Newt Should Check out Mike Pence’s Christian Sharia

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Newt Gingrich suggested late last week on cable tv that Muslim Americans should be asked if they believe in “sharia” and if they answer yes, they should be deported. You can’t deport US citizens, so the whole remark was ridiculous.

Sharia for Muslims is the equivalent of Canon Law for Catholics, Halakhah for Jews, and I guess the entire Bible for some fundamentalists (though there are laws in Deuteronomy that it is hard to imagine anyone actually practicing). All religions have laws. Sharia is the Muslim one. But it is fluid and an arena of contention within Islam. It forbids murder, theft, adultery, and drinking. You’d think people would be happy about all that. In any case, observant Muslims would all say they believe in sharia, just as observant Jews would say that the believe in Halakhah or observant Catholics would say they believe in canon law.

Although most interpretations of sharia frown on same-sex marriage, American Muslims are more likely to support it than are US evangelicals. That datum is an example of what I mean when I say it is fluid and an arena of contention. And by the way, whatever the Vatican says, Catholics have a higher abortion rate than Protestants. You can’t read off things from abstract data about people’s religion.

The American right wing (or far right; how could you tell anymore?) has tried to substitute “sharia” for the Communist Manifesto, attempting to configure it as radical or inherently un-American. The American Right never got over losing Communism as a boogey man with which to threaten people into accepting lower wages and being obedient to . . . the American Right. So it wants to shoehorn everyday Muslims into that role, on the grounds that sharia involves jihad or holy war. But in Shiite Islam, for instance, offensive holy war is forbidden under today’s circumstances. And in mainstream Sunni Islam, state authority would have to declare it, and I don’t know of any that have any time recently (you can’t imagine secular leaders like Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi or Caid Beiji al-Sebsi talking that way). It is only for fringe extremists that vigilanteism is allowed, and that is true in all religions.

One of the alleged grounds on which people like Gingrich attack Muslim religious law is that they say they fear the 1% of Americans who are Muslims will try to impose it on everyone else. That allegation is also ridiculous.

But there is a religious law that poses such a danger to secular and liberal traditions in the United States and that is the evangelical sharia, to which Trump running mate Mike Pence is devoted.

Pence is welcome to his own private beliefs. But he wants to impose Evangelical beliefs on all Americans.

1. Pence wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned and abortion made illegal. He holds this position because of an unprovable, unscientific belief that the human person begins at conception (not something held by traditional Christianity). Pence wants to take control of 150 million women’s bodies in the United States and to inscribe his Christian sharia on them, getting in between them and their physicians. He wants to make thousands of pregnant rape victims every year bear their rapist’s baby. He wants his theology to be a ghostly presence in every OB-GYN consultation. And he wants to do this in the teeth of settled secular law. He actually signed a law requiring burial or cremation for aborted fetuses.

2. Pence’s personal and narrow theology has to be imposed on the rest of us even at the level of foreign policy. He said at an AIPAC conference, ““Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel.” If he had said that his Christian faith requires him to cherish the state of Argentina or Thailand or North Korea, we’d want to know why his weird doctrines should shape US foreign policy. There is in contrast no unanimity among American Muslims that the US must “cherish” any foreign state.

3. Pence pushed for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. There are no secular grounds for opposing this simple human right. He is against gay marriage because of some strange interpretation he has of some Bible verse (there isn’t anything about what we call gays in the Bible). Some conservative Muslims are against same-sex marriage on religious grounds, as well. So why is it bad if they deploy their theology for social legislation but good if Pence does it? Shouldn’t these decisions in a country with a separation of religion and state be made on rational grounds? Pence in essence wants to Establish a religion as the source of American law, which the First Amendment expressly forbids. And no, the Bible doesn’t say that marriage is between one man and one woman.

