President John F. Kennedy is purported to have said that “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” In the current propaganda campaign in the Jihadist’s war on the West, the Council on American-Islamic Relations – along with its lies and myths – is the great enemy of the truth.
In its latest fundraising effort, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”) accuses those who oppose its agenda of engaging in “fear-mongering” and spreading “misinformation” about Islam and American Muslims. The reality, however, is that it is CAIR who spreads misinformation and who engages in the tactics and politics of fear. CAIR is lying about so-called anti-Sharia initiatives – using misinformation and the politics of fear – to raise money. Oh, the irony.
In an email sent on Friday, July 15, 2011 entitled “Who will win – America or the Islamophobes?”, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad appeals for funds that would allow CAIR to “raise $50,000 before August 1 to ensure that an additional attorney is available to help defend your right to freely practice your religion [Islam].”1 In this email, Mr. Awad also writes that “promoters of Islamophobia” such as David Yerushalmi and Robert Spencer and “hate groups” like ACT! for America and Stop the Islamization of America want to sacrifice the constitutional freedoms of Americans who happen to be Muslims and pass bills via state legislatures that make it illegal to practice Islam. Mr. Awad and CAIR are both lying and believing in a myth. Their deliberate, contrived, and dishonest statements allow them the comfort of expressing their opinion and spewing hatred without needing facts to support it. No credible person or organization wants to make it illegal to practice Islam. Even so, Mr. Awad accuses those who oppose CAIR and its agenda of the tactic that he himself employs – demagoguery and misinformation – and lies about the true nature of their efforts. His email – which contains a call for funds so CAIR can retain an additional attorney and allegations of Islamophobia, among other things – is taqiyya, the Islamic principle that lying for the sake of Allah is acceptable.
The biggest lie? CAIR needs to retain another staff attorney to advocate for the civil rights of American Muslims and fight the “unconstitutional” and “anti-Muslim” laws that “could prevent [Muslims] from exercising [their] choice in marriage contracts, wills or even home finance.” No, Mr. Awad’s lie isn’t that CAIR would use the funds to retain another staff attorney. CAIR most likely will retain an additional staff attorney to help further its love of Lawfare. Mr. Awad’s big lies (in addition to those about Mr. Yerushalmi, Mr. Spencer, ACT! for America, and Stop the Islamization of America) are these: (1) that CAIR is fighting unconstitutional laws that would restrict the ability of American Muslims to practice their religion; and (2) that the laws CAIR challenges are somehow “anti-Muslim” or “anti-Islam.” In reality, the laws Mr. Awad refers to are not unconstitutional and do not interfere with Islam as an individual religious practice. Moreover, these so-called “anti-Sharia,” “anti-Muslim,” and “anti-Islam” initiatives don’t single-out Sharia or a group of people, but rather target all sources of foreign law. The measures seek to ban provisions of Sharia and all other foreign laws that interfere with or violate a liberty guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the constitutions of individual states, or the public policies of the forum state.
To explore this more completely, some background on Islam and the law CAIR opposes is necessary. Sharia literally means “path.” Sharia is commonly known as “Islamic law,” and contains both civil and criminal codes. It is an absolute legal, political, and military system. It pervades all aspects of a Muslim’s life, as well as non-Muslims in a society where Islamic law is applied. Thus, Sharia not only regulates the personal and moral conduct of the individual conduct, but also how individuals relate to each other and society as a whole. And while Sharia does set forth laws about diet, the family, and prayer, it is also justifies, among other things: “honor” killings; female genital mutilation; the execution of converts to Christianity and other “apostates”; spousal rape and other abuse; the subjugation of women; physical violence against women; the subjugation of non-Muslims; the slaughter of innocent people with suicide bombs; the persecution of homosexuals and the transgendered; jihad; and gender discrimination. Sharia does not respect core American rights and privileges such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, or due process. Furthermore, many Muslims believe that the principles of Sharia are self-evident, incapable of going unnoticed, and not open to alternative interpretations. In stark contrast, however, American society strives to live up to the truths it holds to be self-evident – that all men are created equal and that all have been endowed with unalienable rights by God.2 Sharia is the reason why Islamic law is stuck in the Dark Ages.
