By Ryan O’Reilly
There have been some seismic blips in recent news regarding certain states’ efforts to make shariah law — a function of Islam similar to Mosaic law in its broad spectrum — illegal.
Islam is like other religions in that the majority understand what place ancient, scriptural law has in modern society. There are laws that can be universally useful to everybody, like “Thou shalt not kill.” There are laws that don’t affect the general public, like that you’re not supposed to let different breeds of cattle graze together. Then there are the laws that are both unethical and illegal. For example, in Deuteronomy people who discover that a neighboring city employs a different religion are called to kill everyone in said city including the animals.
So now you have legislative bodies trying to make the Islamic version of Mosaic law illegal. This is the other side of the coin in defending the precepts of liberty espoused in our Constitution; when we defend the collective right to something we individually disagree with. This is where we separate idealist Americans from paper tiger Americans. Whether you subscribe to Islamic law or not, to make the conceptuality of religious doctrine illegal violates the constitutional free exercise of religion. Besides that, such laws are superfluous and unnecessary.
There is more than a passing similarity to where Islam is now and where Christianity was in the past. Say around the time of the Inquisition. Christianity at that time punished apostasy along the same lines and for the same reasons that fundamentalist Muslims do now. Islam is proportionally young compared to the other Abrahamic religions, and is still in the heat of — may we say — its adolescent self-confidence. A phase all religions seem to undergo at some point or two in their histories. Bottom line is that there are extremists in every religion in existence both today and throughout history. This fact seems to be inescapable, but I see individual or even small-group extremism as a function of individual psychosis rather than sinister intent on the part of the institution itself. Whether the extremist has been brainwashed, coerced or simply came off the assembly line with a few crossed wires, the need for legislation against the greater religious body isn’t necessary.
The overriding consideration in this issue is that the function of law in our republic wins the final argument. So while you could deplore religious doctrine to justify the stoning of an adulterer, our existing laws make such activity a crime.
Law is reflective of a country’s mores, which is why it acts as the reference point between religious laws people follow, and which ones they don’t. You could argue that it’s the chicken before the egg situation, but one can be relatively certain that nobody is safe to follow the letter of their religious laws. It would be illegal to do so. We don’t need special legislation against particular faiths when the action of the individual is already governed by law.
Ryan O’Reilly is a published author, entrepreneur and part-time apple farmer living in Clever. Contact Ryan by visiting www.ryancoreilly.com.