American Muslims. The Muslim
world is not a monolith. It’s divided
into nations and sects and histories
that are totally different, and their
interpretation of Islam is completely different.
When we have fear, we’re really
reflecting something in ourselves.
We are reflecting our own inse-curities, and that communicates
itself to the whole world. Think of
the trauma of 9/11 and the impact.
Therefore, you have the need to
overcome that. Fear, in the end, is
just something that you poison your
own system with.
I may be idealistic, but America—
and I’m talking about America in the
clearest, most positive sense, going
back to the vision and example of
the founding fathers—to me really
represents something very different.
Something that is almost transcendental—people who are on this
different level, almost, of human
Were they fearful? I don’t get a
hint of fear. They’re in the middle
of the birth of the nation. When
Washington’s soldiers captured
British soldiers who tortured
Americans and brought these
British soldiers to Washington
and said, “We are going to do the
the way they are behaving with the
rosary—what are we saying about
ourselves? Are we the superpower
that has a role to play on the world
stage? Or are we all going to retreat
into our fears and prejudices, caus-
ing hurt to our own people?
Sharia means Islamic jurisprudence. Like Jewish law, like
Christian law, it is a form of interpretation of how we govern our
lives, and that is it. I don’t think
we should be that frightened of it.
We really need to talk about it and
hopefully work it out of our system.
What Muslim wants to give that
up and bring the religious figures
from Iran and Saudi Arabia to rule
VISCONTI Should Americans be
afraid of sharia law? How does it
fit in with American jurisprudence
DR. AHMED Many Americans believe
that the sharia is about to be
imposed. I ask you, even if all the
American Muslims, 2 percent of
the population, said, “We want the
sharia,” can they impose their will
on 98 percent in a democracy? It is
such an absurd idea.
These Muslims are coming from
countries that are 90–95 percent
Muslim. They don’t have the sharia.
American Muslims are the classic moderates.
They are the guys who should be your bridges and
ambassadors to the Muslim world except that they
are being demonized as potential terrorists.
DR. AKBAR AHMED
same thing that they did to us,”
Washington said, “Absolutely not.
We cannot behave like the enemy
because we must maintain a higher
moral standing.” That is American.
If we are going to behave like
neurotic people—if someone sits and
you don’t like his face or his color or
They can impose sharia through
the constitution. Why should they
escape their countries, escape the
chaos of Islamic laws, to come here
and impose it on Americans? This
really is to me something so breath-
takingly stupid because I just don’t
know how to answer it.
DR. POLLACK We tend to have in
mind a notion that the sharia is
a very clear, well-established set
of principles, which is also unbelievably harsh and tolerates no
interpretation. That is not the case.
There were certainly things in the
Quran, which are applied literally in Saudi Arabia, about what
constitutes an offense and what the
punishment for that offense is.
In other aspects, it is unbelievably vague. In terms of how
women should dress, the Quran
simply states that women should
dress modestly. It doesn’t say what
percentage of the body needs to be
covered, and different Muslim societies have interpreted that injunction very differently.
The sharia is actually much
more flexible than most think, and
what we often do is substitute the
very extreme, inflexible interpretations of certain countries that do
not necessarily reflect the larger
concept of sharia for this notion.
When you speak to Muslims, you
find that many of them do believe
that sharia ought to be part of their
legal system. Overwhelmingly,
Americans believe that our foreign
policy ought to be informed by our
common Judeo-Christian values.
Yet when we hear Muslims saying
that they would like their foreign
policy to be informed by their
Muslim values, we panic. We are
It is stunning to me that a