BACKGROUND & HISTORY
Shari’a (typically translated as Islamic law) is alive but feared. Recent legislative and constitutional proposals from Oklahoma to Australia have attempted to ban or curtail shari’a.
Anti-Islam populism in Europe — spreading from Austria to France, the UK, Holland, and Norway — has contributed to vitriolic attacks on shari’a. American news media and social understandings of Islam largely have been consumed by these narrow and reductionist views of shari’a.
In California, anti-mosque rally organizers recently brought dozens of dogs (ritually unclean animals) to a Muslim prayer center in Temecula, declaring that California’s Muslims “are trained to kill” and will “impose shari’a” on a "Christian" state.
But like any legal or normative system, shari’a accommodates multiple and often-competing narratives and interpretations.
As a complex set of personal beliefs, community approaches, and legal principles, shari’a runs much deeper than statist conceptions of law in the global West.
This rich pluralism in Islamic law and religion is typically ignored in the polarized debates surrounding anti-shari’a proposals and activities.
Muslims in the US are living in a critical condition.
These exceptional circumstances stem from a fear of religion that has led to an intensified image of religious persons — especially Muslims — as irrational, exclusive, anti-modern, and prone to violence. Open hostility to the tenets of Islam has undoubtedly affected the experience of living in the United States, including by altering self-perceptions and understandings of the construction and influence of Islamic knowledge. These effects are revealed in the everyday practices of Muslims and the discourses of shari’a appearing in public and private spaces among Muslim interlocutors and other social actors.