Robert Spencer: Ground Zero Mosque Imam Says Concern About Sharia is “Silly”

Not much has been heard from the imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the former public face of the Ground Zero mosque initiative, since Pamela Geller and her team of patriots defeated that project. But Rauf is still around, still enjoys widespread adulation as a “moderate,” and still looks so sinister that he could have come from central casting to play “the smyler with the knyf under the cloke.” The latest batch of snake oil he is selling involves Sharia, which, if you believe Rauf, is entirely benign, peaceful, and even beneficial, and only racist, bigoted Islamophobes believe otherwise.

And silly people. Rauf last week published a piece entitled “The silly American fear of sharia law” in the New York Daily News. As always, these dishonest snake-oil salesmen get mainstream platforms to spread their deceptions. Rauf says that opposition to Sharia is silly because…Israel imposes Sharia!

As preposterous as that sounds, Rauf leads off his Daily News article with it. He quotes Israeli writer Yossi Gurvitz, who says: “Most Americans would be shocked to hear Israel imposes sharia law. But it does for some 60 years.” Rauf adds: “The religious courts belong to the Israeli court system. The Israeli government enforces their decisions. This is called legal pluralism — and Israelis inherit it from the Ottoman Empire. Why, then, is the very idea of sharia so consistently vilified in our country?”

This is disingenuous in the extreme. Israel may have Sharia courts for private arbitration matters, but that is a far cry from imposing Sharia as a whole upon the whole population. What’s more, Sharia courts that were supposed to be for marriage law and other private matters entered into voluntarily have massively overstepped their authority in Britain, with Sharia judges ruling according to Islamic law without regard for their responsibility to turn over cases that are matters of criminal law to the secular courts. This is a particular problem in spousal abuse cases, since the Qur’an calls for the beating of women “from whom you fear disobedience” (4:34). And such incidents are the only reasons why anyone is concerned about Sharia.

Rauf ignores that and asserts that “America could never have state-sanctioned religious courts. The First Amendment, which prevents government establishment of religion, forbids it. But Islamic law can and does already operate in America under state sanction. When Muslim Americans are married according to Islamic law by a state-certified officiant of Muslim marriages, and receive in the process a civil certificate of marriage, they have, in effect, practiced Islamic law under official U.S. sanction.”

Would the anti-sharia agitators keep Muslim Americans from marrying? Would they keep them from praying, distributing charity, fasting during Ramadan? For Muslim Americans already do all these things at the command of their law.

This is not the point of opposition to Sharia, and Rauf knows that. But he dissembles not just about opposition to Sharia, but about the content of Sharia itself: “Sharia is not about amputations and stoning. These extreme punishments carry over from earlier, biblical law, and such sayings of Jesus as, ‘If your right hand sins, cut it off’ (Matthew 5:30).”

Has any sect of Christianity ever interpreted that saying of Jesus as a literal command to amputate hands? No, never. And does Rauf really expect his readers to believe that Saudi Arabia and Iran and other Sharia states, when they amputate limbs and stone people to death, are following Biblical law and not Islamic law?

Rauf certainly does take his Daily News audience for fools. In reality, both implement Islamic law only, which calls for amputations (Qur’an 5:38) and stonings (numerous hadith; see here) and no religious traditions that revere the Bible carry out amputations or stonings, as they have all developed mainstream interpretative traditions that on various grounds reject literal applications of Torah laws regarding stoning.

Rauf never mentions any of that. Instead, he keeps digging: “Within the history of Islam, they have rarely occurred.” Actually they occur now, on a regular basis, in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Yet despite the disastrous human rights records of those and other Sharia states, Rauf keeps likening Sharia to Biblical law: “What Islamic law does prescribe are the same do’s and don’ts of the Ten Commandments — the social imperatives most of us recognize whatever our religion.”

Contrary to Rauf’s claims and insinuations, no one is concerned about Sharia because they don’t want Muslims getting married according to Islamic rituals or praying in an Islamic manner. The only reason why people are concerned about Sharia is because of its denial of rights to women and non-Muslims, its denial of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, and other aspects of it that contradict American law and principles of human rights.

But the New York Daily News doesn’t hesitate to give this deceiver a platform to mislead and do his best to keep Americans ignorant and complacent about Sharia. One wonders what could possibly be in it for them.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.