September 10, 2019


When Islam Is Not a Religion in America: Muslim lawyer who helped Hobby Lobby and Hosanna-Tabor win at the Supreme Court details the difficulties Muslims face in securing the freedoms that US Christians demand. (INTERVIEW BY JAYSON CASPER| SEPTEMBER 9, 2019, Christianity Today)

At stake is the protection of religious liberty, writes lawyer Asma T. Uddin in When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America's Fight for Religious Freedom. Her new book details recent legal cases involving Muslims, arguing that restrictions on one faith community affect the freedom of all. [....]

CT: American evangelicals are often concerned that Christians have their religious liberty threatened around the world, often in Muslim-majority nations. The focus of your book is Muslim religious liberty, threatened in the United States. What sorts of challenges do Muslims face in America?

Uddin: I think it's important to point out that the book doesn't just look at attacks on Muslims. The book looks broadly at the attack on religious freedom, seen through the prism of attacks on Muslims. I discuss violence against churches, synagogues, and Sikh temples.

But in terms of threats to Muslim religious freedom specifically, I look at the nationwide anti-mosque controversy, which started in earnest after the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" fiasco. From there, it spread to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which was the first community to be affected while attempting to build a mosque. That's where the claim was made that Islam is not a religion.

To this day, there are ongoing struggles to build mosques. It's not just litigation, but also arson and fire bombing. There is even a question about Muslim cemeteries, to the point where American Muslims are unable to bury their dead. That's the challenge we're facing to our human dignity.

I also look at the so-called anti-Sharia laws that now have been proposed in 43 states: 217 bills as of 2017. The movement continues in full force accompanied by "marches against Sharia" (religious laws based on Islam), where we see people taking to the streets. And not that long ago, there was a murderous attack in public transportation of two men who came to the defense of two women in headscarves.

Popular agitation against Muslims is on the rise in America. But what is the legal threat these anti-Sharia laws pose to religious liberty for Muslim citizens?

Anti-Sharia laws are described as ways of stopping this really dangerous thing called "Sharia" from taking over the US. But in fact, where they really come into play is in restricting the right to religious arbitration--the same type of arbitration that conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews make use of. It's very limited; only permitted in certain areas of the law. It's not applied to criminal law, and it is very carefully constrained by the US legal framework. Arbitration decisions are not enforceable without review by a secular civil court.

Can you give a practical example of what such arbitration implies?

It involves the terms of divorce, alimony, and the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement. It deals with business transactions involving nations whose laws might or might not refer to Sharia.

The interesting thing about Sharia law is the way it reminds me of the 19th century when American society was ripe with anti-Catholic sentiment. Numerous provisions were instituted into state constitutions that limited public funding for parochial schools, driven by a presumed threat of Catholics controlling or influencing public education. Many of those amendments are still on the books--and impact all religious schools, not just Catholic schools.

Similarly, anti-Sharia laws are described in reference to Muslims, but if they're allowed to stand, [the laws] will impact people across the religious spectrum.

How have you seen evangelical Christians contribute to either the popular clamoring against Muslims or the legal issues that would threaten Muslim religious freedom?

The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding came out with a poll that shows the varying degrees of Islamophobia among different religious groups. Evangelicals scored at the highest level. Another poll found that evangelicals are the least interested in overcoming the divide with Muslims.

The most eye-opening and disappointing revelation of the Donald disaster is that Evangelicals turned out not to be very Christian.

Posted by at September 10, 2019 12:00 AM