Bashing Islam from ignorance is not a wise course

Earlier this month, in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was on the stump, supporting members of that community opposed to the building of an Islamic center.

“Our Constitution guarantees separation of church and state,” Cain trumpeted. “Islam combines church and state. [The protesters are] objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws.”

Cain might actually be on solid constitutional grounds in his assertion that local communities can ban mosques. The First Amendment specifically forbids Congress — not local communities — from either establishing a religion or prohibiting the free practice thereof.

Of course, there is that little matter of the “incorporation doctrine,” which says the restrictions on Congress and the federal government in the U.S. Constitution also apply to state and local governments.

But assuming there was no “incorporation doctrine,” there would still be a problem with Cain’s position.

If predominantly Christian communities can ban mosques, what’s to prevent them from banning synagogues? Or Buddhist temples? Such communities might even ban churches for Christian sects or denominations that don’t meet local approval.

Back in March, Cain was on Neil Cavuto’s show on the Fox News network, claiming American Muslims “are trying to force Sharia law on the people of this country. They are trying to push Sharia law off on this country.”

It’s amazing — and continually boggles my mind — how many instant experts on the religion of Islam have popped up in this country since Sept. 11, 2001. First, there were the experts who claimed Islam was an evil religion. Then came those who, completely ignoring historic reality, claimed that Islam didn’t have the same prophets or come from the same tradition as Judaism and Christianity. And now come the Sharia law experts.

I learned about Sharia five years before Sept. 11, in the hot, dusty sands of the country that is now called South Sudan. I had gone there with another reporter to do a story about the slave trade in that country. Arab Muslims from northern Sudan were still raiding the south and capturing blacks and carting them off to be slaves in the north. That had been going on since at least 1820.

Sudan was in the throes of what was then a 24-year-old civil war, pitting the Christian and Animist blacks of the south against their Arab Muslim northern neighbors. One of the reasons for the rebellion was that the Islamic regime in the north had, indeed, imposed Sharia law on the land.

“How can I, as a Christian judge, be a Sharia judge?” one Southerner asked me.

But here’s something the Herman Cains of America don’t know: Fighting side by side with those black Christian rebels were black Muslim rebels from the Nuba Mountains, who didn’t like the Islamic regime’s brand of Islam — or Sharia law — any more than that Christian judge did. The Muslim rebels didn’t care for the intolerant brand of Islam practiced by their northern
neighbors, either.

Somebody on Team Cain needs to advise their candidate that not all Muslims think alike.


Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to Sudan.

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