We live on a quiet creek on the Garland/Richardson border. Actually our sleepy little creek belongs to the City of Richardson, Richardson School District or so they tell me. It matters not. It’s my lovely haven for flora and fauna and I often wonder how paradise could be lovelier! During a rainfall our creek turns into a raging torrent. Fortunately it’s far below street level and it would bode a return of Noah(as) and the ark if it ever reached the height of our backyard.

Along with creeks come trees and lots of other foliage. The only drawback is that the shade afforded by the huge trees means that no matter what I’ve tried over the years, the grass just doesn’t grow in my back yard. What to do? A few years back and one nice garden nursery sale, I had the brilliant (thank you!) idea to plant a few ivies in the bare areas, et voila! – instant green ground cover!

Now you know ivies. They have a tendency to creep. That, in my case, was a good thing as the greenery spread over the dry lawn, then eventually all the way down to the creek. But this year, my lovely ivies are beginning to encroach on the patio. I fear that if I don’t keep a wary eye on them, they will be headed toward the walls of the house and before I know it…

What have ivies to do with the dreaded Islamic Shari’a law, you well might ask. I’m here to tell you that America is in far less danger of being overtaken by the insidious ‘Creeping Shari’a’ than is my backyard from the encroaching ivies. So lemme tell you a bit about this Sharia’ law business. You might be surprised that by the end, dear ladies, you may wish a little of that Shari’a would creep your way!

Various online dictionaries pretty much agree on the definition as: the code of law derived from the Holy Qur’an and from the teachings and example of Prophet Muhammad(s). It can also be defined as a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority. It not only governs religious rituals, but the aspects of day-to-day life for a Muslim.

For the sake of offering an unbiased view I shall play Devil’s Advocate!

DA: Why are we allowing the accommodation of this foreign law in our US Court system?

Shari’a law is utilized the same way as is Jewish law or canon law or any other law. It is relevant in a U.S. court either as a foreign law or as a source of information to understand the expectations of the parties in a dispute. As long as a provision in Jewish law, canon law or Shari’a law does not offend our constitutional protections and public policy, courts will consider it. Otherwise, courts would not consider it. In other words, foreign law or religious law in American courts is considered within American constitutional strictures.

DA: Why then the rapid rise in Shari’a law cases?

The American-Muslim community is growing. With an estimated 8 million Americans who follow the religion of Islam, it is only natural to see a rapid increase of Muslim litigants before American courts where Shari’a law may be an issue — especially in family matters.

DA: Give me an example of some cases.

U.S. courts are required to regularly interpret and apply foreign law — including Islamic law — to everything from the recognition of foreign divorces and custody decrees to the validity of marriages, the enforcement of money judgments, probating an Islamic will and the damages element in a commercial dispute. Shari’a law is relevant in a U.S. court either as a foreign law or as a source of information to understand the expectations of the parties in a dispute.

Contrary to public opinion and some alleged Islamic experts (?), Shari’a law is actually extremely flexible and subject to various interpretations. In the 19th century, Western colonialism decimated the Shari’a legal system, replacing it with Western codes. This caused a serious decline in the community of jurists. In addition, there is today a debate that revolves around the failure of the modern jurists — not the system of Shari’a — to develop the Shari’a to adapt with the current circumstances of modernity.

DA: Can it be applied to anyone other than Muslims? Am I gonna have to wear a burqa one day?

Uh, no. Muslims only. And no burqa. Allah forbid.

DA: Why then all the fuss and scare tactics by many in a position of power and authority?

The only explanation is that they appear to be driven by an agenda infused with hate, ignorance and Islamophobia intent on dehumanizing an entire religious community. * Not my words – Salon.com. There was actually an attorney in Tennessee who took the entire religion of Islam to court to prove it wasn’t even a religion at all. What a waste of tax payer money! You can’t make this stuff up!

DA: Why on earth would an American woman support a law that oppresses women?

This is where it gets fun and interesting. There is a humongous difference between the religion of Islam and how Muslims may practice or interpret it. Much the same as you see Christians and Jews practicing in a myriad of ways, some more liberal, and some more conservative. What may seem on the surface to an American to be oppressive or restrictive might in reality be quite liberating. Islam spread to every country (and let’s not bring up that tired ‘sword’ thing. That has long been laid to rest). Shari’a law has been flexible in accommodating various cultural practices that were not in direct contradiction to the Qur’an and sunnah of Muhammad (s).

DA: Ok now you have my attention. Doesn’t Shari’a law force you to wear that covering on your head and some of those clothes? What about face veils, burqas, women not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia?

Here is where culture rears its occasionally ugly head. As said before, there is wide room for interpretation of Shari’a law throughout the Muslim world. Islam is a religion for all people in all places and at all times (no not just for Arabs or for ‘way back when’). It would be pretty tough to be one-size-fits all. Shari’a law is flexible enough to accommodate culture and a myriad of other elements even including climate.

Ever see how Muslim men dress in the Gulf Countries like UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq and Saudi Arabia?

They cover their heads and bodies in long flowing robes. It’s cooler! The loose robes allow air to circulate in and around and the head covering protects from the harsh rays of the sun. I am sure you see many of our Asian population walking with umbrellas under the intense summer sun but we don’t scream about liberating them and forcing more vitamin D in sink into their skin!

As I enjoy dressing conservatively but with style as a carryover from my performing days, it is quite enjoyable for me to ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’, and dress according to the Islamic style of the countries I visit. A black abaya and face veil looks quite out of place in Turkey where you see light, lovely pastels in long stylish coats covering wide pants or skirts. Similarly you would most likely prefer to cover up if you are very fair and blonde when you’re in Saudi! Since Islam is somewhat new to America, at least in terms of numbers, we have to yet to create our own American hijab but we are getting there with long tunics over wide pants or skirts. There must be allowable variations as long as the basic requirements found in the Qur’an or sunnah of Muhammad(s) are met.

DA: So I shouldn’t approach a Muslim woman telling her she doesn’t have to dress like that here?

Not nice. She is most likely choosing to dress that way as a means of identifying as a practicing Muslim or just plain following what she believes that God asks of her. An important note is an edifying verse in the Qur’an that states: There is no compulsion in religion. I mean…what would be the point? God doesn’t need us. We need Him! If you are forced to do anything what does that accomplish? Not strong and committed faith and that’s for sure.

DA: I am still not ready for Shari’a law to creep my way. What is the fun stuff you mentioned?

Fair enough. Consider this. By the 7th century CE Islam gave the following rights to Muslim:

  • The right to an education
  • The right to own property (and more importantly no longer to be considered property of men!The right to contract her own marriage and dowry
  • The right to retain her family name
  • The right for complete maintenance by husband for herself and children, including a wet nurse and housemaid/servant if the husband could afford.
  • The right to obtain a divorce
  • The right to work outside the home
  • The right to vote and hold office
  • The right to inherit (and no longer BE inherited!)

Not bad, right? And how many centuries before Western women even were able to struggle for these rights much less own them?

DA: Why don’t we see this in affect in Muslim countries today?

THAT is the topic for another blog!

You read my blogs. Do I sound oppressed, repressed, suppressed or depressed by Shari’a law to you?!

More later and please don’t hesitate to ask (polite) questions!