Accuracy in Media

On June 20, The Muslim Public Affairs Council(MPAC), which brags about consulting media outlets such as CNN and even congressional representatives,  hosted an event on Capitol Hill entitled, “A Solution in Search of a Problem: The Impact of Anti-Sharia Bills in America.” In order for this forum to be successful, MPAC needed to address the questions: what is Sharia and why are the courts taking up the issue? Unfortunately, MPAC did not take advantage of the media coverage to educate or ease American’s concern about this hot topic.

The first problem: Sharia, the “solution,” remained undefined. Noha Bakr, Commissioner of the Montgomery (MD) County Commission for Women, referred to it ambiguously as, “something that is not tangible, and something you cannot just read out of a book.”

The second issue was not addressing what sparked Anti-Sharia bills and why it is a pressing issue.  Instead, Daniel Mach, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, called the Anti-Sharia  movement unconstitutional and proceeded with a retelling of how Muslim inmate, Sharif Mahommed, was denied Halal meat in prison and took his “discrimination” case to the Supreme Court and won.

Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Executive Director of Clergy Beyond Borders, claims Anti-Sharia legislation is “a dire threat to our democracy,” but failed to provide insight into the bill or the religious practice.

It was not until Christine Brim, the Center for Security Policy’s Chief Operating Officer, reminded the panel of the Hosain v. Malik case in which a Maryland appellate court wanted to honor Pakistani traditions and to uphold Sharia Law, that there was a window into the rise of Anti-Sharia legislation.

Hosain V. Malik  resulted in a mother losing custody over her daughter even though she did not have representation in the Pakistani proceedings “because, although she might have been arrested for adultery if she returned to Pakistan for the custody hearing, and been subject to ‘public whipping or death by stoning,’ the court found such punishments were ‘extremely unlikely.’” The appellate court thought that it would be best for the child to grow up in a house of Islamic teachings instead of applied “American, cultural, and legal precepts.”

Penalty for adultery under Islamic law, said Noha Bakr, is “lashing or in certain circumstances stoning and these are very, very harsh penalties, but what we have to do is if we are talking about Sharia we have to see the evidence… [it says] in the Quran in black and white adultery is determined when four adults witnessed the act of penetration.” Bakr insisted that punishment for committing adultery is irrelevant since it is unlikely that four people will witness the act. The possibility of a rape occurring with four witnesses cannot be ruled out.

Nevertheless, the Hosain V. Malik case among many others reflects a leniency in the court system and an ideological shift in judicial practices.

This issue is not going away. The Muslim Public Affairs Council needs to concretely define Sharia Law and answer why it is that 20 states issuing more than 40 bills against the practice is the problem, and not the solution.

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