4. He signed a bill allowing people to discriminate against gays (and I guess against African-Americans or anyone else) if their religious beliefs tell them to. In other words, he is putting Evangelical sharia above the secular law, exactly what Gingrich accuses Muslims of wanting to do (but which few American Muslims would even want to). White Christian anti-civil rights groups in 1964 also argued that their religion required racial segregation, and by Pence’s logic they should be allowed to discriminate against Black people if their reading of the Bible makes that obligatory.

5. Pence opposed stem cell research done with stem cells taken from aborted fetuses, even though aborting fetuses is legal and even though stem cell therapies are extremely promising. As it happens, science has advanced to the point where stem cells can be acquired in other ways. But the point is that Pence would rather have doomed quadriplegics to permanent paralysis rather than back down from his weird theological position that blastocytes are people (which requires us to believe that miscarriages of 3-day-olds in the toilet are a form of human death; we’d all have a lot of dead siblings to mourn in such a bizarro world).

Pence and other people of faith are welcome to believe and practice as they will in the United States– that’s one of the purposes of the United States. I personally admire people of strong faith and conviction. But they are not welcome to Establish an official religion here and impose that religion’s laws on everybody; preventing that kind of thing is also one of the purposes of the United States. Muslim Americans are a tiny group and are in no position to impose anything on anyone. But Pence represents a quarter of Americans and nearly half of Republicans, and his wacky ideas could easily become law.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: “Trump’s New VP Is Seriously Anti-LGBT And Anti-Abortion”

20 Responses

  1. Pence is one wacked out dude. Nice book end for Trump. One wants a wall between the U.S.A. and Mexico and the other wants to invoke his religious beliefs, as law for all Americans, sort of like you say, evangelical religious law. The Constitution provided for separation of state and religion and now we have people who want to impose religious doctorne as law for the country.

    Don’t know how that will work for Jews, First Nations, some Protestants, etc . but it could have quite an impact on Canada.

    How so, Canada accepts political refuges. We’re the country just north of the U.S.A. which brought in 25K Syrian refugees (when the U.S.A wouldn’t) and the country and the refugees are doing just fine. Yes, a lot of them are Muslim and a lot of others are Orthodox Catholic. So if the Republicans get their way and bring in their version of extremist Christianity, many will be able to apply for refugee status in Canada.

    Canadian officials will shortly head to Iraq to document more refugees to bring into Canada. I guess if things go side ways in the U.S.A. we could expect hundreds of thousands.

    I’m good with that, as long as they all check their guns at the border. We’ll give them a medical system card and they can practise the religion of their choice. Canadians keep their religion out of politics. (well the last P.M. not so much but he’s gone) Our current P.M. is a Catholic. The Minister of Defense is a Sikh. The Mayor of Calgary, Alberta is Muslim.

    What is so highly entertaining about the American religious wing nuts is all their desire to kill those who they don’t agree with. Makes one wonder if these “religious” people ever read the Bible or even the 10 commandments.

    It would be so much easier if everyone were atheists or agnostics.

    • No, he’s not a “wacked out dude” at all. I don’t agree with any of his beliefs but he’s just expressing a widespread belief in his part of the nation. The problem for Trump/Pence is that this locks down the part of the country where there’s already support for the GOP – southern and midwest coal regions. It’s not a winning combo. Hopefully, the next Clinton administration can move the country away from these confrontations over culture and help those regions become more prosperous. Economics isn’t a cure for everything but if she can fix that, it may help some of those folks return to the center.

  2. Thanks for the article, as always!

    PS a type-o?

    Pence opposed stem cell research done with stem cells taken from aborted fetuses, even though aborting fetuses is **illegal** and even though stem cell therapies are extremely promising.

    “…is illegal if done for this purpose” (I don’t know American law on this point!)

  3. The Republican platform calls for the bible to be taught in schools… If you need another example of religion being forced on our children.

    I suspect Pence will make a campaign stop at Ken Ham’s Ark.