Taqiyya is the Islamic principle that it is acceptable for a Muslim to lie to protect or further the interests of Islam so long as the Muslim remains faithful to Islam in his or her heart. The word literally means “concealing, precaution, or guarding,” and the practice can be employed to disguise one’s beliefs, intentions, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, or strategies. In everyday use taqiyya manifests itself via dissembling, spreading misinformation, lying, deceiving, or confounding. With taqiyya, the devil is always in the detail. Imam Abu Hammid Ghazlai, who may be the most influential Muslim after Muhammad,3 says:
Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible.4
This Arab legend perfectly illustrates the practice of taqiyya. Once, Muhammad’s nephew, son-in-law, and future Caliph, Ali, was sitting on a stool outside of his home when a friend ran into the village and hid in Ali’s home. Ali assumed that his friend was being pursued, so he got up from the stool he was sitting on and then sat down on a different, nearby stool. Later, when the group of people who had been chasing Ali’s friend asked Ali if he had seen the man they were pursuing he responded, “As long as I have been sitting on this stool, I have seen no one.”5 Taqiyya is why no statement from Mr. Awad – or any other Islamist – can be taken simply for what it purports to say.
The final item of necessary background is information about the law CAIR opposes. Although CAIR does not refer to this law by name, Mr. Awad’s email is clear that they want to target an initiative known as American Laws for American Courts (“ALAC”).6 (In the interest of full disclosure, I am personally involved with this initiative.) ALAC is an initiative of the American Public Policy Alliance, which is “a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to protecting U.S. constitutional rights, safeguarding U.S. sovereignty and promoting government transparency and accountability.”7 The model legislation has been enacted in substantially similar form in three states – Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arizona – and introduced in the legislature or general assembly of 20 others. ALAC is designed to protect all American citizens and residents in state legal cases where the application of a foreign law would violate constitutional liberties.
This brings us full circle to the big lies in Mr. Awad’s email of July 15, 2011. Mr. Awad claims that CAIR needs to retain an additional attorney to fight unconstitutional laws – namely ALAC – that would restrict the ability of American Muslims to practice their religion, as well as that ALAC is anti-Muslim. This is not true. American Laws for American Courts is constitutional. It is not anti-Muslim or anti-Islam or anti-anybody. It is recognition that American citizens of all religious background are guaranteed certain rights and privileges by the United States Constitution, as well as the constitutions of the several states. Its purpose is to ensure that these American fundamental constitutional rights,, liberties, and privileges are preserved. The legislation is facially neutral and does not specifically mention any religion, body of religious law, or body of foreign law. Proof of its constitutionality is the fact that ALAC, in any of its iterations, has never been challenged in court, not even in the three states where the legislation has been enacted.
Contra Mr. Awad’s claims, ALAC is not designed to prevent American Muslims from practicing Islam as a religion, nor is it designed to prevent them from exercising their choice in marriage contracts, wills, home finance, or any other matter. Indeed, ALAC will not prevent any religious group from practicing their religious beliefs as a religion. The legislation is designed to do one thing: protect all American citizens and residents from the application of foreign laws when the application of said foreign law would interfere with or violate a liberty guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the constitutions of individual states, or the public policies of the forum state. Another reason ALAC does not interfere with the right of American Muslims to practice Islam as a religion is that it has no effect on the right to enter into contracts, but rather only contains a potential restriction on when and if a state court may enforce a contract. Under ALAC, if a contract violates one of an individual’s constitutional liberties or the public policy of the forum state, then the state may not enforce the contract and the contract is rendered void. This principle is constitutional and has been upheld in numerous occasions.8 Therefore, American Muslims are free to enter into whatever contracts – be it for marriage, wills, or home finance – they want.
Even Mr. Awad’s examples of so-called unconstitutional laws CAIR has helped defeat are disingenuous at best. He claims that CAIR wrote the lawsuit that “derailed an anti-Muslim law passed in Oklahoma.” While CAIR did write and file the lawsuit that challenged this law, Mr. Awad leaves out some important details. First and foremost, the Oklahoma law he refers to was not anti-Muslim but anti-Sharia. The ballot initiative specifically mentioned Sharia. To claim it was specifically anti-Muslim or anti-Islam is playing very fast and loose with the facts. Second, the law was a ballot initiative to amend the Oklahoma constitution and it passed with the support of approximately 70% of the electorate. Third, the law has not been defeated or declared unconstitutional, but merely enjoined until the litigation that surrounds the ballot initiative is complete. In contrast to the Oklahoma ballot initiative, ALAC does not specifically mention Sharia or any other source of foreign law, nor is it a ballot measure or constitutional amendment.
