“When you have an immigration policy that allows for the importation of millions of radical Muslims, you are also importing their radical ideology – an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the foundations of western democracy – such as gender equality, pluralism, and individual liberty,” said Tancredo. “The best way to safeguard America against the importation of the destructive effects of this poisonous ideology is to prevent its purveyors from coming here in the first place.”
“Tancredo Proposes Anti-Sharia Measure in Wake of U.K. Certification of Islamic Courts,” 18 September, 2008.
The problem with Mr. Tancredo’s H. R. 6975, aside from its obvious flaws — its unconstitutionality, its bigoted motivation, its shoddy framing, and its over all mediocrity — is that it, like so much of the discussion of American Islam, relies on a false analogy between American and European Muslims. It presumes that because Muslims in country X behave in one way that other Muslims will behave the same in county Y. It assigns problems of social, economic, cultural, and political well being that are uniquely European to a population that overwhelming does not suffer those same troubles without any evidence or real reason for concern. It further more misreads the European Muslim condition (“millions of radical Muslims”? Millions?) and places American Islam within the same schema — ignoring the actual realities of the American Muslim population, which is better integrated and in better economic standing than most other immigrant and minority groups. It ignores the entirely underwhelming demand for the institution of “sharia” in the United States, by Muslims or anyone else. Mr. Tancredo’s proposed resolution is more evidence of a severe lack of faith in the durability of American institutions and a deep bigotry towards Muslims, as evidenced by its presumption that all Muslims, as a rule it would seem, are untrustworthy and incapable of being relied upon as decent Americans.
Mr. Tancredo bills this piece of legislation as a “jihad prevention act,” although nothing in the bill mentions any other activities related to “jihad.” The stunning ignorance that this bill pushes in front of the American people is stunning — by its name it attacks the American Muslim’s right to practice his religion as best he can, the meaning of jihad before and above anything else (militarily or otherwise) and by its text attacks a great line of traditions, much of which are not of a legal nature, but rather a personal one, relating to how Muslims should reconcile their faith with the complexities of every day life. While jihad and sharia each hold only one meaning in most western news reports — to reference violent holy war and barbaric religious law — to Muslims, these concepts and practices are multi-layered and multi-faceted. The first and most important meaning of jihad for all Muslims is that of salvation through personal struggle, self-help and purification. Sharia, too, hold more than one meaning and is passed through lines of tradition such as the tafsir and hadith which offer systems of evaluation for Muslims to apply their faith to their every day lives’ across time. Sharia law of the variety that Mr. Tancredo is so concerned about is a part of this as well, but by tradition is not carried over into non-Muslim lands, and only in a few countries does it carry on with the kind of barbarity that the Congressman cites. Inequities between women and men abound in the application of this kind of sharia, but few Muslims wish to carry these practices with them when they come to America or other countries. It is telling that Mr. Tancredo does not cite statistics from his own country to justify his bigoted bill, and relies on foreign statistics instead. If he had bothered to look around and investigate American Muslims, he would have no reason to worry. But Tom Tancredo’s policy seems to be to antagonize Americans and their immigrant brethren without shame. This is fine and well, but it is not leadership and it is not wise.