  4. “I personally admire people of strong faith and conviction” — why?! The stronger or more adamant the conviction, the more I distrust and question what a person has to say. Faith is nothing more than magical, wishful thinking — often based on embraced ignorance. A person can believe whatever they choose, and while I respect their right to believe in, say, a green unicorn living on the dark side of the moon, I don’t respect them as a person for believing it. And when they attempt to force their beliefs on children (especially) and on other adults via the law, they can bugger off! Respect their right to believe? — ok; respect their beliefs? — no.

  5. Muslims see Shariah (the outer form of Islam) in many different ways. Islam is not monolithic and there are many versions of it in existence today. It is usually the differences in interpreting Islam’s outer form that have resulted in so many versions of Islam.

    It is important for some to know how some sufi Muslims see Shariah. Here is a detailed description; I am posting it merely to share it; you may have a different understanding of Shariah:



    A Sufi Muslim’s Understanding of Shariah You Won’t Hear About:

    Every creature on earth and beyond follows a pattern that defines it and identifies it as unique with a distinct physics or behavior profile unto itself.

    For example a dog cannot be a cat, a cat a mouse etc. They are limited and defined given the parameters of their design.

    The human being, in his animal self is also subject to this “natural” evolutionary design. The major difference between humankind and the rest of the animal world is the development of the frontal lobe and the evolution and plasticity of the cerebral cortex.

    The overwhelming majority of the life of animals is inbreed, “written” within their DNA and cannot under most ordinary situations be altered. Granted among some animals, especially higher on the evolutionary scale have some learning capacities. Some simple animals seem also to “learn” from experiences, but this is more from repetitive experiences and not from reasoning per se.

    Mankind gifted with these two developments nearly entirely learns behavior, empathy, concepts shaped within him through the experience of life.

    Shariah is the the exemplary pattern lived, modeled and communicated through the emergence in every era of the prime pinnacle of guided human evolutionary mutations. These mutations are known as the Prophets, Messengers and “enlightened” teachers that are known and some unknown throughout the history of human kind.

    Shariah is the attempt to catalog, communicate and contextualize their exemplary life as way through following in their example, humanity as the potential to reach its highest potential as human beings.

    Shariah has been much misunderstood and wrongly practiced and defined by the ignorant, Muslims and non-Muslims. It has become a collection of restrictions, judgments and jurisprudence practiced without self-consciousness and higher referencing. In this form it is mostly a detraction and distraction from the “meaning full” and therefore, quite rightly despised.

    Shariah has to be part of a holistic approach with the intent to surrender one’s habitual behaviors, concepts and notions of existence to the truth that is resident at the core of everything, especially its glory of Light within the human heart.

    In reality, there is nothing but Shariah, in the sense that not even an atom, a quark, an intention, divine or otherwise that is not at it’s core, the very fabric of existence, without which there would have never been a question or questioner regarding Shariah in the first place.

    Question: How do we reconcile this description of the Shariah with the Quranic injunctions and Prophetic traditions that seem to indicate that Shariah is also a set of laws, e.g., in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.?

    All Quranic injunctions and Prophetic traditions that results in “laws” and injunctions are born out of the “original wisdom patterning” that underlies the created world. In present day “Islam” not all the laws and injunctions meet the test and qualify as true to the original patterning. Many have been extrapolated through history as a result of political influence, both secular and “religious”. Many have come about by the best efforts of the scholars and at times they themselves are lost in the influences of their circumstances. That is why the Prophet many times counseled that if you hear something that is attributed to him, to test it against the teachings of the Quran and your own heart!. We all need to reflect on these matters and not leave them solely to the judgment of the Ulema.

    The Divine messaging….through the universal sacred patterning and geometry….is the underlying foundation of all things. From this the Quran….its reality..has always been present in the world. This wisdom is revealed at intervals, when the Creator “sends” His messenger to the world to remind and renew…appropriate to the time and place in history. From this foundation… life carries on in it myriad of expression….we look for what needs we have and apply them to our own contemporary circumstance. Yes there are “clear” laws and injunctions that have come directly out of the Quran and the Prophetic person, but, context, sensibilities, applications and Mercy must be part of the equation or we surely could use these so-called “clear” laws and injunctions to oppress others for power and obedience to corrupt individuals and systems that keep the letter of the law, but not the spirit and since the spirit is ever with us, it must have its voice, lest the Shariah become a hardened hammer than what it was intended to be, a doorway to rebalancing what has become imbalance.

