by Raymond Ibrahim
National Review Online
All humans generally live according to some set of priorities. A person may make a priority of health, of pleasure, of study, of almost anything, really. But it is practically a law of nature that a person must make a priority of something. Even those who lead unstructured existences unconsciously live according to some set of unarticulated priorities, if only according to something so basic as the primal need for food, drink, and shelter.
For many people, religious practice — striving to obey God’s commandments — is a high priority, the highest, even. Yet this priority can come into conflict with the character of the society in which one lives. This is undoubtedly the case for devout Muslims who voluntarily relocate to Western nations. This invariably will compromise what many of them profess to be their ultimate priority: living in accordance to the divine laws of Allah (i.e., sharia — most of which is derived from the words and deeds of seventh-century Mohammad).
Some of these Muslims arrive in the West and don’t want to compromise. Consider some recent news stories:
A few Muslim cashiers working at Target stores in Minneapolis are refusing to scan customer purchases that may contain pork. Instead of swiping the products themselves — which is their job — they are inconveniently asking the customers or fellow employees to do it.
Muslim cab drivers have long discriminated against customers carrying or suspected of carrying alcohol. Officials at the St. Paul International Airport estimate that, on average, alcohol-bearing customers seeking cab rides are denied 77 times per month. Some blind customers have also been turned down on account of their seeing-eye dogs.
Muslims in Seattle have requested (and been granted) regularly scheduled hours for their exclusive use of public pools; an all-Muslim-girls basketball team at Chicago university demanded that men be barred from attending their matches; some 200 Muslim women signed a petition at a Michigan fitness center demanding separate workout times for men and women, or at least the erection of a screen divider between the men’s and women’s section (which was granted).
All of these issues revolve around the Muslim desire to live according to Allah’s laws — which, among other things, ban contact with pigs, dogs, and alcohol, and have rigid social guidelines, especially concerning interaction between the sexes. From a religious point of view, the anti-social behavior of these Muslims can be, if not excused, then certainly understood. They are doing only what their religion commands them to do. And their refusal to compromise on these points demonstrates that adherence to the commandments of Islam is a priority of the utmost importance to them.
However, if living in strict accordance to sharia is the first priority of some Muslims, one wonders: Why have they voluntarily come and immersed themselves in infidel countries that do not recognize sharia law and, indeed, allow many things that run counter to it, such as the selling and consumption of alcohol and pork and the liberal intermingling of the sexes? Most of the Muslim countries that Muslims abandon for the West are much more conducive to the Muslim lifestyle and uphold many if not all aspects of sharia law. Yet, each year, thousands of supposedly “ultra-devout” Muslims forsake these countries and, of their own free will, come to live among wine-imbibing, swine-eating libertines. Why?
It is for the same reason that everyone else comes to the West — for the “good life.” They come in order to be prosperous and to enjoy opportunities, security, and equality the likes of which they could never have in their own countries, where laws quite often follow the sharia. The vast majority of Muslims emigrating from the Islamic world do not leave due to necessity — say, oppression or starvation. No, they come to the infidel West solely to prosper materially.
But why are Muslims of the “ultra-pious” variety seeking after material comfort in the first place — especially when doing so will almost certainly undermine their professed desire to live strictly according to the sharia? Coming to live in a democratic country composed of some 300 million infidels is bound to affect any Muslim’s observance of sharia. These pious Muslims risk coming into daily contact with, not only pork, alcohol, and dogs, but all sorts of other defilements: flamboyant homosexuals, scantily clad women (who are often in positions of authority!), gamblers and usurers, to name a few. Are they not concerned that they, or especially their children, might become contaminated by the licentious and seductive practices of the infidel West? If their priority is truly to follow sharia, should they not remain in their Muslim countries of origin, which, if not as prosperous as the West, are definitely more conducive to the Muslim lifestyle?
Or, could it be that, despite all the ruckus (and subsequent headlines) made by these Muslims, living in accordance to Allah and his sharia is not their first priority, after all? At least, not to the degree that they would be unwilling to put this priority at substantial risk for the sake of living the good life, in a strictly secular and materialistic sense.
Furthermore, if common sense does not dissuade them from relocating to the West, the very sharia they claim to want to closely observe should. For instance, if pork and alcohol are condemned (Koran 5:4; 2:219), voluntarily living among infidels, idolaters, and atheists is looked on no better. The Korandeclares: “O you who believe! Take neither Jews nor Christians as friends…whoever among you turns to them is one of them” (5:51).
There are countless verses and traditions, in fact, that make it clear that Muslims are to be in a constant state of animosity toward non-Muslims, waging war through tongue and teeth in order to spread Islam, and, when finally in a position of superiority, discriminating against those who refuse to convert (see, for example, 3:28, 5:73, 5:17, 9:5, 9:25, etc). When the Meccans persisted in their unbelief, refusing to accept the prophet-hood — and subsequent authority — of Mohammad, he finally abandoned his kinsfolk with these parting words, which some Muslims believe still define the proper relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims: “We [Muslims] disown you [non-Muslims] and what you worship besides Allah. We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us — until you believe in Allah alone!” (60:40).
So why are some Muslims making public scenes here in the United States over scanning bacon or transporting customers with sealed bottles of wine in their luggage while at the same time freely choosing to live with — and of course benefiting from — those whom they are commanded to hate and wage war upon, or at the very least, disavow and be clean of?
“Straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel” has long been a sure sign of hypocrisy. All Muslims who freely migrate to the West must understand that they can’t have it both ways — that they can’t have their cake and eat it, too. They must choose between either strictly upholding the laws and customs of 7th-century Arabia (in which case they should remain in their “sharia friendly” countries of origin) or, if prosperity and comfort is their first choice, let them relocate to the West, but prepare to assimilate — that is, compromise — to some degree. It’s a simple question of priorities.
Raymond Ibrahim is a research librarian at the Library of Congress. His new book, The Al Qaeda Reader, which translates Osama bin Laden’s communiqués, will be available in April 2007.