February 28, 2007

Keith Ellison doesn’t like tobacco smoke.  One day last week, a member of his staff smelled “a very strong odor” coming from a nearby office in their building.  In typical liberal fashion, he didn’t track down the vile offender and ask him if he might, out of deference to Mr. Ellison, extinguish his cigar.  Instead, he called the cops.

It turns out that the smoker had a perfect right to enjoy his cigar”€”the building in question is not covered by the city’s draconian nonsmoking ordinance.  But the story doesn’t end there, because Mr. Ellison himself, informed of this fact, dropped by to ask the smoker to refrain in the future.

All of this might sound like a normal day in our brave new health-conscious world, except for a few salient facts.  Mr. Ellison is a freshman congressman, a Democrat from Minnesota”€”and the first Muslim ever to serve in Congress.  The building in question was a House office building in the nation’s capital.  And the offender is Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), a longtime critic of open immigration, and currently a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Mr. Ellison’s office now claims that the congressman suffers from “seasonal asthma,” implying that his dislike of cigar smoke has nothing to do with his religious beliefs.  Since Mr. Ellison saw fit to swear his oath of office with his hand upon the Koran, however, skeptics might be forgiven for wondering whether his concerns go just a little bit beyond his health.

Are we seeing the convergence of the therapeutic state and Islamic law?

Some Muslims in America are willing to make the connection clear.  Dr. Khalid Siddiqui is the president of the Muslim Association of Greater Rockford (Illinois) and the chairman of the board of the Rockford Iqra School.  He was also, at one time, the assistant director of neonatology at Swedish-American Hospital, the largest hospital in Rockford.  In February 2002, Aaron Wolf, the associate editor of Chronicles, and I interviewed Dr. Siddiqui and others in the library of the school.  When the subject turned to sharia, Dr. Siddiqui assured us that Americans do not have to fear the imposition of Islamic law in the United States”€”not because Muslims here have no interest in establishing sharia but because, when sharia comes to the United States, it will come democratically.  The Constitution, he explained, is a “pure Islamic document,” and he detailed how Muslim doctors such as himself would be able to frame the debate over, say, a nationwide ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol purely in terms of health.  Ditto with tobacco, and with pork.

Sharia would benefit us all, Dr. Siddiqui concluded, because when men make laws, they make them in their own interest.  But “Who is superior to us?  Only God.  If He made the laws, then He can be unbiased.”

God may be unbiased, but those who consider themselves servants of Allah certainly are not, and they, of course, are the ones who will implement and enforce sharia.  Magdy Kandil, one of the founders of MAGR and one of the other men we interviewed, was very frank about the issues that have concerned Muslims in America since September 11.  Chief among them is the restriction of civil liberties, which Kandil argued was part of a broader backlash against Islam.  This backlash is coming “from some minority in the U.S. who now feel threatened by a new minority.”

Whom could he possibly mean, I asked, since political and religious leaders have been quick to embrace Islam and declare it a religion of peace?  He didn’t answer but just looked at me in annoyance: He knew that I knew that he meant Jews.

Those European countries that have seen significant Islamic immigration in recent decades”€”France, Spain, Germany, among others”€”have also experienced an upswing in anti-Semitic attacks.  We’re not talking about mere rhetoric, or anti-Semitism as defined by Norman Podhoretz; in fact, as Leon Hadar has argued in Chronicles, that kind of “anti-Semitism (both its racial and religious versions) has been in steep decline in most of Western Europe.”  Instead, Islamic anti-Semitism has taken the form of actual physical attacks on Jews (or people mistaken for Jews), destruction of Jewish cemeteries, and vandalism of synagogues.  All of this was documented in an exhaustive study by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), but, as Srdja Trifkovic has pointed out, the EUMC “decided not to publish the 112-page study because of its finding that Muslims were major perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts in the EU.”

To the extent that there has been any debate in recent years over Muslim immigration to the United States, it has focused on the security threat that an Islamic fifth column might pose, and understandably so.  Despite the best efforts of our government and the mainstream media to hide or downplay acts of violence committed by Muslims living in America, the stories just keep popping up.  Most recently, it was Suleymen Talovic, a Bosnian Muslim immigrant who shot up a mall in Salt Lake City, killing six people.  In December, it was Derrick Shareef, a black convert, first to the Nation of Islam and then to the mainstream of the “religion of peace,” who dreamed of wreaking similar carnage in the largest shopping mall in Rockford during Advent.  And who can forget the sniper shootings around Washington, D.C., of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo; or the attack on the El Al counter at the Los Angeles International Airport by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet; or the assault on the Seattle Jewish Federation by Naveed Afzal Haq?

Most of us, apparently.

Is it any wonder, then, that we’re resolutely ignoring the far-greater long-term threat posed by Muslim immigration to the United States?  In 2005, according to the New York Times, “more people from Muslim countries became legal permanent United States residents”€”nearly 96,000″€”than in any year in the previous two decades.”  Four years after September 11, the American government was welcoming record numbers of Muslims to a land where, by the very definition of oppression in Islam”€”not being able to live under sharia”€”Muslims are oppressed.

Our post-Christian elites in New York and Washington, D.C., cannot understand why anyone would take his professed faith seriously.  They assume that the “Muslim problem,” to the extent that they even acknowledge its existence, will be solved by liberal applications of (liberal) education and by the conversion of Muslim immigrants to the very American religion of Mammon.

What, then, do we make of Dr. Siddiqui, a highly educated Muslim who makes more money in a month than many Americans make in a year?  He used to be more secular, he told us, but his faith in Allah has grown, and he wants his children to become even more faithful than he.  And he wants them to be able to live under sharia.

Dr. Siddiqui may get his wish.  To the extent that the details of his vision coincide with that of the teetotaling, tobacco-hating, puritanical soccer mom (who may even call herself a Christian), Muslims can make inroads in American law without ever acknowledging the religious basis of the change.  Congressman Ellison has asthma, after all”€”just like little Cody and Sydney.

Scott P. Richert is the executive editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and the author of the monthly column “€œThe Rockford Files.”€


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