    • The bottom line in my opinion the most telling and convincing

      That is

      Yes there are “clear” laws and injunctions that have come directly out of the Quran and the Prophetic person,

      But, context, sensibilities, applications and Mercy must be part of the equation or we surely could use these so-called “clear” laws and injunctions to oppress others for power and obedience to corrupt individuals and systems that keep the letter of the law, but not the spirit

      And since the spirit is ever with us, it must have its voice, lest the Shariah become a hardened hammer than what it was intended to be, a doorway to rebalancing what has become imbalance.

    • What the law says is about punishment is one thing and the actual punishment given for violating the law is something entirely different .

      Here the Judge uses his powers and interpretation and circumstances of the incident
      So my point is we have to make a difference between the law and its application

      Example : death penalty by hanging for instance in Indian law for causing death of a person

      About 40,000 people on the average are murdered annually in India Do the India judges pass judgment hanging 40,000 murderers every year

      Even those who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged They have been in prison
      We are concentrating heavily on the law here Not its application On this respect both I think Sufi Muslim has some strong valid points

  6. I generally agree with you on just about everything. Ditto here except for the idea that being against abortion equals being religious. I think it is also a philosophical and a scientific issue. You bring science in yourself when you refer to the babies of rapists. With so many discoveries regarding DNA, there is more reason to believe that tendencies for certain kinds of behaviors are inherited. Personally, I am against banning abortion but very much think it is a last choice and that we must have a philosophical and scientific discussion as to when human life begins. Still, in the polarized world of the US, such a discussion may never take place, which is very, very sad.

  7. Stephen Hatt

    Americans largely conflate religious conservatism with political conservatism to their everlasting detriment. While our Founders were certainly considered to be radicals by King George, for their countrymen, by 1788, they were the very foundation of our fledging democratic republic. If we measure from the brief time span between the Declaration of Independence, the writing and adoption of the Constitution and the subsequent adoption of the proposed Articles which became the first ten amendments know as the Bill of Rights, we establish an all important reference point. I submit, that, without judgement or preconception, nothing could, by definition be more politically conservative than adherence to the explicit views and political will of our Founders. Proposing that as the definition of a political conservative, as a starting point, then we are prepared to discuss what is so glibly talked about and attributed to conservatives in today’s world.

    Mike Pence and others of his ilk bill themselves as conservatives but are in fact religious and social conservatives with nothing in common with our Founders. Pence and his kind seek to use the power of government to informed their particular religious beliefs on the rest of us. Nothing was more antithetical to the Founders wisdom than the imposition of a state religion. Religious freedom and the utter separation of church and state was a fervently held belief amongst our Founders and a principle reason why the came to these shores and why they fought in Our Revolution.

    Pence and his kind in imposing their religious views, in opposing the rights of women, opposing the concept of one man – one vote with their gerrymandering and support for corporate money in politics are, by comparison to our Founder’s, the foremost liberals in this country. Liberals are not people that advocate human rights. That is what our Founders did. Liberals are those that take great liberties with your rights and mine, most especially by seeking to diminish them, in the voting booth, in public speech and even in our bedrooms.

    That, is precisely why the Founders fretted over whether to even list our rights and then, true to form, compromised on a workable solution, what was the language of the 2nd proposed article and became the 9th Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The 9th Amendment is the Rosetta Stone of the Constitution, there because the Founders had great fear that people would come along calling for an expansion of government authority, most especially over our private and religious lives by trivializing their most salient and completely agreed upon point of view, namely that they were explicit and exact in describing the limited powers of government.

