New York , NY
December 7th, 2010
I am a non-Muslim who researched and published an article on Islamic law many years ago, even though I cannot claim to be a specialist in this field. There are some aspects of Islamic law that are remarkably humane and progressive for their time, or even for ours, and others that are stuck in medieval backwardness, or even barbarity. But take a look at the laws in most Christian countries during the Middle Ages, or, going back further, in Israel during Biblical times. How many people today would want to live under those systems, even in Oklahoma?
It is also worthy of note that some western banks or investors, including, very possibly, some US based ones (though I am not sure about this) are entering into highly sophisticated "Sharia compliant" financial transactions, especially ones that avoid direct interest charges, in order to expand their business in Muslim countries. I also understand that some US food companies may be starting to produce "halal" foods complying with Muslim dietary laws, just as almost every supermarket in New York now carries staples that are now labeled as being kosher. Those of us who live or work in Manhattan are used to seeing halal food stands on almost every midtown street corner. Will all of this be banned in Oklahoma? Will people one day go to jail in that state for depositing money in American banks that may be investing in Sharia compliant financial products overseas, or for selling halal food?
It appears that the great majority of the people of Oklahoma, or at least their politicians, have no interest in learning about what the pros and cons of Sharia law really are. They know nothing (or should I say "Know Nothing"?) about the great contributions that Islamic art, philosophy, and scholarship made to the civilization of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, as well as to world civilization. They do not care, for example, that the Muslim prohibition against paying interest was shared for centuries by both the Jewish and Christian legal systems, or that these systems have many other parallels with Sharia law. Beyond that, they have no knowledge of or interest in learning about the common background and close relationship between Islam and the other two great monotheistic, or "Abrahamic" religions, Judaism and Christianity.
When hate rules supreme, there is no interest in learning the truth about the people one wants to persecute, their culture, or their contribution to our common humanity. The people who foisted this cruel and absurd Oklahoma law on an ignorant and prejudiced public do not care about who the small handful of Muslims among them really are, or what they really believe, any more than the people who passed Arizona's draconian immigration law, which seeks to drive all Mexicans out of their state, are interested in learning about the glories of Maya or Aztec civilization. How much interest was there in learning the truth about Jewish culture and civilization on the part of those who instituted the Nuremberg laws?
The Islamophobic Oklahoma law is a disgrace to America and a direct threat to the freedom and dignity of all of us. It should be vigorously opposed by every American, regardless of religious affiliation (or lack of it), just as the threat by a minister in Florida to burn copies of the Koran in his church was finally stopped when responsible leaders stepped in to speak out against it. Roger Cohen has done all of us a great service by writing this article. We ignore its warning at our peril.
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These comments are taken from NYTimes, article by Mr. Roger Cohen.