Secondly, the majority of commenters prove my point by focusing on the most extreme forms of sharia - which as I have said, many Muslims feel to be perversions - and concluding that that's all it is. They don't seem to be remotely open to the possibility that it could vary in any way.
Thirdly, what I find disturbing is not just this identification of sharia solely with what happens in Saudi Arabia, for instance, but the sense that these commenters actively wish that to be the only available version. Given the popularity of Islamist parties, some of which have already won freely fought elections, such as the AKP in Turkey and Hamas in Palestine, and the fact that more would be sure to do so if some of the Middle Eastern autocracies loosened their grip, these commenters must foresee very bleak times ahead.
My comments at the site:
11 June 2010 at 16:49
The trouble is, per an agreement reached centuries ago between the family of Saud and that guy Wahhab, Saudi Arabia is today using its petrodollars to build new mosques and to send preachers and propaganda to old mosques throughout the House of War, as they call the infidel world. Many of the world's Muslims may be against this, but this is the trend that is winning - the most extreme forms of Islam are taking over, killing not just infidels, but Muslims who aren't radical enough, making takfir out of them. So, what happens in Saudi Arabia is disproportionately important in the world. Beyond that, Deobandi Islam from South Asia is an ongoing threat as well, not just in Pakistan, but in the UK, which has a large community of Pakistani descent.
The problem is not that I do not understand Islam; the problem is that I understand it rather well. It is an ideology of armed conquest, and those good people in the Islamic world who do not go along with this imperialistic program are either conspicuously silent or risk being killed as takfir apostates should they speak out; the result is that the very worst of the Islamic world is rising to the top, hijacking communities of Muslims that have traditionally been peaceful, and using these communities to hijack the rest of the world.
11 June 2010 at 16:53
By the way - any form of Islamic law that is accepted in a country, regardless of how innocuous it may seem, is just a leak in the dyke that keeps back the flood of medieval barbarism.
Here is an excerpt from Rethinking Islamism II, dated June 8, 2010:
As is sadly so often the case, the nuances in the lecture Rowan Williams delivered at the Royal Courts of Justice in February 2008 failed to have any impact on those whose closed minds alit on the word "sharia" and decided he was talking nonsense yet again. In fact, Dr Williams addressed this point very early on when he quoted Tariq Ramadan's chapter on sharia in his book Western Muslims and the Future of Islam.
"In the west," writes Ramadan, currently professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford, "the idea of sharia calls up all the darkest images of Islam . . . It has reached the extent that many Muslim intellectuals do not dare even to refer to the concept for fear of frightening people or arousing suspicion of all their work by the mere mention of the word."
The example of Saudi Arabia undoubtedly has much to do with this. Yet it is important to stress that to look at that country and then assume that its version of sharia is the only one, or the one to which Muslims all secretly aspire, would be akin to holding up a vision of Torquemada's Inquisition and concluding that this was what real Christianity was. It is unrepresentative and, many would argue, a perversion.
Equally important is that the punishments which cause the greatest outcry -- flogging, stoning, etc -- come under the hudud laws, which are implemented in Saudi Arabia and were introduced by General Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan in 1979, but are the exception, not the rule, in most Muslim countries.
They are, in fact, an embarrassment to the many Muslims who consider them barbaric. So when Ramadan called for a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic world in 2005, some non-Muslims criticised him for not going further. Why didn't he say the hudud laws should just be discarded or repealed?
He explained this by pointing out that most of the authorities "are of the opinion that these penalties are on the whole Islamic [because of textual references] but that the conditions under which they should be implemented are nearly impossible to re-establish. These penalties, therefore, are 'almost never applicable'." He later declared that "Islam is being used to degrade and subjugate women and men in certain Muslim-majority societies in the midst of collusive silence and chaotic judicial opinions on the ground". The present-day use of hudud, therefore, is clearly a misuse of sharia.
But Ramadan provides further explanation for why the simplistic view of sharia is wrong. He has written of "the fundamental distinction that should be established between timeless principles" -- "sharia as a way towards justice", as he puts it -- "and contingent models". In other words, to reduce the whole of sharia to a detailed and specific set of laws, none of which leaves room for interpretation or reform, is, in his opinion, to miss the point.
"The concern should not be to dress as the Prophet dressed," he writes, "but to dress according to the principles (of decency, cleanliness, simplicity, aesthetics, and modesty) that underlay his choice of clothes . . . It really is a way, a way toward the ideal."
11 June 2010 at 17:13
To me, Professor Tariq Ramadan is a fountain of al-taqiyya. Did Mohammed himself not promise peace to Ka'b bin al-Ashraf and Usayr ibn Zarim, then slaughter them when they let their guard down? Did Mohammed himself not say that war is deception? Why should we trust these guys whose religion advocates lying when lying is convenient to further Islam? Why should we believe them when they tell us Islamic law is not that bad, when in fact Islamic Law institutionalizes discrimination against women, against religious minorities, and so on? The fact that all aspects of Islamic law have not been universally enforced in all places subject to sharia in no way negates the threat Islamic law poses.
Please go to Rethinking Islamism I: Turkey -- friend or foe?, Rethinking Islamism II and Rethinking Islamism III, read the whole story, and join in the discussion.