I, Mano Bakh, had an appointment with the Imam of Utah Islamic Center, Imam Shuaib Ud-Din. We agreed to a have a private meeting at 11:00 AM Sunday April 10, 2011, in the Utah Islamic Center. The Utah Islamic Center was located in the corner of a commercial building in Salt Lake City. Upon entering the building, I observed several small classrooms filled with many children from age 6 to 12. There were several male and female instructors, all in Islamic attire. Imam Shuaib was in the larger classroom, sitting in the center, surrounded by his students. He came toward the door as soon as he saw me. We greeted each other and he led me to a small office where there was a desk and a computer with two chairs and another gentleman who was working behind the desk.
As we sat down I explained to him that I was interviewing Imams throughout the country and asking each of them the same questions. I would like to know your viewpoint regarding “how, in America can Muslims practice a Moderate Islam by eliminating the out-dated governmental Islamic law “Shariah”? Imam Shuaib Ud – Din began to defend Islam and responded by saying that Islam was already a Moderate religion and there was no need for change. He compared Islam with Christianity. The gentleman behind the desk stopped his work to pay attention to our discussion.
I responded to the Imam by saying if he thinks Islam is a Moderate religion, then, we may have two different definitions for moderate. I told him clearly that Islam is not a moderate religion. I asked him if he agreed that in Islam stoning a woman is the punishment for adultery. He agreed that stoning to death is the Islamic punishment. I asked him again if he would be the first to throw the stone. He replied immediately, that he personally could not perform that act.
I asked him a second question, would he agree that cutting off a hand for stealing is the correct punishment in Islam. He agreed that it is the correct Islamic punishment. He added that if the community notices men without their hands, they will not be inclined to steal and this would be a very important lesson. I disagreed with his analogy and gave the example of no looting in Japan during their recent tragedy. They had respect and appreciation for each other and they did not need to have a cruel example, in order to remind them of how to behave.
I tried to convince him that stoning to death or cutting off hands are not Moderate punishments. I explained to him that Islam as a religion that can be respected if it only deals with the spirituality of Islam. The governmental side of Islam, Shariah law, has no room in the American society.
He said SharIah law is applicable only to Muslims living in Islamic countries. He could not prove to me that it was only applicable to Muslims living in Islamic countries. At this point the gentleman behind the desk, who introduced himself as Larbi Aitahmad, participated in our conversation and asked if I had any problem with the severity of the punishment. I replied that religion has no place to establish laws for punishment in any society. It is up to citizens in every country to set up their own rules. For example, in America punishment for stealing and adultery are handled in our courts and abide by the laws within the United States Constitution. The growing crusade, in America, among true moderate Muslims is to separate the spiritual part of Islam from the out-dated governmental laws of Islam. Mr. Larbi stepped forward and agreed with my argument. He stated that in a modern society there is no place for Shariah law.
Imam Shauib Ud Din finally agreed that there are many moderate Muslims in America. Imam Shauib further stated “Your point of view makes lots of sense to lots of people, but not to me”. We ended up our meeting with the agreement that he would correspond with me as to why my argument makes lots of sense to lots of people, but not to him.
After forty minutes the discussion was over with the understanding that we would continue to correspond.