Political commentator Sally Kohn has made several statements regarding sharia law, which were not only offensive but dangerous. In using her voice to propagate this liberal apologist position, she is doing a great disservice to progressive reform-minded Muslims like myself. Her words are an affront to me, a female Muslim activist, as I have made it my life's mission to educate others on this topic and to wrestle back my religion from the clutches of extremists who wish to make sharia the law of the land. And I would be happy to debate her on this topic.
As an openly gay woman, Ms. Kohn would be killed, jailed or persecuted under sharia law. As a devout Muslim woman, I - along with many true progressive Muslims - rightly view sharia, as it is practiced today, as an archaic distortion of Islamic law.
When non-Muslims like Ms. Kohn speak or write about sharia, it is clear that they are unaware of the nuances of Islamic law. So, for Ms. Kohn and others who don't know, here is a brief lesson in sharia.
What many sharia laws and statutes have in common are the following. They are:
· Advocate amputations and stoning
· Preach killing of apostates
· Uphold the Blasphemy Law (which could get me killed)
In the early years of Islam, over 30 schools of Islamic legal thought existed. The sum total of these legal opinions was known collectively as sharia. At that time, sharia was richly diverse and based on justice. Through the centuries, sharia has become diluted and, instead of evolving, was frozen in time and this is what is commonly known today as sharia. There are four schools of Sunni Islamic law and one school of Shia law. Sharia is practiced in most parts of the Muslim world, often on the whims of dictators and male religious bullies and it is entirely man-made.
NOT JUST IN THE MOSQUES
This homophobic, anti-woman, repressive sharia is no longer confined to the mosque or to majority Muslim nations.
For example, parts of the United Kingdom, which gave us the Magna Carta - "the greatest constitutional document of all times - the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot" - are now falling under the jurisdiction of sharia. Today, in England, 100 sharia councils have been allowed to operate; resulting in polygamy, underage marriages and the trampling of women's rights in numerous other ways.
As a woman, and as someone who enjoys the freedoms and liberties that are systematically assaulted by sharia law, Sally Kohn needs to think twice before defending this oppressive, perverse practice.
Ms. Kohn tried to walk back her statements by making a semantic argument about the distinction between personal sharia (personal law) that deals with moral and ethical guidance -- and the sharia that I and other moderate Muslims have been fighting against for decades. Tragically, the personal values that I learned at my mother's knee about compassion, tolerance, common decency and respect can no longer be found within sharia as it exists today.
This is why in the Muslim Reform Movement declaration, we (Muslims) make it very clear that we do not need or want institutionalized laws, a parallel legal system or sharia in the West. Religion is, and should be, a personal relationship between ourselves and our maker. Ms. Kohn, if you believe in separation of religion and state/law, then you must be against sharia law.
I don't believe that Ms. Kohn has malicious intentions, but her misguided comments are a danger to those of us reformist Muslims on the front lines -- battling to save our religion from extremists. Words are powerful -- so Sally, I beg you and others to stop defending the indefensible and to stand with us, not them.