Sean Hannity falsely claimed that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wants to "shred our Constitution" and replace it with Sharia law. In fact, Rauf has said that the American political system, including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, is Sharia compliant. Hannity also took Rauf's writings out of context to paint him as "anything but moderate."
Hannity: Rauf wants to replace Constitution with Sharia law
Hannity: "I'm not talking about shredding our Constitution and putting Sharia law as the law of the land in America, as [Rauf] is." On the August 12 edition of his Fox News program, Hannity said that Rauf, who wants to build an Islamic cultural center near the Ground Zero site in New York and has been included in a State Department speaking tour of Muslim nations, "wants America to be Sharia-compliant." Later, Hannity said that "I'm not talking about shredding our Constitution and putting Sharia law as the law of the land in America, as [Rauf] is." Hannity's comments echoed his prior attacks on Rauf for writing in his 2004 book, What's Right With Islam, that "the American political structure is Sharia compliant."
Rauf believes "the American political structure is Shariah compliant" because it "protects" "God-given rights"
In fact, Rauf does not call for replacing the Constitution with Sharia law in What's Right With Islam. Instead, he argued that the "American political structure is Shariah compliant" just like any other political structure that "upholds, protects, and furthers" the "God-given rights" of "life, mind (that is, mental well-being or sanity), religion, property (or wealth), and family (or lineage and progeny)."
Rauf: Declaration of Independence expresses an "Islamic ... ethic." In his book, Rauf writes that the Declaration of Independence "opens with the words 'When ... it becomes necessary for one People ... to assume ... the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them' (italics added)." Rauf comments that "To Muslims, the law decreed by God is called the Shariah, and therefore the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" are by definition Sharia law. From What's Right With Islam:
Grounding itself in reason, just as the Quran and the Abrahamic ethic did in asserting the self-evident oneness of God, the Declaration opens with the most important line in the document: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident." The language evokes the long tradition of natural law, which holds that there is a higher law of right and wrong from which to derive human law and against which human laws may be -- and ought to be -- measured. It is not political will but moral reasoning accessible to all that is the foundation of the American political system.
But "nature," at least in the eyes of believers in God, is just another word for "God's creation," and thus natural law must mean "the laws that God established and structured creation on." These span the spectrum from the laws of the physical sciences such as mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry to the sociological and psychological laws that govern human relationships, all of which are knowable to humans through reason. Thus the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence opens with the words "When ... it becomes necessary for one People ... to assume ... the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them" (italics added).
To Muslims, the law decreed by God is called the Shariah, and therefore the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" are by definition Shariah law. It is a law that has to appeal to human reason and be in accord with human nature, informing us that "a community based on ideas held in common is a far more advanced manifestation of human life than a community resulting from race or language or geographical location."
In 1775, a year before the American Revolution began, Alexander Hamilton wrote, "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, but the hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power." Almost fifty years later, in 1824, Thomas Jefferson noted in reminiscing about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, "We had no occasion to search into musty records, to hunt up royal parchments, or to investigate the laws and institutions of a semi-barbarous ancestry. We appealed to those of nature and found them engraved on our hearts." Could the Abrahamic ethic as natural religion -- Muslims' din al-fitrah as the core definition of Islam -- be any more lucidly and evidently expressed?
What's right about America is its Declaration of Independence, for it embodies and restates the core values of the Abrahamic, and thus also the Islamic, ethic. [pages 82-83]
Rauf: Any system of rule that protects "God-given rights" "is therefore legally 'Islamic,' or Shariah compliant, in its substance." In his book, Rauf writes that "Muslim legal scholars have defined five areas of life that Islamic law must protect and further. These are life, mind (that is, mental well-being or sanity), religion, property (or wealth), and family (or lineage and progeny)." Because the American political system "upholds, protects, and furthers these rights," Rauf says that it is "Shariah compliant, in its substance." From What's Right With Islam:
Many American Muslims regard America as a better "Muslim" country than their native homelands. This may sound surprising if not absurd to many Americans, and Muslims outside America, but it is founded on the argument that the American Constitution and system of governance uphold the core principles of Islamic law.
Muslim legal scholars have defined five areas of life that Islamic law must protect and further. These are life, mind (that is, mental well-being or sanity), religion, property (or wealth), and family (or lineage and progeny). Any system of rule that upholds, protects, and furthers these rights is therefore legally "Islamic," or Shariah compliant, in its substance. Because these rights are God-given, they are inalienable and cannot be deprived of any man or woman without depriving them of their essential humanity.
