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Book Review: Demystifying Shariah

We moved to the Southeast side of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1985 to be closer to my work. My daily commute was still long and it took me past a number of churches and the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids. I recognized the Islamic Center was different from the other religious edifices I passed, although I didn’t pay it much attention. The nearby Mother Mosque was the first mosque built in North America and Islam has a long, rich history here. In Iowa most of us are used to the valuable contributions of Muslims in the community.

That was before anti-Muslim sentiment rose to prominence in the United States, changing everything.

In her recently released book, Demystifying Shariah: What it is, How it Works, and Why it’s not Taking Over Our Country, author Sumbul Ali-Karamali writes about the recent change.

Between 9/11 and 2010, hate crimes against Muslims had actually declined in the United States. But in 2010 they spiked, for no easily discernible reason–no terrorist attacks by Muslims, no ISIS horror stories. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies two causes for the increase in hate crimes: (a) the deliberately engineered controversy about an Islamic cultural center, modeled on Jewish Community Centers, in New York, and (b) a report by lawyer and anti-Muslim propagandist David Yerushalmi and others asserting that Muslims were trying to impose shariah in American criminal courts.

Demystifying Shariah, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, pp. 189-190.

Ali-Karamali explained the “Islamophobia industry,” a network of individuals and organizations who disseminate anti-Muslim propaganda into the public discourse. At its center was claims “shariah law” was creeping into U.S. society and given time would impose Islam on hapless Americans. The phrase “shariah law” reflects a lack of understanding of what shariah is.

“Shariah itself mandates that Muslims follow the law of the land in which they live, whether the land is “Islamic” or not.

Why, then, have the last several years seen the rise of ominous new concepts like “creeping shariah: and “shariah takeover”? Amazingly enough, the current shariah scare, groundless and vituperative, is due largely to one man (David Yerushalmi).

Demystifying Shariah, Sumbul Ali-Karamali, page 189.
Sumbul Ali-Karamali

Demystifying Shariah covers the history of Islam from the birth of Muhammad around 570 CE to the present. For Americans who know Islam exists, yet know little about a religion with more than 1.8 billion world-wide members, it is a great way to learn more about shariah and Muslim-American communities. Knowledge is the best defense when right wingers attempt to scare us for political motivation. Ali-Karamali draws on scholarship and her degree in Islamic law to explain how shariah operates in the lives of Muslims and what it means in terms of law. As the title suggests, shariah is not taking over our country.

The book is organized into three major parts: the basics and foundations of shariah, including the birth of Islam; the story of shariah which addresses the scary stuff (like amputation and stoning) perpetuated by the Islamophobia industry; and recognizing Islamophobia and the causes of Muslim stereotypes.

Whether readers know a little or a lot about Islam or shariah, this book is worth reading. Ali-Karamali presents well-researched and useful information about the history of Islam and the rising consequences of Islamophobia in America after 2010.

A Star Trek fan, Ali-Karamali grew up in California answering questions on Islam because she was one of few Muslims in her schools and community. She’s still answering those questions. To learn more about her and her work, check out her website, https://subulalikaramali.com.

~ First published on Blog for Iowa

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