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Sharia Über Alles
Despite a number of (deliberately?) mitigating biases, both methodological and interpretative, the latest Pew Research Forum report, "The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society," released April 30, 2013, confirms the broad appeal of the totalitarian Sharia, Islam's religio-political "law," across Islamdom.
The data were pooled from surveys conducted between 2008 and 2012, representing, as touted by Pew, "a total of 39 countries and territories on three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe." Collectively, the surveys included "more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages and dialects, covering every country that has more than 10 million Muslims." Pew did acknowledge this important caveat about Muslim populations not surveyed because, "political sensitivities or security concerns prevented opinion research among Muslims." Notably excluded countries were Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, and Iran -- all Islamic states, governed by the Sharia, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan under Sunni Islam, the third, Iran, being the world's largest Shiite Muslim state.
Responses to four related questions on the Sharia, comprise the surveys' salient -- and pathognomonic -- findings. The questions were, "Do you favor or oppose making sharia law, or Islamic law, the official law of the land in our country?", and these three internally validating (and equally edifying) queries, "Do you favor or oppose the following: punishments like whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery?", "Do you favor or oppose the following: punishments like whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery?", "Do you favor or oppose the following: the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim religion?" Summary data from the nations with the five largest Muslim populations (as per 2010) surveyed, Indonesia (204 million), Pakistan (178 million), Bengladesh (149 million), Egypt (80 million), and Nigeria (76 million), revealed:
Furthermore, the Pew survey results confirm the abject failure of the U.S. midwifed Iraqi and Afghan "democracies" to fulfill the utopian aspirations of the much ballyhooed "(Bernard) Lewis doctrine." Instead, the negative prognostications, epitomized by my colleague Diana West's evocative description "Making the world safe for Sharia," have been realized. Specifically, the Pew data indicated:
Religious piety, as evidenced by frequency of prayer and "Following the Prophet's Example," increased support for Sharia, which was unaffected by age, gender, or educational level.
The Pew report fails to elaborate on these strong associations, offering no explanation about why increased compliance with prayer and pious conformity with the behavior of Islam's prophet Muhammad might result in broad Muslim approval for mutilating thieves, stoning adulterers to death, or executing those who simply exercise freedom of conscience and forsake Islam. Yet the Pew investigators readily proffer these mollifying comments, insisting the predilection for Sharia "varies widely," noting "many favor democracy over authoritarian rule," and even concluding,
First, even the Pew data on Muslim support for "killing" apostates do not reflect sentiments for the less draconian punishments for apostasy: imprisonment with beatings (for women under Shiite law, timed to each of the prayer sessions, i.e., 5 times per day) until "recantation"; dissolution of marriage and both parental and property rights. These adjunct non-lethal "punishments" -- often applied to "private" apostates who do not manifest their apostasy in public -- would likely have registered far more "popular" appeal. Also, both "religious freedom" and "freedom" -- ("hurriyya"; discussed below) in Islamdom bear no resemblance to Western conceptions of these ideals, as this ranking of Christian persecution -- dominated by countries from sub-Saharan Africa (where 94% affirmed to Pew "it is good that others are very free to practice their faith" ) and the Middle East/North Africa (where 85% affirmed to Pew "it is good that others are very free to practice their faith") -- makes plain.
Furthermore, the current Pew report includes no data on "blasphemy," i.e., a simple question about Muslim attitudes toward public criticism of Islam's prophet or the creed itself by both non-Muslims and Muslims, ignoring Pew's own August, 2011 data from its analysis, "Rising Restrictions on Religion." This report, released August 9, 2011, examined the issue of "defamation" of religion, tracking countries where various blasphemy, or criticism of religions are enforced. "While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice, they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical," the report noted. These Pew findings indicated that application of the Sharia at present resulted in a disproportionate number of Muslim countries, twenty-one -- Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Western Sahara, and Yemen --registering the highest (i.e., worst) persecution scores on their scale. Furthermore, the Pew investigators observed,
As a predictable consequence of this Sharia-based application of apostasy and blasphemy laws by Islamic governments, the Pew report also documented that
Pew's reticence to present its own April 2013 findings without clumsily recasting, or ignoring their doctrinal roots, with obvious implications, can be traced to the dominant, post-modern Western narrative regarding Islam, where objective understanding has been replaced by pure apologetics. Indeed, simply presenting doctrinal Sharia without camouflage, and then demonstrating how Muslims, overwhelmingly, continue to cherish the application of this ancient system of religious totalitarianism, shatters the prevailing, rigidly enforced Western apologetic narrative.
Derived from Islam's most important canonical texts -- the Koran and hadith (the canonical collections of the Muslim prophet Muhammad's deeds and pronouncements) -- and their interpretation and codification by Islam's greatest classical legists, Sharia, is not merely holistic, in the general sense of all-encompassing, but totalitarian, regulating everything from the ritual aspects of religion to personal hygiene to the governance of a Muslim minority community or an Islamic state, bloc of states, or global Islamic order. Clearly, this latter political aspect is the most troubling, being an ancient antecedent of more familiar modern totalitarian systems. Specifically, Sharia's liberty-crushing and dehumanizing political aspects feature open-ended jihadism to subjugate the world to a totalitarian Islamic order; rejection of bedrock Western liberties -- including freedom of conscience and speech -- enforced by imprisonment, beating, or death; discriminatory relegation of non-Muslims to outcast, vulnerable pariahs, and of even Muslim women, to subservient chattel; and barbaric, mandatory "hadd" punishments which violate human dignity, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and lashing for alcohol consumption.
