A: That is why the real battle is not between Muslims and the West, but between the moderates and extremists in all faiths. The extremist brand of Islam has become dominant as a result of many political factors, among them communism and secularism. What we need today is a concerted effort to say: We understand that history, but our faith is based on the higher values of loving God and neighbor.
Q: You write that the relationship between mosque and state is the “great unfinished business in the Muslim world.” How optimistic are you that the Arab Spring will usher in states, like Egypt and Tunisia, that get it right?
A: What’s happening in Egypt is extremely important. You can see a lot of factors playing out over there: the country’s relationship with its neighbors, with the Pentagon, with its own military. They are preoccupied with so many things. If the U.S. government could understand and relate to Shariah (Islamic law), then that would be a very powerful factor. But even many Muslims do not understand Shariah.
Q: Why is that? Shariah has been around for more than a thousand years.
A: Because most people don’t really understand their religion. I’ve spoken with friends who are rabbis and priests and we’ve agreed that most people have an emotional attachment to their faith, a desire to fulfill their spiritual longings, but they are not experts in understanding the history of their religion. This understanding comes out of scholarship. For instance, some verses in the Quran have historical, but not eternal relevance. In the last 50 or 60 years literacy has risen, but you can read the Quran and still not understand its context.
Q: You write that the United States is, in many ways, a “Shariah-compliant nation.” How so?
A: Both Shariah and the Declaration of Independence, America’s social contract, state that our rights were endowed by a Creator. Seven centuries before those words (the Declaration) were penned, Muslim scholars said that all of Shariah aims to protect and further six objectives: the rights to life, freedom of religion, property, intellect, family and human dignity. Moreover, many Muslims feel that they can practice their religion more freely in the United States than in any of their homelands.
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