A woman in a hijab expounded on the benefits of Sharia in the basement of a Capitol office building on Monday, and somehow society has yet to collapse.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a hearing on the threat that state-level anti-Sharia bill present to American democracy in a room in the basement of the House Rayburn building at noon.
Congressional staffers, reporters and yes, Muslims, gathered to hear about opposition to the anti-Sharia laws which are spreading across statehouses.
Noha A. Bakr, commissioner of the Montgomery County Commission for Women, said that Sharia isn’t a set of laws but a way of life.
“What we’re being told about Islamic law and what’s called Sharia… is in fact something else,” Bakr said. “I believe it may in fact be a misinterpretation of Islamic law for the purposes of controlling and manipulating populations to authoritarian means.”
Rabbi Gerry Serotta, executive director of Clergy Beyond Borders, seemed to take a shot at former Speaker Newt Gingrich when he said that taking aim at would hurt American exceptionalism. What makes America exceptional, said Serotta, is that America welcomes religious minorities.
“There are other forms of democracy around the world, but this particular one has been very welcoming to religious minorities, and that’s something that’s very important,” Serotta said. “The idea of any legislation that sets out a particular religious group for discrimination, in our view violates the establishment clause of the Constitution, but it’s also a dangerous if not familiar piece of American history.”
“We do have this kind of nativism, xenophobia that comes around from time to time,” Serotta said.
Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, said it was important to recognize what’s really going on: that these anti-Sharia laws were “motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry, plain and simple.”
“Sharia equals Islam and Muslims, and a vote against one is a vote against another,” Mach said.
Legislators in several states have introduced bills to ban the implementation of Sharia law in courts. The New York Times said six states have been debating anti-Sharia measures, while 14 others are looking at bans on “foreign law,” which could have implications for other religious-based agreements. The war started long before the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque and has expanded to include rallies outside of the White House and a face-off over which candidate was more anti-Sharia at the Republican presidential debate.