October 16, 2010
A Metric for Muslim Moderation
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/10/soldier_admits_erasing_video_o_1.htmlIslam is a total system for the supervision and governance of human affairs. It comprises religion, politics, jurisprudence, military affairs, economics, culture, domestic relations, and every other aspect of life. It is the answer to all questions, albeit from the perspective of a seventh-century revelation. Its fundamental tenets may not be altered, since it is taken to originate by Divine command.
In the modern world, there are areas of conflict between orthodox Muslims and those of other cultures who do not share this point of view. Thus arises the question of whether Muslims generally accept this totalist view in a strong form or whether there are "moderate" Muslims willing to make compromises with the values and customs of the modern world.
Seemingly endless debate concerns itself with identifying and defining the moderate Muslim. There is no consensus on the set of beliefs and practices that would be required.
I here propose an operational definition: A moderate Muslim, in America, is one who declares first political loyalty to the Constitution and the laws which emanate from it.
It follows that such a moderate Muslim respects the traditional Islamic law known as Sharia to the extent that is consistent with the Constitution. A moderate Muslim neither supports nor encourages the undermining or replacement of the Constitution. A moderate Muslim actively opposes attempts to spread Islam by violence, intimidation, or coercion.
The core of the Constitution of the United States is the assertion of popular sovereignty within a system of ordered liberty, the requirement that Congress makes the laws, and the requirement that all persons shall enjoy equal protection of these laws.
The core of Sharia is that only Allah is sovereign and that all law is Divinely mandated. No human agency may make or alter it. It requires unequal protection of the law. For example, Muslim men enjoy privileges not granted to women and non-Muslims.
While there are several schools of Islamic law and myriad interpretations, all cleave to the foundational belief that men may not make laws, that Allah's law must favor Muslims, and that there is an affirmative duty to advance the dominion of Islam, and thus Sharia, by all available means, violent or non-violent, as tactics may require. Reciprocity is not a part of the picture. Islam demands rights that it refuses to others.
One such demand is that Islam not be insulted, by which is meant that it may not be criticized. Free speech is thus forbidden in this area, and a violent response to such speech is condoned.
It is thus beyond rational dispute that the Constitution and Sharia cannot coexist within the same polity. No artful hand-waving, dissimulation, or obfuscation can disguise this essential incompatibility. No twisted logic can square this circle. No pretense of similarity between them can diminish this truth. They cannot be applied in the same legal system without mortal conflict.
Some scholars have noted that Sharia is a vast compendium of commentary on all manner of legal affairs that has developed over the last 1,400 years. It follows, in their view, that Sharia need not be incompatible with the Constitution or other legal systems, since no one can say for sure just what Sharia requires.
This is sophistry of the deepest dye. Every legal system exists on two levels of abstraction, idealist and realist, and the borders of these domains are the subject of endless debate and confusion. There is the Sharia of philosophers, and there is the Sharia of the of the clerics and the police.
While there is no universal understanding of Sharia's tenets, as a practical matter, whoever wields political power makes the determination. Dissenters do so at their peril. The most militant practitioners tend to be the arbiters of interpretation.
The Constitution is based on a deep foundation of Enlightenment thought, buttressed by English common law, Greco-Roman philosophy, and Judeo-Christian ethics. But the Constitution is an entirely practical document. It instructs on the proper limits and powers of government. It is silent on the great questions of theology. It does not define the totality of human experience.
Islamic law could not be more different. It presupposes the identity of religion and state as well as the submission of the individual to this unified and Divinely inspired collective. Saudi Arabia and Iran declare it to be the foundation of their jurisprudence. The Muslim Brotherhood, a rising force in Egypt and increasingly influential even in American Muslim organizations, embraces its sovereignty.
Although metaphysicians continue to weave fabrics of moonbeams, pointing out the beauty, scope, justice, and mercy contained in Sharia, it nevertheless remains true that real countries base their real law on what they insist is Sharia, and that some things that actually happen because of it are lethal to democracy and the Constitution. When a woman is stoned to death on a specious charge of adultery, it is Sharia, as defined by the ruler, that provides the moral sanction for the sentence.
Some scholars argue that Sharia can pose no threat to the Constitution as long as Americans are steadfast in affirming democratic principles and in retaining a faith in the durability of our culture. Yet that is precisely the premise that radical Muslims attack, and it is that which we need most urgently to defend. We fail to do this if we concede a moral equivalence between democratic values and totalist mandates, however dressed in philosophical or religious finery.
Precisely because force in the service of theology is the final arbiter of interpretation of Sharia, there is no way that our Constitution can be compliant with it. Similarly, there is no way that the Sharia of the real world can be compatible with the Constitution. Therefore, American Muslims must make a choice. Moderates will recognize the legal supremacy of the Constitution. Those Muslims who do not are necessarily, and regrettably, our deepest adversaries.
This is not to suggest that such a decision is simple or easy for Muslims. To proclaim such moderation is to raise the specter of apostasy in the minds of radical Muslims. Sharia asserts an affirmative duty to kill such offenders.
American political leadership has been slow to recognize the fusion of a murky theology with a totalitarian political perspective. We have no quarrel with the former, but we cannot ignore the latter in the name of religious tolerance. We support freedom of religion, but the religion must respect our laws.
Reflexive appeal to the First Amendment clouds our thinking and serves to obscure this obvious incompatibility. In America, Muslims are free to embrace the theology of their choosing, but they are not free to justify political totalism as a religious tenet.
We cannot avoid recognizing this incompatibility. However discomforting it may be, we must face the fact, sooner rather than later, that Muslims in America must choose between Sharia and liberty.