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AMEND CORNER: Don’t let fear govern your behavior

In case you missed it, a big protest march took place here in the U.S. last Saturday.

Actually, it was big only because the protesters organized marches in some 100 cities from coast to coast, and because most of the marchers found themselves faced with counter demonstrations by opponents of their protest, who in many cases outnumbered the original protesters. There were episodes of violence when the two groups clashed and police officers had to break up fights with pepper spray.

Anyway, those of us who live out here in the sticks (including me) may not have heard about the competing demonstrations until late in the day. If you didn’t tune into the late news shows on Saturday, you probably weren’t aware of the marches until sometime on Sunday. In any case, you didn’t have an opportunity to join the march in Denver, the closest one to Powell.

All this happened because a group called ACT For America wanted to hold a March against Sharia Law. The organization’s supporters are firmly convinced that Muslims are slipping Sharia Law into our legal system, and when they are finished they will use Sharia to outlaw Christianity and force us all to follow Sharia Law, and before you know it, all our women will be wearing hijabs (the head coverings many Islamic women wear) and our men will all be required to grow beards and marry four wives.

Now I have to say, this is a nutty idea. I honestly don’t know how anybody can believe such a thing. For starters, a religious code such as Sharia would run smack dab into the courts and the First Amendment. An attempt to force a religious legal code on all Americans would be tossed out by the Supreme Court in less time than it takes to recite the Lord’s Prayer, or even the Five Pillars of Islam.

If that doesn’t ease your fears, look at the numbers. The reality is that there just aren’t that many Muslims in the U.S.

Muslims, in fact, are less than 1 percent of the population. Jewish people outnumber Muslims two to one as do members of the LDS church. There are 25 evangelical Protestants to every Muslim, and although many Christians don’t really do much about being Christians, there are more than 70 Christians for every Muslim. Given those numbers, I cannot imagine a scenario by which our legal system could be preempted by Sharia.

Even so, many Americans are afraid we will soon be under Sharia Law. The legislatures of several states have passed laws prohibiting the courts from using Sharia Law. Several more have considered or are considering such laws, including one state that is considering a 15-year prison sentence for anyone found obeying Sharia Law. Such a law would jail every Muslim who attended Friday prayers at a mosque, obeyed Islamic teaching by giving to a poor person or fasted during Ramadan. The result would be just what we do not need in this country, 3 million more people in jail.

OK, yes, there are some Muslims who want the world under Sharia Law, but Muslims have lived in the U.S. since before the American Revolution, and the number of Muslims who have carried out or supported acts of terrorism is tiny compared to the total Muslim population. For the most part, American Muslims have managed to observe Sharia without attempting to foist it on their neighbors, whether those neighbors are Christians, atheists or members of a local Hindu group. For Muslims, Sharia is simply a guide that helps them live moral lives. It instructs them in the proper way to worship, how to be a good neighbor and how to deal justly with those they do business with.

Most religious laws are interpreted differently from culture to culture and from person to person, and Sharia is no exception. Muslims in India practice their religion differently from Muslims in Saudi Arabia, and the vast majority of American Muslims live peaceably with their neighbors while practicing their religion according to Sharia.

Unfortunately, Americans have allowed fear to color their perception of Islam. Certainly there have been attacks by radicalized Muslims, but they don’t represent all Americans any more than the white nationalist who recently stabbed two young men — killing them for trying to stop him from harassing a couple of Muslim girls — represents me.

Both that white nationalist and the radicalized Muslims who carried out the recent attacks in London are our enemies. They want us to be afraid, because that allows them to control our thinking and create division among us. 

If we allow that to happen, it will give the terrorists the victory they seek. We can’t let them do that.

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