Time to Stop the Islamaphobic Takes on Abortion

Op-ed

After the Supreme Court opinion draft of Roe v. Wade was leaked, illogical commentary comparing an American moment in history to sharia law began to emerge. Commentators were referring to Republicans as the ‘Taliban’ and the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade was being described as ‘sharia law.’

These comparisons were also being used by liberal individuals such as Daily Show host, Trevor Noah. He said this during his comedy segment: “And isn’t it amazing, after all these years of the right screaming about the threats of sharia law, turns out they were just jealous?”

Even political cartoons depicting Supreme Court justices and politicians in beards and turbans started to pop up. Tweets mentioned the Christian Taliban and American sharia. Unfortunately, these comparisons are not a new development. For instance, when Texas banned abortion in 2021, prominent figures then compared the Texas state government to the Taliban. Dr Sajida Jalalzai, Assistant Professor of Religion at Trinity University wrote a piece claiming the harm of using hashtags such as #ShariaLawInTexas and #TexasTaliban. Political cartoons featuring women in black “pray[ing] for Texas women,” or embraced by fist bumping, bearded men (one in a turban and the other in a cowboy hat) have gone viral. These tags and images show how Islam and Muslims continue to be used as unfair comparisons.

Despite Muslims defending Sharia law against its common misconceptions, it still remains a synonym for extremism. It’s almost as if Islam has become a reference point for all that is inherently backward. The consequence is that this leaves people to alienate Muslims. Equating the repeal of Roe v. Wade to ‘Shariah’ drags Muslims into a position they do not deserve. Never mind the fact that this comparison is insulting to Muslims — it is also blatantly false. It drags Muslims, making our faith no more than an argument to prove a point.

There’s no problem with creating analogies to make a point about the Supreme Court decision so long as they are logical. However, Sharia comparisons miss the mark and land as a lazy insult. Lobbyists and pro-life advocates have pushed to overturn Roe vs. Wade - not sharia law enthusiasts. The American political system allowed for the Supreme Court to become right-leaning, not governing rules inspired by the Taliban. This has nothing to do with Islam, so the analogies are fruitless. .

If Muslims are going to get dragged into this particular front of America’s heated debate, it is time to set the record straight. Abortion remains an integral and noncontroversial part of women’s health in Islam. Modern societies may grapple with the social and moral dilemmas of abortion, but there is Islamic reasoning that addresses many of the questions with which the U.S. Supreme Court is grappling.

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, outlines the Islamic principles on abortion. He said:

“Islam says that you should not kill your children because of the fear of their upbringing, or [fear of a lack] of finances. That is the only thing which Islam prohibits for abortion. Otherwise, Islam says that if the health of the woman is at risk, you can do abortion. If the baby is not properly developing, you can do abortion. In the case of rape, also, if a woman says that she cannot bear the burden of this child, for example because of the society, that they will raise fingers on her all the time – and even if the child is born, the child will also face difficulties in his or her environment – then the mother can decide to get it aborted, Islam permits it. But not because of the fear of poverty. Not because [of the worry] that, ‘How can I take care of the child?’ This is the only thing. Allah says that, ‘I provide you for your well-being, I provide you your food, and I am The Provider. So, you should not kill your baby, or kill your unborn child because of the fear of poverty.”

Islam is flexible and willing to look into the context of abortion on a case-by-case basis before a final ruling, and there are no punishments threatening the woman. What might it look like if we applied this kind of holistic outlook to the abortion debate in the United States instead of name-calling? It is useful to think about how this flexible approach to the intersections of faith and an unwanted/unsafe pregnancy could be applied to the abortion debate in the United States. When it comes to abortion, Islam can help with understanding what being “pro-choice” and “pro-life” means.

Maha .
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