Here is an apt illustration (via Andrew McCarthy's summary) of the contents of Reliance of the Traveller, a classic Sharia manual of Islamic jurisprudence, certified by Al Azhar University, the Vatican of Sunni Islamic religious education, as conforming "to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community," in our era:
But Pew's investigators, and journalists reporting the Pew survey results were puzzled by the seeming "contradiction" between the Muslim desire for Sharia, including application of the hadd punishments, and professions of support for "freedom," including "religious freedom," and "democracy," or even so-called "anti-authoritarianism." The Economist's lament characterized this apparent "confused" state of mind as follows:
These inept assessments reveal an ignorant or willfully blind misunderstanding of the yawning gap between Western and Islamic conceptions of freedom -- "hurriyya" in Arabic. Following Sharia slavishly throughout one's life was paramount to hurriyya "freedom." This earlier more concrete characterization of hurriyya's metaphysical meaning, whose essence Ibn Arabi reiterated, was pronounced by the Sufi scholar al-Qushayri (d. 1072/74).
Bernard Lewis, in his (mid-1950s) Encyclopedia of Islam analysis of hurriyya, discusses this concept in the latter phases of the Ottoman Empire through the contemporary era. After highlighting a few "cautious" or "conservative" (Lewis' characterization) reformers and their writings, Lewis maintains:
Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialism ameliorated this chronic situation:
And Lewis concludes his entry by observing that Islamic societies forsook even their inchoate democratic experiments:
Elsewhere, writing contemporaneously (in 1958) on democratic institutions in the Islamic Middle East, Lewis conceded that at least "equality and fraternity" between Muslims were accepted. But even here Lewis included a major caveat with regard to "liberty," whose Islamic formulation might never resemble John Stuart Mill's conception in On Liberty. Lewis featured a reference to Alice in Wonderland, making plain his assessment of the likely superficial (at best) outcome of Muslim democratization efforts:
Three decades later, Johannes J.G. Jansen, the great contemporary Dutch scholar of Islam, in his seminal 1986 study, The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat's Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East, highlighted the conundrum accurate depiction of these sacralized Muslim dogmas -- and their undiminished popularity -- created for Western Islamic apologists in the media and the academy:
Validating Jansen's concluding observation about mass, rank-in-file Muslim support for state application of the Sharia, Ma'ruf Amin, the chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema [Muslim religious leaders], celebrated Pew's 2013 report, opining,
Amin added that if the Indonesian Muslims desired Sharia, their vox populi wishes should become government policy.
Finally, the Pew report takes great pains to dissociate the sentiments of the American Muslim community from those of the global Muslim umma by narrowing down this alleged difference, most pointedly, to the fact that 81% of U.S. Muslims "firmly" rejected homicide bombing "to defend Islam from its enemies." (13% found justification for such acts, while 6% didn't know or refused to answer.)
Curiously (or self-servingly), however, Pew offered no comparison data regarding U.S. Muslim attitudes towards application of the Sharia, either in whole, or part. Notwithstanding Pew's inattention to this critical matter, the results of polling data collected by Wenzel Strategies during October 22 to 26, 2012, from 600 U.S. Muslims (i.e., a sample characterized by high socio-economic status), indicated widespread support among American votaries of Islam for Sharia-based rejection of freedom expression, as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. (The First Amendment states, plainly, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.") When asked, "Do you believe that criticism of Islam or Muhammad should be permitted under the Constitution's First Amendment?, 58% replied "no," while only 42% affirmed this most basic manifestation of freedom of speech, i.e., to criticize religious, or any other dogma. Indeed, oblivious to US constitutional law, as opposed to Islam's Sharia, a largely concordant 45% of respondents agreed "...that those who criticize or parody Islam in the U.S. should face criminal charges," while 38% did not, and 17% were "unsure". Moreover, fully 12% of this Muslim sample even admitted they believed in application of the draconian, Sharia-based punishment for the non-existent crime of "blasphemy" in the US code, answering affirmatively, "...that Americans who criticize or parody Islam should be put to death." Also, consistent with such findings 43% of these U.S. Muslims rejected the right of members of other faiths to proselytize to adherents of Islam, disagreeing, "...that U.S. citizens have a right to evangelize Muslims to consider other faiths." Additional confirmatory data revealed that nearly two-fifths (39%) agreed "...that Shariah law should be considered when adjudicating cases that involve Muslims, " while nearly one-third (32%) of this American Muslim sample believed "...Shariah law should be the supreme law of the land in the US."
In conclusion, these observations from a renowned Western anthropologist, and an important Muslim cleric residing in Lebanon's then Westernized, bi-confessional, Muslim-Christian milieu, contextualize the global Islamic trends revealed by the April, 2013 Pew data.
Husayn Al-Quwatli (fl. 1975), was a director general of Dar al-Ifta, the center of spiritual authority for the Sunni community of Lebanon, and author of the treatise, "Islam, the State, and Secularism" (1975). The following statement by Husayn al-Quwatli appeared in the Lebanese publications Al-Safir August 18, 1975, and Al-Amal, October 9, 1975, at the outset of Lebanon's civil war.
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