, can I run it on your site?”

That “something,” Love, Hate and Islamophobia, which I am proud to have edited, has (absolutely no hyperbole here) turned into a sensation. Thousands of reads and almost 1,000 Facebook shares from this humble website. Rerun on People’s World, Nikki Nigl’s #WordsByWomenWednesday feature, supported by friends and strangers alike who’ve offered lovely words of support to Jenny and her family. She felt defeated, like the oppression of hate and intolerance was more than any one person could push through. But then she spoke. She was brave enough to disagree. And it’s a story that’s connected with people across the globe.

Once again, there’s no overstatement involved with that declaration. In the wee hours of Monday morning, Dawn, Pakistan’s #1 English-language website, ran Jenny’s essay – giving her message of love and compassion a wider audience than I think either of us dared imagine. No matter how worthy Jenny’s voice, how strong her prose, and regardless of having written for all the right reasons, that’s not always enough for the soft protest. There’s just so much damned din. But this quiet, firm revolt is being heard, read, shared, discussed. There’s a hunger to get away from the blanket canvassing of our friends and neighbors.

Somehow, even after all this, Jenny doesn’t believe she’s a writer. I told her a writer, quite simply, is one who writes. If one is read, by tens of thousands spanning at least three continents of which we’re aware (G’day Australia!), offered a regular opportunity to share a viewpoint, well I can think of a few scribes (cough) who consider that rather qualified. My pride and love only grow with this adorable, genuine humility.

We’re getting to her. My sister yearns to do important work. She told me so five days before Paris presented a terrible, urgent need for perspective. I can think of few labors more necessary than what she’s started – placing a relatable stamp on the regular Muslim family. My brother-in-law cooks mostaccioli while yelling at the Chicago Bears on television. It doesn’t get much more American than that. Max’s otherwise smiling, kind face is the one of Islam.

I’m starting to think Jenny’s a closeted poet as well. When she sent me some notes for this post, she asked me to try to convey “how a seed sprouted into a giant tree.” A kernel of exhausted disgust with hatefulness, the underbelly of humanity, blossomed into something lush and healthy – for her and in an impactful way, for community dialogue.

It’s been a full week since I cried those bitter tears of powerlessness in front of the computer. Every one who’s since spoken to me about Jenny’s forway into activism has been treated to waterworks. Only now the tears stem from another kind of pain – a pride and awe at this person you love that injects helium into the heart. You’re light, yet feel as though you’ll burst. How is it possible to sustain so much warmth and joy in someone who swims in your gene pool?

With any luck, I’m going to have to learn to cope with the sensation.