Organization of Islamic Cooperation on the Defensive Over Shariah in America

by CLARE M. LOPEZ January 24, 2013

For all who've been working hard to educate Americans on the facts about Islamic Law (shariah), there are some encouraging signals. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and its affiliated network, including the Muslim Brotherhood in America, would seem to be in full-on defensive mode about shariah if a recent Brotherhood conference and a couple of new reports are indicative. 

At the Muslim American Society (MAS)-Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) conference in Chicago, Illinois 21-25 December 2012, a few thousand mostly Arabic speaking Muslims circled the wagons for a five-day program aimed at rousing them to defense of Islam. The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), acknowledged in the Brotherhood's 1991 "Explanatory Memorandum" as one of its organizations, and the Muslim American Society (MAS) co-sponsored the 11th Annual MAS-ICNA Convention. The Convention speakers roster featured Tariq Ramadan, scion of the Brotherhood's al-Banna founding family; Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of HAMAS' U.S. branch, CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations); Siraj Wahhaj, Imam of the al-Taqwa Mosque in Brooklyn, NY and included on a list of unindicted co-conspirators from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial;  and Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim Brotherhood front group in the U.S.   

The Convention theme of "Renaissance" was all about getting American Muslims to experience a "double revolution in intellect and psychology," as Ramadan put it, so they'd be energized enough to stand up to an alleged atmosphere of  "Islamophobia" in the U.S. that has shariah in its sights. This theme, of course, is straight out of the OIC's "Islamophobia Observatory" which hyperventilates about such things at Foreign Ministers meetings and in regular reports posted to its website.

A 19 January 2013 report from the Brookings Institute's Doha Center entitled, "A Rights Agenda For The Muslim World," presents a full-throated apologia for the OIC's allegedly frustrated efforts to get its recalcitrant member states to integrate shariah with modern international standards on human rights. The problem seems to be that the OIC allows some of those countries with a "conservative brand of Islam" too much leeway to cling to their  "emphasis on national sovereignty," which just wrecks the OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu's sincere efforts to implement more effective "supra-national human rights mechanisms."  Apparently, according to the report's author, Turan Kayaoglu, Ihsanoglu wants to make human rights the centerpiece of the OIC agenda, which Turan says "shows a gradual move away from emphasizing the centrality of shariah." Supposedly, Ihsanoglu increasingly is willing to "discuss these issues in the context of international human rights rather than exclusively within that of Islamic law and tradition." A quick check of the OIC website shows the "Islamophobia Observatory" is still up and the Human Rights page features the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 (the one about restricting free speech criticism of Islam) and other items about "combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief"-i.e., Islam.

Nothing much about international standards of human rights superseding shariah anytime soon, but the OIC did establish an "Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights" (IPHRC) in 2011, the Brookings report says, that is supposed to "promote the civil social, and economic rights enshrined in the organization's human rights documents." Of course, the 1990 Cairo Declaration that abrogates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in favor of shariah is still posted in its usual spot on the OIC's Human Rights page, so maybe they just haven't gotten around to updating that yet. But in the meantime, the OIC wants everyone to know that its focus on shariah is definitely on the wane. Really.

Finally, there is the January 2013 report, "Shariah and Diversity: Why Americans are Missing the Point," from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) which was written by Asifa Quraishi-Landes, who is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin. The ISPU bills itself as an "independent, nonpartisan think tanks and research organization" dedicated to research and policy analysis on such topics as U.S. foreign policy and national security. Its Board of Advisors includes such rigorously ‘independent' scholars as John Esposito, the Director of Georgetown University's lavishly Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and that stalwart advocate of replacing U.S. law with shariah, Sherman Jackson.

The main premise of the report itself, which is aimed at the American public both Muslim and non-Muslim, emphasizes that people are getting shariah all wrong by totally mixing up Divine Law (shariah, which is based on immutable, revealed sources) with purely human interpretations of that law as expressed in legal rulings called fiqh. What with all those different schools of Islamic jurisprudence (actually, four on the Sunni side and one on the Shi'ite side), Quraishi-Landes declares that "Muslim religious scholars have always treated shariah (Divine Law) as a recipe that is meant to be made with all the natural diversity that results from that process..." Quraishi-Landes is likely unique in her characterization of shariah as "a recipe," but it sounds nice and not nearly so scary as the truth, which is that shariah is utterly supremacist in nature and obligates all Muslims everywhere and in all times to fight jihad against non-Muslims to spread Islam.

In her attempt to suggest the existence of widely differing interpretations of shariah, Quraishi-Landes provides no explanation here either about ijma (consensus of the scholars), which, far from being merely "a powerful lawmaking tool," as she would have it in her single glancing mention of the concept, actually is the third most important source of Islamic Law (after the Qur'an and hadiths) and "represents the unanimous acceptance of laws immediately derived from the Qur'an and hadith" thus operating "beyond the reach of judicial review." As a result, hugely important Islamic doctrines about abrogation, apostasy, jihad, slander, and the status of conquered "People of the Book" (the Ahl al-Dhimma) that are uniformly accepted across the different madhab (schools of jurisprudence) just fail to be mentioned at all in the ISPU report.

Fiqh legislation enacted by fallible humans to establish social order may well stray from the shariah but the "linguistic sleight of hand" is all Quraishi-Landes': shariah is accessible, knowable, and in far too many respects utterly antithetical to the U.S. Constitution. Obfuscation about the differences between fiqh and shariah do not confuse the American public, who with increasing sophistication, are learning about shariah and deciding for themselves that it is a mortal threat to liberal secular Western-style democracy.

c lopez 2013



       Clare M. Lopez is the Vice President for Research & Analysis at the Center for Security Policy

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