    Given that, should one read the SCOTUS decisions in Griswold v Connecticut and Roe v Wade, and most especially Justice Goldberg’s concurring opinion in Roe, one would realize that these are more than reproductive rights cases, they are human rights cases of the greatest significance precisely because they evoke our Founder’s view over what constitutes the proper relationship between free people and a government of explicitly stated and limited powers.

    Today, and in recent years, the true conservatives on the Supreme Court have been the advocates of human rights, not the advocates of expanded corporate rights, voter suppression, unlimited money to buy politicians or the picking of a president. Those justices, mistakenly called conservatives when nothing more or less than social and religious conservatives are the true liberals on the court, the very justices taking liberties with your rights and mine.

    Is interesting that the likely sole exception to this point of view comes from the so called social or religious conservative’ support for the 2nd Amendment, so much so that as with the NRA, one would think that was the only amendment. It is not, but the 2nd Amendment is the only one with millions of dollars in NRA pipeline there to corrupt a political process, represent not sportsmen and sportswoman, but the firearms industry and to preclude a healthy and needed discussion of what can be done to uphold the 2nd Amendment and end the senseless slaughter of innocents.

    By way of disclosure, I used to vote primarily for Republicans and now primarily for independents and Democrats. I am also a Patron Life Member of the NRA who rather than just complain, actually votes for new leadership every chance I get.

    • In this country the most tenacious, pernicious, ubiquitous, and destructive social problem is racial prejudice against blacks, and its consequences. And it all started with the Founding Father’s inability or refusal to extend their “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” doctrine to their black slaves. Freedom is an easy word to throw around, by anarchists on up to dictators, but it’s not so easy to establish and maintain.

  8. The U.S. is one of the most Shariah-compliant nations in the world

    Shariah originally, much like Torah law in Judaism, was about the rules and regulations that allowed for proper worship, and proper societal conduct.

    This includes equal rights for all, and fair treatment under the law.

    The non-Islamic perversions of Shariah that most people in the West consider to be Shariah – are not. They are an attempt by extremists to return to their mistaken view of “original Islam”.

    Islam is not the enemy.

    Shariah is not the enemy.

    Extremists are the enemy –

    and the three unbeatable weapons held by the peaceful majority are

    1. sincerity, 2, respectful communication and 3 . education.

    What exactly is the God Given superiority of English common law regarding civil functions like marriage contracts, divorce settlements, grievances, wills & estates?

    As long as they fit under the universal umbrella of American legal precedent (no polygamy or abuse of minors, no spousal abuse, acceptance of written will where present, etc).

    If two Muslims are in a car accident or a fist fight and have a traditional method to settle their civil infraction, why are the US courts going to try to supersede?

    The same might be said of the mafia. They had their own ‘tradition’ of resolving civil matters (restitution, apology, debt of honor), and the US courts kept out unless it broke US law (crime, murder).

    Even the Catholic Church has councils to decide if a priest can bless a mixed-religion marriage; if a catholic marriage is “annulled” to allow remarried spouses to take communion, or if individuals can enter or stay in cloisters. Should we fear these “church courts”?

  9. In Islamic jurisprudence ijtihad( independent reasoning) is a vital aspect . It is not reaffirmation but reinterpretation based on new ideas, discoveries, situations and circumstances.

    One specific circumstance is, whether a Muslim individual lives in a Muslim majority country( example Turkey) or a Muslim minority country (example USA)

    Some examples

    1. A decade or two ago Muslim scholars were against organ transplantation surgery but now they say it is not against Shariah law,

    2. Restricted abortion under a certain conditions

    3. Artificial insemination ( making use of a woman’s husband’s semen but not any other relation or outsider)

    4. Muslim scholars did not allow Muslims to establish banks as banking business is based on Riba : that is interest based business in the 19th or 20th century .

