Secular people and non-Christians often express concern about the growing influence of fundamentalist Christianity and the potential for erosion of church/state separation embodied in public policies such as school vouchers and federally funded faith-based social services. As Americans, we have a deep and abiding respect for religious expression, and while we expect religions to proselytize and seek converts, we also insist that the wall of separation remain firmly intact. This tension is manifested in legal battles over public displays of religious symbols like creche scenes and the Ten Commandments; in challenges to references to God in the pledge of allegiance, or on our coins; and in the ongoing debate over prayers in schools and other public institutions.
But as we fight to maintain the wall between church and state, Islamist groups are quietly working towards a day when our Constitution will be superseded by the Qur'an, transforming the United States into an Islamic Republic. In his article "The Islamic States of America?", Daniel Pipes calls our attention to this worrisome development:
The hardest thing for Westerners to understand is not that a war with militant Islam is underway but that the nature of the enemy's ultimate goal. That goal is to apply the Islamic law (the Shari‘a) globally. In U.S. terms, it intends to replace the Constitution with the Qur'an.
This aspiration is so remote and far-fetched to many non-Muslims, it elicits more guffaws than apprehension. Of course, that used to be the same reaction in Europe, and now it's become widely accepted that, in Bernard Lewis' words, "Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century."
Pipes references an article in the Chicago Tribune on the motives of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization whose goal is to build a political base leading to the establishment of Islamic law in the US and other Western societies.
Over the last 40 years, small groups of devout Muslim men have gathered in homes in U.S. cities to pray, memorize the Koran and discuss events of the day. But they also addressed their ultimate goal, one so controversial that it is a key reason they have operated in secrecy: to create Muslim states overseas and, they hope, someday in America as well. …
Brotherhood members emphasize that they follow the laws of the nations in which they operate. They stress that they do not believe in overthrowing the U.S. government, but rather that they want as many people as possible to convert to Islam so that one day—perhaps generations from now—a majority of Americans will support a society governed by Islamic law.
Think this is far-fetched? That it can't happen here? The process is already underway on both sides of the Atlantic. In Spain, the government is financing the construction of mosques. Canada is experimenting with a separate system of shari'a courts, which would arbitrate certain types of family disputes within Canadian Muslim communities under Islamic law, bypassing secular Canadian courts. In Little Rock, AR there are plans to develop a Muslim community enclave, giving rise to concerns that the other religions will be excluded. In Hamtramck, MI mosques are broadcasting the call to prayer over loudspeakers five times a day, not only to the faithful but to all within earshot.
While it is true that the US is predominantly a Christian country, our government and laws are constitutionally defined as secular. By barring the establishment of a state-sanctioned brand of Christianity (or any other faith for that matter), the Constitution enables religious pluralism to flourish. Far from banishing religion from the public square, it prohibits government from endorsing any one religion. That is why mosques can be built all over the Western world, but churches cannot be built in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, which recognize no such separation.
As an open, multi-ethnic society with a long history of religious freedom, the United States welcomes a wide range of religious expression, but draws sharp lines wherever attempts are made to supplant secular laws with scriptural laws. After all, laws written by human beings - like our Constitution - can be amended as our society evolves. But laws based on the word of God, whether it be found in the Bible, the Qur'an, or other holy texts, are considered divinely-inspired and therefore immutable. It is precisely for this reason that we should be on guard against religious ideologues who want to replace our "imperfect" secular laws with "perfect" laws that can never be changed or questioned.