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:

• 72% of Indonesian Muslims, 84% of Pakistani Muslims, 82% of Bengladeshi Muslims, 74% of Egyptian Muslims, and 71% of Nigerian Muslims supported making Sharia the official state law of their respective societies. The population-weighted average from these 5 countries was 77% supportive. (Composite regional data confirmed these individual country trends -- 84% of South Asian Muslims, 77% of Southeast Asian Muslims, 74% of Middle Eastern/North African Muslims, and 64% of Sub-Saharan African Muslims favored application of the Sharia as official state law.)

• 37% of Indonesian Muslims, 85% of Pakistani Muslims, 50% of Bengladeshi Muslims, 70% of Egyptian Muslims, and 45% of Nigerian Muslims favored Sharia-based mandatory ("hadd") punishments "like whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery"

• 42% of Indonesian Muslims, 86% of Pakistani Muslims, 54% of Bengladeshi Muslims, 80% of Egyptian Muslims, and 37% of Nigerian Muslims favored the Sharia-based hadd punishment of stoning for adultery

• 16% of Indonesian Muslims, 75% of Pakistani Muslims, 43% of Bengladeshi Muslims, 88% of Egyptian Muslims, and 29% of Nigerian Muslims favored the Sharia-based hadd punishment of execution for "apostasy"

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:

• 91% of Iraqi Muslims and 99% of Afghan Muslims supported making Sharia the official state law of their respective societies

• 55% of Iraqi Muslims and 81% of Afghan Muslims favored Sharia-based hadd punishments "like whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery"

• 57% of Iraqi Muslims and 84% of Afghan Muslims favored the Sharia-based hadd punishment of stoning for adultery

• 42% of Iraqi Muslims and 79% of Afghan Muslims favored the Sharia-based hadd punishment of execution for "apostasy"

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,

Overall, Muslims broadly support the idea of religious freedom. Among Muslims who say people of different religions are very free to practice their faith, three-quarters or more in each country say this is a good thing.

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,

Eight-in-ten countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion, the highest share of any region. These penalties are enforced in 60% of the countries in the region.

As a predictable consequence of this Sharia-based application of apostasy and blasphemy laws by Islamic governments, the Pew report also documented that

...the share of national governments that showed hostility toward minority religions involving physical violence was much higher in countries where laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion are actively enforced than in countries without such laws (55% versus 22%).

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:

- Apostasy from Islam is "the ugliest form of unbelief" for which the penalty is death ("When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed")

- Apostasy occurs not only when a Muslim renounces Islam but also, among other things, when a Muslim appears to worship an idol, when he is heard "to speak words that imply unbelief," when he makes statements that appear to deny or revile Allah or the prophet Mohammed, when he is heard "to deny the obligatory character of something which by consensus of Muslims is part of Islam," and when he is heard "to be sarcastic about any ruling of the Sacred Law"

- "Jihad means to war against non-Muslims"

- Non-Muslims are permitted to live in an Islamic state only if they follow the rules of Islam, pay the non-Muslim poll tax, and comply with various adhesive conditions designed to remind them that they have been subdued (such as wearing distinctive clothing, keeping to one side of the street, not being greeted with "Peace be with you" ("as-Salamu alaykum"), not being permitted to build as high as or higher than Muslims, and being forbidden to build new churches, recite prayers aloud, "or make public displays of their funerals or feastdays"

- Offenses committed against Muslims (including murder) are more serious than offenses committed against non-Muslims

- The penalty for fornication is to be stoned to death, unless one is without the "capacity to remain chaste," in which case the penalty is "being scourged one hundred stripes and banished to a distance of at least 81 km./50mi. for one year"

- The penalty for homosexual activity ("sodomy and lesbianism") is death

- "Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris"

- A Muslim woman may only marry a Muslim man; a Muslim man may marry up to four women, who may be Muslim, Christian, or Jewish (but no apostates from Islam)

- A woman is required to be obedient to her husband and is prohibited from leaving the marital home without permission; if permitted to go out, she must conceal her figure or alter it "to a form unlikely to draw looks from men or attract them"

- A non-Muslim may not be awarded custody of a Muslim child

- The penalty for theft is amputation of the right hand

- The penalty for drinking alcohol is "to be scourged forty stripes"

- The penalty for accepting interest ("usurious gain") is death (i.e., to be considered in a state of war against Allah)

- The testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man

- If a case involves an allegation of fornication (including rape), "then it requires four male witnesses"

- The establishment of a caliphate is obligatory, and the caliph must be Muslim and male

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:

Almost 80% of Egyptian Muslims say they favour religious freedom and a similar number favour sharia law. Of that group, almost 90% also think people who renounce Islam should be put to death. Confused? So are they.

