By: James Sherrod – he can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The first amendment is one of the main selling points of the U.S.A. and one of the most hotly debated amendment of our constitution. This foundation of our nation guarantees the right of an individual to believe in any religion and act on those beliefs. This sounds great, and has generally been a really strong freedom for the citizens of this country. But does anyone really want complete freedom of religion?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Imagine that a new religion began spreading in the United States. Lets call our new religion Purism. Its followers, the Purists, believe that everyone must believe in Purism. Purists are directed to attempt to convert everyone to Purism. If someone refuses to believe in Purism, they should be killed. Also, if someone tries to leave the Purist faith they are to be killed or completely disowned by their family and ostracized from the Purist society.
Since the Constitution grants the right to believe any religion and act on those beliefs, does the Constitution support the right of the Purist to kill the non-believer?!
Historically the Supreme Court has ruled that violence is not protected by the first amendment. However, this is not an absolute ruling. Recently Michigan and Minnesota have been in the news for incidents of female genital mutilation. A practice of removing external portions of female genitalia common to certain religious beliefs. There are also examples of cults and animal sacrifice being protected by the first amendment. So perhaps it is best not to solely rely on government to draw these lines for us. If we as individuals, as a family, and as a society, reject violent religions, maybe that would be the most effective defense.
The 1st amendment has been pushed to its legal limits a number of times. Scientology is a recent example of a religion battling for rights, or a more humorous example of the Church of Cannabis, who’s members sought to get around marijuana laws. These types of battles have largely been viewed by the public as somewhat irrelevant, but what if a religion as violent as our Purism example really started taking root in our nation? What if I told you it already has.
Welcome to Islam. Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and the fastest growing. Muslims currently make up 25% of the worlds population and are projected to hit 30% in under half a century. Not only this, but Muslim woman average the most number of children of any religion and Islam has some of the most severe punishments for leaving the religion. These numbers are very large on a global scale, compared to a smaller number of Muslims following Islam within the United States, but it is growing here, too.
But does Islam really equate to our made up example of Purism? The question of Islam teaching violence against non-believers is not new. Most major religions instruct believers to spread the word of it’s message. The Christians, for example, are instructed by the Great Commission to go into all the world and teach people about Jesus.
This, however, is a stark difference to the instruction of violence from Muhammad to Muslims.
The debate over Islam’s teaching against non-believers has been going on for some time, and this is largely due to the conflicting message the Quran appears to give when texts are pulled from context. However, once the complete picture of the Islamic Faith is seen, there is no doubt that its teachings are very clear on violence towards non-believers.
A common counter point to this is that the violent portions of the Quran were a specific time in history just like the violence in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This argument continues to say that Islam is no different from Christianity in that it had periods of violence but is now the religion of peace. This is a great deflective argument but it is completely false and actually backwards.. In fact the violent directives given by the Quran are largely from the last revaluation to Muhammad. A great speaker on this topic is a man named Nabeel Qureshi. As a former Muslim who set out to defend his faith against this very topic he wound up leaving the faith. I encourage you to listen to his videos.
Another key thing to point out about Islam is that the Quran is not the only source for the teachings of the faith. The Sunnah and Hadith are records of the prophet Muhammad that are also used to shape the faith and actions of a Muslim. It is from these texts that Shariah Law is derived. Shariah Law is a type of legal system for Muslims to abide by. If the term Shariah Law sounds familiar you may have heard it used when talking about terrorism. Shariah Law is the most violent portion of the Muslim faith and though many try, it is very difficult to separate from the rest of Islam. Beyond the Hadith and Sunnah there is a religious hierarchy that has authority within the faith. For example Shariah Law has some latitude in interpretation by an Imam, which is a regional authority of Islam.
In conclusion, I encourage you to learn about the Muslim faith, because information and understanding of an ideology is the greatest defense against it. As Islam continues to grow as a global religion it will continue to impact our nation. Whether a large portion of our population is Muslim or our country’s military remains entangled with Islamic nations, our laws will undoubtedly be effected. It is important for us as individuals and communities to understand these beliefs and decide for ourselves where we stand on such issues.