Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jews and Muslims

Honestly, I had never really thought of this, so thanks to Eliyahu Stern for educating me. His column, Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America, should be required reading.

More than a dozen American states are considering outlawing aspects of Shariah law. Some of these efforts would curtail Muslims from settling disputes over dietary laws and marriage through religious arbitration, while others would go even further in stigmatizing Islamic life: a bill recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly equates Shariah with a set of rules that promote “the destruction of the national existence of the United States.” 

Supporters of these bills contend that such measures are needed to protect the country against homegrown terrorism and safeguard its Judeo-Christian values. The Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has said that “Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” 

This is exactly wrong. The crusade against Shariah undermines American democracy, ignores our country’s successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority. 

The suggestion that Shariah threatens American security is disturbingly reminiscent of the accusation, in 19th-century Europe, that Jewish religious law was seditious. In 1807, Napoleon convened an assembly of rabbinic authorities to address the question of whether Jewish law prevented Jews from being loyal citizens of the republic. (They said that it did not.) 

Think about what this means. If Jews were treated like many states want to treat Muslims, then they wouldn't be able to practice kosher dietary laws that include butchering and the production of foods for Passover. The United States Supreme Court uses Jewish legal principles in many of its decisions Also, would schools be able to close for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur without a recognition that Jewish law was compatible with American society?

Exclusion is the cruelest form of social interaction and is one of the most destructive practices that any institution can practice. It's based on fear and ignorance, which are decidedly against American values that preach assimilation, acceptance and respect. As a teacher, I see the effects that exclusion can have on children and adults. Anti-Sharia laws have no place in our country.

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