CULTURE WATCH: Religious Freedom (Part 3)

(This is the third of four segments discussing our right to religious freedom. Parts 1 and 2 appeared in the December 2011 and January 2012 Common Ground)

By Wendell Cantrell

A rich part of US history has been new groups immigrating to the US, bringing with them a faith that we struggle to understand. What often follows is a period of unease and even public resistance from those who hold more established ways of understanding God. Citizens have shown remarkable hospitality towards those of the Muslim faith since 9/11. As families still publicly grieve the loss of their loved ones, incidents like the Fort Hood shooting and the thwarted Times Square bombing in New York City reinforce fears of home-grown terrorism.  The Ground Zero Mosque issue seems to have revived a discord that is sweeping the country, exposing a distrust or outright phobia of our Muslim neighbors trying to find their place in the land of the free1.

As we struggle to balance tolerance and “loving our neighbors as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39), our government must determine the allowed breadth of our First Amendment rights as they relate to freedom of religion. Next month, we will delve into the issue of religious freedom being much broader than the freedom to worship as you please within four walls. We need to now look at three tenets of the Muslim faith that need to be watched closely. We will look at examples of how our government is dealing with the handling of apostates, sharia law, and jihad (definitions of all three below).

Apostates. Do you remember the story of the young Ohio woman, Rifqa Bary, who fled her Muslim family, which she claimed was abusive to her because she had converted to Christianity? The case made national headlines when Bary fled to Florida to escape punishment from her family for her conversion. Bary was returned to Ohio and placed with a foster family. She has now turned 18 and is no longer a ward of the state. Ohio was faced with deciding if this was a family matter in which the state had no jurisdiction, or a more sinister occasion of a religious freedom “crossing the line.”  The “honor killing” of an apostate can be a real threat in fundamentalist Muslim families.

 Sharia. This form of Islamic law influences the legal code in most Muslim countries. A movement to allow Sharia law to set regulations that pertain to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody is now expanding into the United States. All Sharia law is derived from two primary sources: the divine revelations set forth in the Koran, and the sayings and example set by the Prophet Muhammad in the Sura. Oklahoma recently became the first state in the nation to ban state judges from relying on Islamic law when deciding cases. Though the prospect of Sharia being applied in Oklahoma seems remote, Republican State Representative, Rex Duncan, calls the proposed ban a necessary “preemptive strike” against Islamic law coming to the state2.  Currently twelve other states are considering this legislation as well.

Jihad (as a fundamental aspect of Sharia law). There is a private counter-intelligence group known as SANE (Society of Americans for National Existence) that has been infiltrating Mosques all over the US with a secret project called “Mapping Sharia.”  Their reported results thus far after the first 100 visits are:

  •  75% of the mosques are Sharia-adherent (on a scale of 1-10, they are 7 or higher).
  • 25% of the mosques were very low Sharia-adherent (1-2 on the scale).
  • The correlation between Sharia-adherence and the use of literature calling for violence against the infidel and apostate and Jihad was 0.9–an almost 1:1 relationship.
  • In most mosques where this violent literature was found, the Imam actively encouraged the researcher posing as a new attendee to study this violent material3.

In a nutshell, we as Christian citizens are called on to love our Muslim neighbors, share Christ with them, and prudently encourage them to become patriotic, law-abiding citizens. We must recognize and praise peace-loving Muslims, as well as battle the portion (whatever percent) that practices or approves terrorism.

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(1)  Christian Science Monitor Sept 3, 2010
(2)  ABC News June 14, 2010
(3)  Atlas Shrugs Dec 4, 2008
Apostate – one who forsakes his/her religion.
Sharia – the body of canonical law based on the Koran that lays down certain duties and penalties for Muslims.
Jihad – holy war undertaken as a sacred duty by some Muslims.