KARAMAH Launches Online Symposium on Shari’ah and Religious Freedom

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
– First Amendment, United States Constitution

In the words of Thomas Jefferson (quoting Locke), “Neither Pagan nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.” His words represent the very foundation of this nation, which was established by a people who fled religious persecution and yearned for a nation in which they could practice their religion freely but not have it imposed on them by their government. The anti-Shari‘ah movement in the U.S. has shaken this very foundation, challenging the principles and values the founders of our nation espoused as the definition of America. To this date, at least 24 states have proposed laws that would prohibit the free exercise of religion, affecting not only the civil liberties of Muslims, but also those of Jews, Christians, and others.

In response to this, KARAMAH has held town hall meetings and interfaith events on Islam, Shari‘ah, and religious freedom in the U.S. in several cities around the nation. These events were organized to address the misinformation about Shari‘ah and Islam and to discuss the ways this movement threatens the civil liberties of all Americans.

To complement these events, KARAMAH has compiled this online symposium, which showcases articles on the anti-Shari‘ah movement by scholars, students and professionals. The articles are rich and diverse in their perspectives, addressing this movement from a variety of lenses: Some dispel myths about Shari‘ah and explain it from within the Islamic tradition, while others examine this movement from a civil rights perspective. A few articles reveal how the authors have been personally affected by this movement, sharing very open and honest human experiences that resulted from the misunderstanding that this movement has begotten. Lastly, a couple of pieces are more hopeful, expressing that perhaps we can turn this into an opportunity for education and understanding, and as a chance to truly embrace, appreciate, and learn from our nation’s diversity.

We welcome any thoughts, comments and inquiries, and hope that these articles will result in further dialogue and efforts towards promoting American civil liberties and combating any acts that endanger them.

Please find the articles below:

Shari‘ah Background

“What is Shari‘ah and Why Does It Matter?” by Sherman Jackson

“Shari‘ah: What It Is and Isn’t” Interview with Asifa Quraishi

“Setting the Record Straight on Shari‘ah” Interview with Intisar Rabb

Opinion Editorials and Personal Narratives

“I worry about my religion” by Ahsan Pervez Daredia

“Beyond Tolerance: Lessons on Religious Tension from Nigeria” by Oludamini Ogunnaike

“I have been called a terrorist…” by Samena Premjee

Anti-Shari’ah Movement and Civil Rights

“The ‘anti-Shari‘ah’ Legislation’s Adverse Human Rights Implications and Other Unintended Consequences” by Engy Abdelkader

“Turning insult into opportunity: Anti-Shari‘ah sentiments in America and their implications for American Muslims” by Celene Ayat Lizzio

“Who Says Shari’a Demands the Stoning of Women? A Description of Islamic Law and Constitutionalism” by Asifa Quraishi

“Shari‘ah ban Violates Muslim, Jewish, and Christian American Civil Liberties” by Qasim Rashid

“From Moorish-Indios to Park 51: A Brief History of Islamophobia in the United States” by Sophia Rose Shafi

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