Making the World Safe for Shari'a?

Grand Ayatollah Sistani is said to be the most important friend the Coalition has in Iraq. But he is a troubling friend. Almost universally regarded as the most important figure in Iraq's domestic politics, his 2003 fatwa urging Iraqis to not resist the invading Coalition forces helped make the initial conquest go smoothly. His confrontation with younger rival Muqtada al—Sadr helps keep the sometimes violent radical in line.

But Ayatollah Sistani is an irridentist Shi'ite cleric who believes in najis—one of the more despicable belief systems in all of Islam which imposes ugly restrictions on 'infidels' due to their supposed physical and spiritual 'impurity' [I have written about najis here, here, and here]. Or you can go to his own website, and then as my colleague Hugh Fitzgerald notes,

'If you click on "Muslim Laws" on the left, and then, once a list comes up, click on "najis things," you will get a list —— #84 —— and if you then go a little further, and click on the menu where, among those unclean things, the "kafir" (which is to say, the Unbeliever, that is to say —— You and I) you will get a further discussion of how, in the wonderful, "moderate" Islam of the al—Sistani variety, the Unbeliever, the Infidel, the Kafir (guilty of "kufr" or "ingratitude" for failing to receive the Revelation of the Last of the Prophets in the right, accepting, submissive way) is viewed.'

And this is what Sistani writes about gays:

His Eminence, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al—Sistani, the supreme religious authority for Shi'ite Msulims in Iraq and worldwide, decrees that gays and lesbians should be killed in the worst manner possible, according to this news article from a London—based gay rights group. A rapid search through Sistani's official website turns up a page, translated as:

'Q: What is the judgement on sodomy and lesbianism? A: "Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible.' Thus opines the Shi'ite cleric who was nominated by Iraqis for the 2005 Nobel Peace prize.

Sistani also 'wishes' for Sharia to be imposed in Iraq. He's a patient fellow, knowing demography is on his side...

Recently I received the following question on Sistani from a highly capable military analyst:

Would it still be true to say, as some sources do, that Sistani supports a quietist form of Shi'a Islam, one that does not seek political power as such? I'm thinking for example of early Puritan sects in American history, which believed things we don't consider acceptable today, but which, in competition with other beliefs, ended up with a shared culture that ultimately turned out to be very workable for the US.

The analogy with Puritans in America is wrong. Shi'ite sects in major population centers—Iran, Iraq, and Yemen—have never behaved in a manner analogous to the Puritan settlers of the United States (despite 13 centuries of unimpeded opportunities to demonstrate any similar leanings given the complete dominance of Islam in those regions), i.e., been willing to create societies even remotely resembling the pluralistic, traditionally liberal democratic society that the US has become.

Instead, they have all opted for Shari'a societies—stifling theocracies, the very antithesis of American liberal democracy, where hurriyya  'freedom as perfect slavery to Allah' prevails, not freedom as described by John Stuart Mill.

And there is a widely prevalent canard about what Iran was in the ~425 years between 1502—1925 (barring a ~ 70—year period of Afghan invasion, internecine warfare, and Sunni rule in the 18th century from approximately1722—1794, until the restoration of Shiite rule under the Qajars in 1795): Persia/Iran was a strict Shi'ite theocracy, whose leading ulema were not the least bit 'quietist', and in fact were very much like Ayatollah Khomeini. (I have written about this rather morose history, especially for the non—Muslims under Shi'ite rule, at considerable length here.)

The great scholar E.G. Brown (who was quite favorably inclined towards Persia I should add) summed up (A Literary History of Persia, vol. IV, Cambridge, 1930, p. 371) the role of the Shi'ite ulema in the period before 1925, as follows:

The Mujtahids and Mulla are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics.

I support removing odious and acutely threatening Muslim thugocrats (whatever their personal religiosity) in the post 9/11/01 era—which is why I supported the lightning and relatively low (albeit still awful) cost (in lives) campaign required to remove Saddam Hussein (having accepted the flawed intelligence on Iraq).

But to invest unlimited blood and treasure which effectively gives electoral sanction to more Shari'a—as the Algerian jihadists of the 1990s put it so forthrightly 'Islamic state by the will of the people'—is a tragic and dangerous delusion. And we have failed miserably in this regard in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Specifically, we should have refused as Paul Bremer did refuse initially  (despite his other arguable administrative failings), to give our imprimatur to constitutions that are subservient to the Shari'a, rendering them incompatible with universal human rights. This bedrock principle—still unheeded by our policymaking elites—was articulated eloquently by the Muslim Senegalese jurist Adama Dieng, while serving as secretary—general to the International Commission of Jurists in 1992.  Referring to the Cairo Declaration, the Shari'a—based 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (UDHRI)', Dieng declared  that under the rubric of the Shari'a, the UDHRI,

...gravely threatens the inter—cultural consensus on which the international human rights instruments are based; introduces, in the name of the defense of human rights, an intolerable discrimination against both non—Muslims and women; reveals a deliberately restrictive character in regard to certain fundamental rights and freedoms..; [and] confirms the legitimacy of practices, such as corporal punishment, that attack the integrity and dignity of the human being.

The Rahman 'apostasy' case in Afghanistan should have been a stark wake up call. But even in Iraq there was an early, concrete sign (February 2004) of things going awry: the refusal of the interim Iraqi government to allow its ancient, historically oppressed (often brutally so) Jews to return in the wake of the 2003 liberation. Singling them out was agreed upon absent any objection, except for the dissent of one lone Assyrian Christian representative in the interim government, who knew well what such bigotry foreshadowed: the oppression and resultant exodus of the Assyrian community, which is now transpiring. And last spring came this harrowing story about Shari'a and Sistani—supporting women in the Iraqi Parliament:  (Iraq's women of power who tolerate wife—beating and promote polygamy):

As a devout Shia Muslim and one of eighty—nine women sitting in the new parliament, she knows what her first priority there is: to implement Islamic law. When Dr Ubaedey took her seat at last week's assembly opening, she found herself among an increasingly powerful group of religious women politicians who are seeking to repeal old laws giving women some of the same rights as men and replace them with Sharia, Islam's divine law.

We have a moral obligation to oppose Shari'a, which is antithetical to the core beliefs for which hundreds of thousands of brave Americans have died, including, ostensibly, 3000 in Iraq itself. There has never been a Shari'a state in history that has not discriminated (often violently) against the non—Muslims (and Muslim women) under its suzerainty. Moreover such states have invariably taught (starting with Muslim children) the aggressive jihad ideology which leads to predatory jihad 'razzias' on neighboring 'infidels'—even when certain of those 'infidels' happened to consider themselves Muslims, let alone if those infidels were clearly non—Muslims.

That is the ultimate danger and geopolitical absurdity of a policy that ignores or whitewashes basic Islamic doctrine and history, while however inadvertently, making or re—making these societies 'safe for Sharia*)'—as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza, and now, likely, an Hezbollah—dominated Lebanon.

 * My journalistic colleague Diana West coined this very apt phrase, 'Making the world safe for Shari'a.'

Andrew Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad.