My long-time friend Ed Brayton blogs over at Dispatches From the Culture Wars about various topics related to the "interface of religion, science, law, and culture." A stalwart defender of civil liberties, he has come under fire from an indeterminate number of trollish posters accusing him of being insufficiently anti-Sharia and anti-Muslim for not being willing to proclaim that Muslims are all evil people who are taking over America to implement their religious law. So he posted a response today to clear the air, and it's definitely worth reading in full, though rather frustrating that some of the points in it needed to be made in the first place. Two in particular stand out for me:
1. You don't prevent a people from becoming oppressive by oppressing them. Fear of Muslims and Sharia law is not a legitimate reason to treat Muslims as though they are lacking in the human rights we recognize in everyone else. Even if all 1% of Americans who identify as Muslim were trying to take over the country and make it an Islamic theocracy, that wouldn't justify denying them the right to religious expression. We don't deny the rights of Christian Reconstructionists who are trying to implement a Christian theocracy. We don't forbid them from building churches. Neither can we do so for Muslims. The freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment apply to us all. The freedom of expression clause provides for us to all practice our faith (or lack thereof) as we see fit in compliance with the law, and the establishment clause precludes the implementation of Sharia to govern non-Muslims. See how easy that is? If you want freedom, you have to permit others to have it too.
2. You can't take the religious text of a group of believers and presume to dictate to them or anyone else what they believe in or about that text. Ed's dissenters have been finding the most barbaric passages they can in the Qur'an and the Hadith and then citing them as though all Muslims believe them to be inerrant, cling to them, and think they should become law. Why? Most believers don't treat their religious texts that way, even the ones who say they do. You can disagree with someone's interpretation of a certain passage, but you can't determine for them how they interpret it. If a Muslim man says that he doesn't think it's permissible to beat a woman, then he doesn't think it's permissible to beat a woman. End of story. Muslims may argue amongst themselves until the cows come home about what interpretations should be held by a "true" Muslim, but the rest of us don't get to choose which ones they believe.*
I don't see any conflict between loving liberty and allowing Muslims to have it. That's why I want them to have it. People who love liberty only for themselves and those like them do not love it at all. What they love is actually called "power."
*I see this happen all of the time in arguments between atheists and Christians, by the way, and it drives me up the wall. "The Bible says this, therefore you believe this." If the Christian responds with either "No I don't" or "I do, but that's not how I interpret it," the response is flatly denied. How much more of an obvious straw man could you get than outright telling someone, over and against their objections, what they believe in order to refute it?