Shariah Studies by Stealth

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Under some pressure from parents, California’s Education Department is reviewing its guidelines for teaching Islamic Studies to seventh-graders in its public schools. We wrote about this trend six years ago when we discovered that, though the California standards require the study of all religions, Islam is examined disproportionately.

Moreover, the more extreme elements of the more radically Islamic societies, though they represent a minority of a religion whose adherents are overwhelmingly peaceful, are ignored, no matter how visible their acts are. The latest attempt to revamp the California rules adds a new wrinkle to this approach.

For example, the treatment of Shari’ah law in the framework for Islamic studies developed by the California Department of Education is, to say the least, problematic. “Students learn how the Qur’an and the Sunnah served as foundations for the Shari’ah, the religious laws governing moral social, and economic life,” the suggested framework reads. “Islamic law, for example, rejected the older Arabian view of women as ‘family property,’ declaring that women and men are entitled to respect and moral self-governance.”

“At the same time, students investigate the role of women in Islamic civilizations.” One page later we get, “Muslim merchants came to operate from China to the Mediterranean, their trade facilitated by shared acceptance of Shari’ah law.”

Yet all the available evidence indicates that Shari’ah law is hardly benign even in its present incarnation. “Major principles of shariah are a ban on interest, a ban on contractual uncertainty, adherence to risk-sharing and profitsharing, promotion of ethical investments that enhance society, and asset-backing,” Shayerah Ilias reports in a February 9, 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). “The international market for Islamic finance has grown between 10% to 15% annually in recent years.”

“Islamic finance historically has been concentrated in Persian Gulf and Southeast Asian countries, but has expanded globally to both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.”

Ilias is an analyst in international trade and finance at the CRS. As its name suggests, the CRS is a research arm of the U. S. Congress.

“There is a small but growing market for Islamic finance in the United States,” Ilias writes. “Through international and domestic regulatory bodies, there has been effort to standardize regulations in Islamic finance across different countries and financial institutions, although challenges remain.”

“Critics of Islamic finance express concerns about possible ties between Islamic finance and political agendas or terrorist financing and the use of Islamic finance to circumvent U.S. economic sanctions.”

Analysts at Shariah Finance Watch (SFW) , who track the application of the law in the world today, do not take quite so sanguine a view of it. A project of the Center for Security Policy, SFW examines how this body of law works in and out of the Middle East.

“Understanding Shariah law is integral to understanding the dangers of Shariah-compliant finance,” the SFW website argues. “Shariah law is Islamic law dating back to the 7th century and is today the law of the land in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan and the law under which the Taliban operates.”

“Shariah law authorities, some of whom are now being paid handsomely by Barclays, Dow Jones, Standard & Poors, HSBC, Citibank, Merrill Lynch, Deutschebank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Credit Suisse and others have the power to dictate Shariah compliance as deemed by ‘scholarly consensus’ on matters of finance, family, penal law, apostasy, and war.”

“Shariah law, or Islamic law, officially went into effect in a region in Pakistan this week and will likely result in ‘egregious’ human rights violations,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported on April 16, 2009. The USCIRF went on to note that “Under Taliban-enforced shariah law in North West Frontier Province’s (NWFP) Swat Valley, human rights and religious freedom – especially for women and members of religious minorities – are expected to suffer severely.”

“The violent, Taliban-associated extremists based in NWFP’s Swat Valley consistently demonstrate their disregard for fundamental human rights, and use public beheadings and beatings as a means of enforcing their control,” Felice D. Gaer, USCIRF chair stated. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by an act of Congress and gives “independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.”

Those who have lived under Shariah offer even harsher assessments. “Sharia[h] laws are being used by terrorists to violate divine human rights,” Shaukat Malik, a Muslim-American Certified Public Accountant, wrote on The Baltimore Sun web log.

“Sharia[h] is used to scare the average citizen into submission,” he wrote. “This is done through publicly staged floggings, stoning and executions of men and women for committing adultery or other sexual acts.”

The California Department of Education is taking testimony today and tomorrow on its course revisions but if you would like to let them know how you feel about it, you can do so in the 60-day comment period that begins this weekend:

California Department of Education
Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division
1430 N Street
Room 3207 Sacramento, CA 95814
916-319-0881 or 319-0454
FAX 916-319-0172

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.