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Peacemaking as Counter-Protest

This post originally appeared on Extranewsfeed.com

On Saturday, June 10, an anti-Muslim, non-profit organization called Act for America is encouraging people in various places throughout the United States to participate in a “March Against Sharia”. Act for America would balk at being called anti-Muslim. They claim they are working to confront terrorism, empowering women and protecting children, energy independence, preserving the Constitution, and supporting Israel. According to their website, “The U.S. Constitution is under attack by Islamist groups due to the rise of Islamic immigration into our country,” a common talking point for anti-Muslim activists in the US. They believe sharia is a danger to the United States and democracy because they believe sharia sanctions honor killings, female genital mutilation, and child brides (all of which are cultural and not based in any religious system of belief).

I agree that honor killings, FGM, and child brides are all horrible and inhumane. These acts occur throughout the continent of Africa, in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, as well as throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. However, these are not ‘Islamic’ actions, and they are not endorsed by any Muslim that I have encountered, even those who are practicing sharia.

While I do not desire to defend or explain sharia at length, a few things need to be said. First, sharia is a way of living in the world. It is quite similar to Torah, which defines how to live one’s life among other people, outlining what is permissible (halal) and what is forbidden (haram). Muslims who practice sharia are listening to scholars over the centuries that have defined what it means to be Muslim in this world by looking at how the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions lived. Secondly, a primary point made by American Muslims is that any Muslim living in a non-Muslim country (like the United States) is compelled to follow the law of the land. Sharia is superseded by the US Constitution according to Islam. Lastly, sharia is unlike Torah in that it is not one codified way of being in the world. There are multiple schools of sharia, and within them many interpretations.

Back to what’s happening on June 10th. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people who are afraid of and even hate Islam and Muslims will be gathering together to use their Constitutional right to free speech in the form of protest. These protests are happening in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington (you can find out where here).

The way I see it, if you are as against this idea as I am, there are two options for how to respond to the March Against Sharia. You could gather some friends, make some signs in support of Muslims in your community, and stage an anti-protest. I assume this will be happening in all of these locations. In this way, everyone gathers together to shout at one another in the name of free speech. There is a good chance that violence could ensue as well, as Jeremy Christian has vilely demonstrated this past week.

Or, you could choose to engage in an act of peacemaking in your community by finding a place where Muslims are inviting the community to break fast and break bread together. Rather than shouting against people you disagree with, in this way you will be showing your Muslim neighbors that you love and welcome them by sharing a place at the table with them. Incidentally, this week and in the next two weeks, there are opportunities in all of those states to do just that. In fact, these break fast meals are happening in at least 30 states around the US this June (you can find them all at se7enfast.com).

How fantastic is it that the very Muslims that many in our country are so afraid of are actually opening their doors to welcome people, feed people, and begin relationships with new people who don’t believe the same as them? This is a profound act of peacemaking. Studies show that 65% of Americans don’t know or have had little interaction with a Muslim. It is no wonder that groups like Act for America exist in these circumstances. The best way we can counter-protest is to make peace at the table with Muslims. I hope you will join me in doing just that.

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