The upshot of all this legalese is that the law sets the eligibility bar for religious exemptions quite high. According to a 2009 report on MSNBC.com, the provision was originally drafted with the Old Order Amish in mind, a sect whose beliefs prohibit them from participating in any public or commercial insurance (and whose members, for that reason, are already exempt from Social Security). Members must participate in a form of self-insurance per the language above requiring exempted sects "to make provision for their dependent members."
Is it true that "Islam considers insurance to be 'gambling,' 'risk-taking,' and 'usury,' and is thus banned"?
Strictly speaking, yes. But there are exceptions to the rule, of which health insurance is probably one.
"It is true, under common interpretations of Islamic law, that conventional insurance is forbidden," explains About.com's Islam expert Christine Huda Dodge. "As [Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid] explains, many scholars point out that paying money for something, with no guarantee that you will ever benefit from it (i.e. you pay for health insurance coverage, and never get sick), involves a high ambiguity/risk and could theoretically be considered a form of gambling. The criticism is of the system itself, where the insured always seems to lose while the insurance companies get richer and charge higher premiums."
However, some of the same Islamic sources allow for exceptions in cases where insurance is mandated by law. "If you are forced to take out insurance and there is an accident," notes Sheikh Al-Munajjid, "it is permissible for you to take from the insurance company the same amount as the payments you have made, but you should not take any more than that."
As Dodge points out, Muslims living as minorities and governed by secular law in non-Muslim countries typically have to compromise and work within the limits imposed on them. "It seems to me that most American Muslims are resigned to certain insurances that are considered to be obligatory," she writes. "Car insurance, for example, is mandated by law. As far as I know, nobody has complained or petitioned for a religious exemption to car insurance. Health insurance is even more fundamental, as the health/life/death of one's self and family hangs in the balance. I am unaware of any attempts from within the Muslim community to avoid health insurance."
Muslims buy auto insurance where required by law. It stands to reason they can buy health insurance, too.
In point of fact, Muslim organizations such as The Islamic Society of North America and American Muslim Health Professionals lauded the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and voiced no objections to the mandated health insurance provision.
Is it conceivable that strictly observant Muslims might apply for individual religious exemptions and be granted them?
I'm no legal expert, but I'll venture to say that sure, it's conceivable — provided said applicants are able to meet all the strict conditions and criteria set out in the law, which would include participating in alternative health coverage via their religious group. It may be awhile before we know how that actually pans out, though, given that the provision mandating health insurance doesn't go into effect until 2014.
If some Muslims do apply for and are granted religious exemptions, would that mean that ObamaCare is "the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia Muslim diktat in the United States," as claimed in the viral text?
No, that's an absurd and defamatory statement to make in a country where Muslims constitute a very small minority of the population and have historically complied with secular governance.
Is it true, as the author of the text claims, that she, as a non-exempt Christian, "will have crippling IRS liens placed against all of my assets, including real estate, cattle, and even accounts receivables, and will face hard prison time because I refuse to buy insurance or pay the penalty tax"?
No. According to an analysis by The Journal of Accountancy, "The act specifies that liens and seizures are not authorized to enforce this penalty, and noncompliance will not be subject to criminal penalties."
Sources and further reading:
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010
Full text on U.S. Senate website
Internal Revenue Code of 1968, Section 1402: Definitions
Via Cornell University Law School
Health Bills Allow Some a Religious Exemption
CQ Politics (MSNBC.com), 3 August 2009
Health Care Reform Reshapes Tax Code
Journal of Accountancy, 1 April 2010
General information about the beliefs and practices of Islam
ISNA Welcomes the New Health Care Reform Law
Islamic Society of North America website, 23 March 2010
Last updated 10/04/13