    But based on new Shariah interpretations and new definitions of “interest”, there are hundreds of Islamic banking net works through out the Muslim world and even conventional non-Muslim owned banks have Shariah friendly banking and investment services

    5. Same thing about the business of both life insurance and general insurance
    These were forbidden according to Shari rules of yesteryear Muslim clerics. But now by new Shariah interpretations they have allowed what they call in Arabic Takaful

    (a type of insurance system devised to comply with the sharia laws, in which money is pooled and invested. )

    6. Buying, for example, houses by mortgage was not allowed by the Muslim clerics in 1950s or even 60s, but now by a new interpretation based on the fall in the purchasing power of money over time due to high rate of inflation, the scholars allow Muslims buying houses by a Islamic system of mortgage based on outright buying.

    Under this system the price of the house is fixed at the time of signing the agreement and the monthly instalment is paid towards the original cost of the building (house/flat/apartment etc)

    7 Birth control under an old interpretation of Sharia was totally forbidden by the clerics fifty years ago but now they do allow sterilization, birth control pills, copper T ( “IUD” stands for “intrauterine device.” Shaped like a “T” and a bit bigger than a quarter, an IUD fits inside a woman’s uterus. It prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs.)

    Shariah regulations are a continually evolving concept as any Statute law or constitutional, criminal and civil laws.

  10. The following are a major moral sharia teachings of found in the Quran and in all major religions.

    Would American republican politicians blindly support forbidding all these simply because these are part of the religious duties

    praying five times a day

    fasting for a month during the 9th Arabic month called Ramadan

    Paying 2.5% of the excess wealth to the poor as wealth tax (called Zakah)

    Going on pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a Muslims life time

    How do the above prevent a Muslim being a good American citizen?

    AND ALSO the following moral sharia laws or obligations

    obligatory feeding the poor

    protecting the orphans

    punishment for misappropriating the wealth of the orphans

    Fighting against the oppressors and those who chased people from their homes and lands,

    Charity and social justice and selling provisions at subsidised prices to the poor

    laws of war such as protecting the women, children, sick, aged, not cutting down the fruit trees, forbidding mutilation,

    cancelling out the money lent to the poor who are unable to pay,

    solving matrimonial disputes by arbitration,

    protecting the places of worship of all religions,
    respecting the parents .

    God’s morals is an essential compendium of laws based on moral code that every Govt has included in their constitutional laws, the substance is there but the form is different.

    Will anybody dare to say that there is no such thing as morality when a Government drafts laws and regulations?

  11. Rulers are allowed to suspend and amend Shariah laws


    Umar ibn al-Khattab set aside the penal laws for penalty for stealing during the year of the famine because people were STEALING to EAT and they had no means of provisions whatsoever.

    He also forbade selling the female slave who has borne a child to her master and who is immediately considered free after his death, and marrying the women from ahlul kitaab.

    He did all these for the sake of Istihsaan, a well known issue in Usul al Fiqh which means “equity” in the Shariah.

    So he didn’t change the law in any way by doing this.

    This can be found in the book Usul al Fiqh by Muhammad Kamali and Early Development by Ahmad Hassan

  12. The Nazi who sent America to the moon, Werner Von Braun, said, (after 20 years of living in Florida) of Americans, (paraphrasing) “The Americans will always need someone to hate. Right now it’s the communists. Tomorrow it will be the Muslims and after that it will be space aliens. “

    • Washington is quite consistent in its policies everywhere, that is liquidating the enemies of Israel and those who rebel against American interests.

      Without enemies, the USA is a nation without purpose and direction.

      Iraq. has already experienced the most ferocious sustained bombing of a nation in the history of the planet at the hands of the U.S. and its allies together with a regime of economic sanctions that amounts to genocide.

      How many of us knew the History of United States Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present”

      How many of us are aware of the “The US versus the World at the United Nations,” which compiles 150 examples of General Assembly resolutions on which the United States was outvoted by mind-boggling margins.

      These include resolutions “declaring that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development, etc. are human rights calling for “Protection against products harmful to health and the environment” and, of course, seeking the end of the economic embargo against Cuba with only Israel joining the U.S. in opposition

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