Sherman Jackson Connects Shariah Law With the American Constitution

Sherman Jackson

Sherman Jackson, American scholar and director of Center for Islamic Thought, Culture and Practice at University of Southern California, recently delivered a lecture titled “Converging Limits: Shariah and the US Constitution” that drew parallels between Islamic Shariah law  and the United States Constitution.

Rachelle Scott, one of the organizers of the event, said Jackson’s lecture focused on the elements that lie in the intersection of Shariah law and the American Constitution. Citing Islamophobia and the unjust persecution of Muslims in America since the 9/11 terror attacks, Scott said her event aimed at clearly outlining ways in which people can reconcile their personal religious law and customs with that of a secular state.

Manuela Ceballos, lecturer of Islam at the Department of Religious Studies, believes Islamic laws and American laws are often misunderstood as opposing one another.

“They're contracts, so in a lot of ways they're similar and there are certain moral behaviors that are expected of Muslims and Americans,” Ceballos said. “There isn't a reason I think why Muslims can't exercise their full citizenship as Americans.”

Ceballos said the lecture could help reduce the natural prejudice displayed by Americans towards Muslims.

“(Islam has) been in this country for a very long time,” he said, “and there's no reason to think that this country is not for Muslims or that Muslims can't be Americans.”

Talking about Jackson’s past success in connecting with Muslim Americans who battle with multiple identities on a day to day basis, Ceballos said the persecution of Muslims following Shariah is a gross misunderstanding of what the Islamic law really includes.

“People think (Shariah) is this very rigid sort of imposition that shapes everything about people's lives,” Ceballos said. “It doesn't correlate with reality.”

Scott said it is important to consider the context and environment of Islamic law before reaching a conclusion about it.

“I think that a number of people view Shariah as black and white,” Scott said. “They view it as rigid, I think once again there is a lot of room for interpretation.”

When taking into consideration the level of importance society places on law and religion, Scott said there is very little difference between the two, especially when one looks at Shariah.

“(Religion and law) are fundamentally connected in some religious traditions,” she said. “Law means how you govern your life, how you lead your life.”

Photo Credits: USC Dornsife

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