Column: No place for xenophobia

Dawud Walid

It seems that the more glimmers of progress that we experience, the more ominous our political futures feel — and they often include xenophobia. Without looking far, we can glance at one political race in which candidates are currently jockeying for nominations in which subtle fear of the other was injected into a public conversation.

During a recent debate in Novi for the next contender for the Republican party in the 11th Congressional district, candidates were posed a question on their positions pertaining to sharia in America.

Of course, all of them stated that American law should be followed here and not sharia. The question posed not only lacked serious import but spoke to underlying “Make America Great Again” populism that has divided our country more than perhaps since the 1960s.

According to Pew Research’s latest numbers, Muslims do not even make up 2 percent of the American population.

Even if Muslims had some sinister scheme to do away with the Supremacy Clause within the U.S. Constitution, which automatically trumps any legislation that attempts to override federal law, and the Establishment Clause, which guarantees that no religion can be favored over others in America, it is improbable that our miniscule percentage of the population could pull off such a grand feat.

Moreover, American Muslims do not advocate for sharia to be the law of the land, even though there is no such thing as a fixed codex of laws called sharia.

There is, however, already the practice of sharia in America which is protected by the First Amendment.

Sharia is a path towards faithfulness that factors in norms, local customs and civil laws of whatever land Muslims which live in similarly to how Jewish religious codes and Catholic Canon guides Jews and Catholics wherever they reside.

In short, such questioning had no real significance to our lives within America beyond keeping alive anxieties about Muslims being a potential fifth column.

Ninety years ago, Al Smith faced anti-Catholic rhetoric when he ran for the Democratic nomination for president. Almost 30 years later, John F. Kennedy faced similar but not as much anti-Catholic rhetoric when he ran which sadly pressed him to say that “I am not the Catholic candidate for president” due to ridiculous insinuations that the Vatican would somehow be controlling him via remote.

We should be more enlightened now rather than repeating the same bigotry that frames the practice of Islam as somehow not American enough or brings into question the patriotism of Muslim candidates. Fayrouz Saad, by the way, is a Michigan Muslim who is one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination in the same congressional district.

In 2018, Michigan congressional candidates should not be asked questions about whether they prefer American law over any religious codes nor should candidates incorporate riling up anti-Muslim sentiments as part of their talking points just because it is acceptable among some within their bases.

There are bigger issues to deal with in our state and country.

Dawud Walid is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-MI.