(CNSNews.com) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says Islamic Sharia law is comparable to Catholic canon law and Jewish Halacha -- the Jewish law that governs everything from lighting candles to "kosher" dietary laws.
In a news release issued Tuesday, CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor defended Sharia, saying it literally means “path,” and is “a set of interpretations that are dynamic and intended to accommodate the time, place and laws -- like the U.S. Constitution -- of a particular community.”
“Sharia is interpreted differently based on its surroundings. Sharia mandates Muslims to respect the law of the land in which they live. Many familiar with Islam note that Sharia is similar to Catholic Canon law and Jewish Halacha law,” the release said.
The American Muslim group issued the statement to criticize GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who was asked at an event in Columbia, S.C., whether he would ever support a Muslim candidate for president.
“It would depend entirely on whether they would commit in public to give up Sharia,” Gingrich said.
"If they are a modern person integrated in the modern world and they are prepared to recognize all religions, that’s one thing. On the other hand, if they’re Saudis, who demand that we respect them while they refuse to allow Christians to worship in Saudi Arabia, that's something different,” Gingrich added.
CAIR lashed out at Gingrich, saying his “outdated political ideas look backward to a time when Catholics and Jews were vilified and their faiths called a threat.”
Saylor said Sharia “teaches marital fidelity, generous charity and a thirst for knowledge” and includes guidelines for “praying, fasting, giving charity, helping the needy, feeding the hungry and caring for the environment.”
But human rights advocates say that under Islamic Sharia law, those who drink alcohol or gamble can be whipped, thieves’ hands can be chopped off and husbands are allowed to beat their wives without punishment.
Worse, according to the U.S. State Department, in countries like Iran, whose constitution explicitly states all laws and regulations are to be based on Sharia law, and Saudi Arabia, where religious police enforce Sharia law, conversion from Islam to another religion is punishable by death.
In fact, in its 2011 country report on Pakistan, the State Department noted that a Sharia court in Pakistan had sentenced Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, to death last year for blasphemy against Islam. She is currently in prison awaiting execution.
In its 2011 report on Saudi Arabia, the U.S. government said women in Saudi Arabia were routinely punished under Sharia law -- for being raped.
“Rape is a punishable criminal offense under Sharia with a wide range of penalties from flogging to execution. Generally the government enforced the law based on its interpretation of Sharia, and courts punished both the victim and the perpetrator,” the State Department said.
“The government views marital relations between spouses as contractual and did not recognize spousal rape. By law a female rape victim is at fault for illegal ‘mixing of genders’ and is punished along with the perpetrator.”