What I am demonstrating is that the American political structure is Shariah compliant, for "a state inhabited predominantly by Muslims neither defines nor makes it synonymous with an Islamic state. It can become truly Islamic only by virtue of a conscious application of the sociopolitical tenets of Islam to the life of the nation, and by an incorporation of those tenets in the basic constitution of the country." By the same token, a state that does incorporate such sociopolitical tenets has become de facto an Islamic state even if there are no Muslims in name living there, for it expresses the ideals of the good society according to Islamic principles. For America to score even higher on the "Islamic" or "Shariah Compliance" scale, America would need to do two things: invite the voices of all religions to join the dialogue in shaping the nation's practical life, and allow religious communities more leeway to judge among themselves according to their own laws.
The Declaration holds certain truths as self-evident, which links with the Quranic notion of natural religion (din al-fitrah), beliefs embedded in the human heart. Because the Quran asserts that humanity was created from one man and one woman, we are therefore of one family and equal in the eyes of God, differentiated only by our piety and ethical nature. The founders initially enumerated the inalienable rights as life, liberty, and property, replacing the word property with the phrase the pursuit of happiness. Comparing the Declaration's list of rights to the Shariah's list of rights, we find life common to both, while we may say that the Declaration's liberty and pursuit of happiness embrace the Shariah's items mental well-being, family, property, and religion. Aren't our happiness and personal fulfillment found when we are mentally well, enjoying time with our family, tending to our homes, serving humanity and freely practicing the religion of our choice?
The founders then turned to government. Governments exist, the Declaration says, to secure these inalienable rights so that citizens may live the lives they choose. The powers that the government may need to achieve this objective must be derived from the consent of the governed if they are to be just. And if "any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." So the Declaration maintains -- all fully consistent with and expressive of Islamic law's requirements. [Pages 86-87]
Rauf: Islamic ideals allow for constitutional checks and balances. Rauf wrote in What's Right With Islam that Muslim jurists defined principles for "bay'ah," or consent of the governed, to be valid, among them that "Consent of the governed may not be coerced or obtained under duress" and that a leader must "maintain the government's legitimacy by securing, protecting, and furthering the inalienable rights of the governed." Rauf continued:
We can see that in both Islamic and American ideals of government, a legitimate government allows a system of checks and balances on its rule. When the founders focused on drafting the new Constitution in 1787, they wanted a government strong enough to secure Americans' rights against domestic and foreign oppression but not so powerful as to be itself oppressive. To this end, they authorized a central government and gave it specific powers, then checked and balanced these powers through a series of extraordinarily thoughtful measures. [pages 90-91]
Hannity takes Rauf's writings out of context to smear him as an extremist
Hannity: Huffington Post writings make Rauf "anything but moderate." As purported "evidence that shows the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque is anything but moderate," Hannity cited a pair of Huffington Post articles by Rauf. The first was a June 2009 column on his views of "what President Obama should say about Iran's election"; Hannity aired the quote that "He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution -- to establish a government that expresses the will of the people." Hannity added, "Now, recognizing the Iranian revolution is not exactly a moderate idea."
Hannity ignored that Rauf highlighted the 1979 revolution because it overthrew the shah, who had replaced Iran's democratically elected prime minister. In the column, Rauf highlighted that Obama "said the right to peaceably dissent was a universal value" and that "the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected," adding that the 1979 revolution occurred "in part to depose the shah, who had come to power in 1953 after a CIA-sponsored coup overthrew democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddeq." From the column:
As protests mounted in Iran after the election, Obama rightly backed away from inserting the United States into the dispute. He said he was "deeply troubled" by the violence and said the right to peaceably dissent was a universal value.
As the protests continued, violence abated.
Many Iranians who were so hopeful and so engaged in the election now fear their votes did not count, Obama said. "And particularly to the youth of Iran, I want them to know that we in the United States do not want to make any decisions for the Iranians, but we do believe that the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected."
Khamenei indicated that the voices have been heard and respected.
All that set the right tone.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was in part to depose the shah, who had come to power in 1953 after a CIA-sponsored coup overthrew democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddeq. And in part it was an opportunity to craft an Islamic state with a legitimate ruler according to Shia political theory.
After the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took the Shiite concept of the Rightly Guided Imam and created the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, which means the rule of the jurisprudent. This institutionalizes the Islamic rule of law. The Council of Guardians serves to ensure these principles.
Before the election, the Iranian government allowed an unprecedented degree of political discourse so that the election would establish a legitimate ruler.
