Influential U.S. Imam faces criticism for his comments on the allegations against Kavanaugh

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The Muslim-American co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, Imam Zaid Shakir, has deleted a post from Facebook which suggested Sharia law should be applied in judging whether Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are credible. The post read, “I do not support the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. My position, however, is based neither on the accusations nor the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford”. Instead, he said he did not support Kavanaugh’s nomination because he believes “he lied under oath” and is “too politically partisan to sit on the Supreme Court”.

He went onto say that, based on “Muslim teachings”, he does not believe Ford’s allegations can be used as evidence against Kavanaugh. He cited Qur’an verse 24:4; “Those who bring charges of sexual improprieties against chaste women, then fail to come forth with corroborating witnesses, lash them eighty times and never again accept their testimony. Such are truly corrupt”. He then cited further verses which warn against alleging accusations without witnesses, and which claim that those who do so “are liars in the sight of God”.

Shakir wrote, “The honor these verses are designed to protect is real, as are the condemnations they issue, as well as the punishments they threaten. If anyone can randomly produce vile accusations against anyone they please, and the only standard assessing the veracity of those accusations is our subjective feeling concerning the credibility of the accuser or the accused, none of us would be safe against the impingement of his or her honor”. While he warned against attacking Ford, he claimed “we are to remain silent and if we chose to speak t should be along the lines of the scepticism mentioned in the above-quotes verses and not in the voice of blind acceptance”.

The post had received significant backlash, but in an additional post, Shakir claimed he deleted the original because he “misused verses from the Qur’an to support an argument that would have been more correctly supported by another verse” and because “some people, especially sisters have been harmed and I am not in the business of harming people”. In another post, he withdrew his claim that Dr Ford needed four witnesses to make a credible allegation. He says, “anyone accusing someone of sexual violence, such as attempted rape, need not bring forth four witnesses to corroborate their claim. Furthermore, they are clear of any crime or sin unless after a proper investigation the accuser is proven to have lied”.

He concluded, “While I apologize for that lack of clarity and any hurt it may have caused, I do warn against diminishing the power of patience and prayer. There is always more that can be said about any issue, but I will take my own advice and shut up, pray, and be patient with Allah’s decree”.

Commenting on the post, Imam Tawhidi, an Australian Muslim Scholar often called “Imam of Peace”, told The Daily Wire, “This Imam is a fundamentalist Muslim that’s expressing his opinions based on religious teachings which he was taught. That’s what he was trained to do. He has a terrible record and preaches outdated ideologies that don’t belong in the USA”.

Despite his backtracking on his initials statements, reaction on social media was not favourable, with some commenting that the Imam was giving American Muslims a bad name. Recent social media campaigns, such as #MosqueMeToo, have opened up mainstream women’s movements, like the #MeToo movement, to Muslim women and have helped to tackle the one-dimensional, monolithic idea of Muslims and Islam as not respectful of women’s rights. It has been pointed out on social media that Imam Shakir might have contributed to the propagation of this image through his comments.

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Sources

Dillon, K. (2018) ‘American Imam Deletes Post After Suggesting Sharia Law Should Apply In Weighing Dr. Ford Allegations’. [online] https://www.dailywire.com/news/36669/american-imam-deletes-post-after-suggesting-dr-kassy-dillon. [Accessed 25 October 2018].