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).

Let it be known to you that the real meaning of freedom lies in the perfection of slavery. If the slavery of a human being in relation to God is a true one, his freedom is relieved from the yoke of changes. Anyone who imagines that it may be granted to a human being to give up his slavery for a moment and disregard the commands and prohibitions of the religious law while possessing discretion and responsibility, has divested himself of Islam. God said to his Prophet: "And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the certainty (i.e. death)." (Koran 15:99). As agreed upon by the [Koranic] commentators, "certainty" here means the end (of life).

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:

[T]here is still no idea that the subjects have any right to share in the formation or conduct of government -- to political freedom, or citizenship, in the sense which underlies the development of political thought in the West. While conservative reformers talked of freedom under law, and some Muslim rulers even experimented with councils and assemblies government was in fact becoming more and not less arbitrary[.]

Lewis also makes the important point that Western colonialism ameliorated this chronic situation:

During the period of British and French domination, individual freedom was never much of an issue. Though often limited and sometimes suspended, it was on the whole more extensive and better protected than either before or after.

And Lewis concludes his entry by observing that Islamic societies forsook even their inchoate democratic experiments:

In the final revulsion against the West, Western democracy too was rejected as a fraud and a delusion, of no value to Muslims.

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:

...perhaps it may be possible to extend them beyond it [the Muslim community] adding a redefined liberty [emphasis added], to make a new kind of democracy. Only "the question is" as Alice remarked, "whether you can [emphasis in original] make words mean so many different things."

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:

Western journalists or scholars picture Islam as a system that is open-minded, liberal, vague, and humanist as their own Western systems. . . . Western writers who give accounts of Islam to a Western public often do not stress those elements in Islam that would be offensive or nonsense in the eyes of their Western readers. They rather see it as their duty to present Islam in as acceptable a light as possible to the West. . . . In general, they take on the role of counsel for the defense. . . . Two characteristics of Islam are particularly offensive to the general Western reader: its totalitarian claim to universal validity and its theocratic demands. . . . The smallest details of daily life are subject to the provisions of Islamic law, not excluding personal hygiene and metabolism. Muslims, it is well known, identify all prescripts of Islamic Law totally and vehemently with the Command of God...To many, moreover, it is not immediately obvious that the rule of Islamic Law [Sharia] of the land implies the use of force in order to implement a religion, namely Islam, since no state can exist if it rejects the use of force to compel the observance of its laws. Once this is clear, ques-tions about the status of lax Muslims, of non-Muslims, and of ex-Muslims who live in Muslim territory inevitably arise. Since Muslims themselves are not at all embarrassed by the political aspirations of their religion they fail to see why others should be.

[I]t will not easily occur to the general Western reader that most Muslims -- not only those the West calls fundamentalists -- welcome the establishment of an Islamic state where the [Sharia], which according the Muslims, were given by God, are universally applied.

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,

Most of the country's population are Muslims, so I think it represents the desires of most Indonesians to have more Shariah Law.

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.

Ernest Gellner (1925-1995), was a British-Czech philosopher and social anthropologist. His anthropological interests extended to Islamdom, notably the 1981 study Muslim Society. In 1995, an
obituarist described Gellner as a "defender of positivism, empiricism and rationalism," who, "with cold clarity" and "sternness" critiqued "religious and leftist seekers after umma . . . linguistic philosophy, relativism, psychoanalysis, and post-modernism." Gellner wrote in 1991,

I think it is fair to say that no secularization has taken place in the world of Islam: that the hold of Islam over its believers is as strong, and in some ways stronger, now than it was 100 years ago. Somehow or other Islam is secularization-resistant, and the striking thing is that this remains true under a whole range of political regimes. It is true under socially radical regimes which try to fuse Islam with socialist terminology and ideas; it is equally true under traditionalist regimes whose elites belong to the world of Ibn Khaldun and come from a ruling tribal network; and it is true of the regimes in between.

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.

The position of Islam is very clear on one point, namely that the true Muslim cannot take a disinterested position vis-à-vis the state. As a result, his position with regard to ruler and rule cannot be an indecisive one which is content with half solutions. Either the ruler is Muslim and the rule Islamic, then he will be content with the state and support it, or the ruler non-Muslim and the rule non-Islamic, then he rejects it, opposes it, and works to abolish it, gently or forcibly, openly or secretly.


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