Now, on the streets of Teheran and undoubtedly in high political circles behind the scenes, Iranians are asking themselves, has this election confirmed the legitimacy of the ruler?
President Obama has rightly said that his administration will not interfere with the internal affairs of Iran, unlike what happened in 1953. Now he has an opportunity to have a greater positive impact on Iranian-American relations.
He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution -- to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.
His administration understands that what is going on now in Iran is an attempt by the Iranian people to live up to their own ideals. Just as American democracy developed over many years, the United States recognizes that this election is part of the process of an evolving democracy in Iran.
That would send a resounding message to the Iranian presidential candidates and their supporters that President Obama understands the ideals of the Islamic Republic and that he seeks a peaceful and harmonious Iran that has the unquestioned support of a majority of its population.
As a result, President Obama may well find that no matter who is elected president of Iran, the chances of a negotiated rapprochement between the two countries would be far greater than it has been in the past 30 years.
Hannity criticized Rauf for saying people should "understand" Sharia, says that Sharia means women are stoned to death for adultery, forced to wear burkas, denied educations. The second Rauf column Hannity highlighted was an April 2009 column on Sharia law, from which Hannity quoted Rauf: "If you strive for justice and fairness in the penal code, then you are in keeping with moral imperative of the Shariah. ... Rather than fear Shariah law, we should understand what it actually is." Later, Hannity purported to "educate" one of his guests about Sharia law: "Where women get stoned to death for adultery, where women who are raped need four male eyewitnesses, where women are forced to wear clothing that they may not necessarily want to wear, where women can't drive, where women can't get an education."
But in that column, Rauf wrote that "we cringe" at interpretations of Sharia law that lead to "women being stoned and forced into hiding behind burkas and denied educations." In his column, Rauf wrote that "we cringe" at interpretations of Sharia law that lead to "women being stoned and forced into hiding behind burkas and denied educations" and "beheadings and amputations." He also made a distinction between Sharia and the "penal code," adding that Muslim countries must "revise the penal code so that it is responsive to modern realities":
We hear a lot about "firebrand" Muslim clerics calling for the installation of Shariah law. It conjures images of women being stoned and forced into hiding behind burkas and denied educations. We think of beheadings and amputations as a form of justice. And we cringe.
But it is important that we understand what is meant by Shariah law. Islamic law is about God's law, and it is not that far from what we read in the Declaration of Independence about "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God." The Declaration says "men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
At the core of Shariah law are God's commandments, revealed in the Old Testament and revised in the New Testament and the Quran. The principles behind American secular law are similar to Shariah law - that we protect life, liberty and property, that we provide for the common welfare, that we maintain a certain amount of modesty. What Muslims want is to ensure that their secular laws are not in conflict with the Quran or the Hadith, the sayings of Muhammad.
Where there is a conflict, it is not with Shariah law itself but more often with the way the penal code is sometimes applied. Some aspects of this penal code and its laws pertaining to women flow out of the cultural context. The religious imperative is about justice and fairness. If you strive for justice and fairness in the penal code, then you are in keeping with moral imperative of the Shariah.
In America, we have a Constitution that created a three-branch form of government - legislative, executive and judiciary. The role of the judiciary is to ensure that the other two branches comply with the Constitution. What Muslims want is a judiciary that ensures that the laws are not in conflict with the Quran and the Hadith. Just as the Constitution has gone through interpretations, so does Shariah law.
The two pieces of unfinished business in Muslim countries are to revise the penal code so that it is responsive to modern realities and to ensure that the balance between the three branches of government is not out of kilter.
Rather than fear Shariah law, we should understand what it actually is. Then we can encourage Muslim countries to make the changes that achieve the essence of fairness and justice that are at the root of Islam.
Hannity criticized "radical" view similar to that expressed by fellow Fox News host Beck
Hannity: Rauf "accuse[d] America" of "being an accessory to what happened on 9-11." Hannity asked guest David Lane: "Do you think it's radical to accuse America, 19 days after 9-11, of being an accessory to what happened on 9-11?" Rauf actually said on the September 30, 2001, edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, "I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened."
Beck: While the U.S. did not "deserve 9-11," the U.S. was "in bed with dictators" and "that causes problems." Talking about "why do you think they hate us in the Middle East," Glenn Beck said: "When people said they hate us, well, did we deserve 9-11? No. But were we minding our business? No. Were we in bed with dictators and abandoned our values and principles? Yes. That causes problems." [Glenn Beck, 4/15/10]