Sunday, 29 January 2012

SHARIA LAW



With Muslim communities growing in Western countries and with a world-wide Gallup poll telling us that 59% of radical Muslims and 32% of the moderates want Sharia as the only law, how much of a threat is it to us?

Sharia Law was first established to safeguard the populace from the excesses of sultan and caliph rulers. It was God’s law that could not be manipulated to benefit the privileged. Lawyers proliferate because, like every other law, it has different interpretations:
                   Hanbali: the most conservative version,
                   Hanifi: the most liberal and open to modern ideas,
                   Maliki: an extension of the laws in effect during Muhammad’s lifetime, and
                   Hafi’i: the conservative opinions of the companions of Muhammad.
Much of what we cherish today originated in the Islamic Sharia laws. Because of French conquests of Muslim lands and the subsequent 1066 Norman conquest of England, plus revelations brought home by crusaders, much of English Common Law is Sharia and Islamic, having replaced Anglo-Saxon law, and the earlier and harsher Roman law that had supplanted the egalitarian Celtic laws. These new Islamic laws included jury trial, impartial judges, free speech, the rights of the poor to a lawyer, women rights, animal rights, and much more. The vaunted British "fair play" has Sharia roots (but also Persian roots from Cyrus the Great, 559-530 BC, with his human rights edict). Under Islamic (and Persian) laws, warfare was to avoid harm to civilians, their property, and their lands. Captured crusaders were amazed, and grateful, at being treated kindly even though they had previously massacred entire Muslim communities. Slavery was tolerated only in wartime as an alternate to the previous slaughter of a defeated enemy. Multiple wives were permitted only after wars that caused a shortage of men.

All this seems so enlightened, so why do we fear Sharia?
With the Enlightenment, European laws went on to further enhance human rights while Sharia stagnated, still clinging to its old punishment codes. And, there have been many deviations. Those who, by means fair or foul, achieve power are prone to alter laws and practices, and use religion, or secularism, to suit their own ends. The devout may consider such actions as aberrations but their existence stresses the vital need of a law of the land based on human rights and devoid of the controls of priests, shamen, ayatollahs, politicians, or privileged groups.
We can see in those countries where Sharia is entrenched, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and N. Nigeria, not only an eye-for-an-eye mentality but cruel punishments such as lashes for gambling or drinking, beating a wife for being too uppity, stoning to death for adultery or sodomy, cutting off hands for stealing, plus beheadings, crucifixions, and honour killings (only 31% of which are by practicing Muslims). Tolerating Sharia, it is argued, could open the door for Muslim anti-blasphemy laws and their associated violent passions. It took Christians 400 years of bloody struggle to earn the right to criticize Christianity. Muslims have yet to start this struggle. This is our main aversion to Sharia. Yes, Muslims can point to Western faults such as the cruel treatment of POWs by the US, or the chaining in groups of 10, hundreds of illegal Guatemalan and Mexican male and female workers in Iowa. We do have our warts.
Quebec has officially banned Sharia Law. The Archbishop of Canterbury claims it should be acceptable in Muslim communities in the UK minus its penal code. It is creeping into the USA. Somali taxi drivers in Minneapolis, now 80% of drivers, defy US law by refusing to accept passengers carrying the duty-free alcohol they bought at the airport. Since 1991, due to a backlogged court system, Ontario has allowed Catholic and Jewish tribunals to resolve family disputes provided both parties agree. A move to include Sharia Law in this arrangement was vetoed by the premier. We have been prone to permitting ethnic groups taking over sections of our culture. The Jews took banking, the Irish took policing, Pakistanis have monopolized transportation. Much of this has been transient but we do need to pay more attention to integration. We live today in a global community so cannot tolerate any religion, and we can include secularism and atheism as religions, to impose laws at variance with the laws of the land, especially when human rights are at stake.
The current wave of hostility towards Islam causes reactions not conducive to lessening the frictions that have been so common and so ruinous in human history. Muslim beliefs need softening, but Respect is a great catalyst. We opened our doors to entice cheap labour most of which was Muslim and poorly educated.

We created the problem. It is ours to fix.





1 comment:

  1. An interesting blog, George. Would expect no less of you. My problem with Sharia Law is the treatment it accords to women. There is no way to get around the idea of women as property. It's been fascinating for me as an educated, independent woman, to watch how various cultures deal with women. It's too bad that in the Islamic cultures there is such a horror of sexuality that it has to be blamed on the women for inciting it. On the other hand, if I was living in a culture so deprived of sex, I might want to cover myself head to toe to prevent tempting any randy male from raping me as his right and my problem for tempting him, no matter how accidentally.

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