Mr. Awad also claims that CAIR “helped organize and advise a coalition that beat a proposed law in Tennessee that would have made it illegal to practice Islam in that state.” This statement is so outlandish and absurd that we shouldn’t even have to deal with it in our political discourse, but here we are nonetheless. The Tennessee bill referred to would not have made it illegal to practice Islam in the state – such a law would be clearly unconstitutional – but made it illegal to provide material support or assist those planning to commit terrorist acts in Tennessee. This bill is completely unrelated to ALAC or any of the individuals and organizations smeared by Mr. Awad in his email.9 In its final form, the bill was essentially mirror image of the federal anti-material support statute, which does not mention Islam, Sharia, or jihad. It is a facially neutral, non-discriminatory, counter-terrorism measure. It specifically declares that it does not target the peaceful practice of any religion. However, said legislation does prohibit the use of religious doctrine as justification for terrorist acts in Tennessee.10 Poor CAIR; it can’t even lie very well.
In addition to being designed to preserve the fundamental rights, liberties, and privileges, of all American citizens and residents, ALAC is also not simply about Sharia and other bodies of foreign law. A major justification for ALAC is to preserve American sovereignty because the measure will also slow the creep of transnationalism. This is important because Sharia has already embedded itself in the legal system of Western Europe, as well as the international banking system. Indeed, there are at least 85 Sharia courts that operate in the United Kingdom with the full authority of UK law.11 Some courageous UK citizens are now working on plans to curb the influence of Sharia courts in the UK, where, among other things, studies have shown that women have little or no legal voice in adjudications by Sharia courts.12 Closer to home, a recent study conducted by the Center for Security Policy turned up 50 published appellate court cases in 23 different American states where Sharia was relevant to the arguments in and outcome of the case.13
It is clear, therefore, that CAIR’s latest fundraising effort is full of lies, misinformation, half-truths, and fear-mongering. On this and many issues, CAIR is the great enemy of the truth. Its deliberate, contrived, and dishonest conduct and statements support its persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic myth that it is the victim. It is taqiyya at its finest. David Yerushalmi and Robert Spencer are not Islamophobes, nor are ACT! for America and Stop the Islamization of America hate groups. Moreover, American Laws for American Courts is not anti-Sharia, anti-Muslim, or anti-Islam, and it isn’t designed to prevent American Muslims from practicing Islam as a religion. Mr. Awad points his finger at his opponents and claims that they are demagogues and fear-mongerers. Mr. Awad, disseminating the facts about or opposing CAIR’s agenda aren’t demagoguery or fear-mongering. However, the contents of your July 15, 2011 your email are. Oh, the irony.
Nicholas Nahorski is an attorney who practices law in Saint Joseph, Michigan.
1 Mr. Awad’s email is available here: http://tinyurl.com/3e62dtm
2 See the Preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence.
3 The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazali. William Montgomery Watt. Published in 1953 by George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, pp. 14-16.
4 Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, The Reliance of the Traveler, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Amana Publications, 1997, r8.2, p. 475.
5 Story adapted from “Understanding Taqiyya” by Warner Mackenzie. Islam Watch, www.islam-watch.org, published April 30, 2007.
6 The “model” American Laws for American Courts Act is here: http://publicpolicyalliance.org/?page_id=170.
8 For example, American courts have repeatedly refused to enforce contracts to commit murder, to engage in criminal activity that involved the repayment of gambling debts, and to provide sexual favors. This is not to say that Islam, Sharia, or contracts between Muslims are the equivalent of these activities, but merely to show that there is a precedent for declaring contracts void on public policy grounds.
9 I suppose an argument could be made that the Tennessee “Material Support to Designated Entities Act of 2011” and ALAC model legislation are related in that both are facially neutral and non-discriminatory in application.
10 Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), sponsor of the “Material Support to Designated Entities Act of 2011.”
11 Press Association, 85 Sharia Courts in UK, The Guardian, published June 29, 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/feedarticle/8581818
12 Christopher Hope, Plans to Curb Influence of Sharia Courts to be Unveiled, The Telegraph published June 8, 2011: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8561979/Plans-to-curb-influence-of-sharia-courts-to-be-unveiled.html.
13 Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases, available here: http://shariahinamericancourts.com/.