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SHARIA VERSUS FREEDOM
The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism
By ANDREW G. BOSTOM
Copyright © 2012 Andrew G. Bostom
All right reserved.
Chapter One SEE NO SHARIA
Robert Conquest, the preeminent scholar of Soviet Communist totalitarianism, in his elucidation of Western vulnerability to totalitarian ideologies, wrote that democracy itself is "far less a matter of institutions than habits of mind"—the latter being subject to constant "stresses and strains." He then notes the disturbingly widespread acceptance of totalitarian concepts among the ordinary citizens of pluralist Western societies.
Many in the West gave their full allegiance to these alien beliefs. Many others were at any rate not ill disposed towards them. And beyond that there was ... a sort of secondary infection of the mental atmosphere of the West which still to some degree persists, distorting thought in countries that escaped the more wholesale disasters of our time.
But Conquest evinces no sympathy for those numerous "Western intellectuals or near intellectuals" of the 1930s through the 1950s whose willful delusions about the Soviet Union, "will be incredible to later students of mental aberration." His critique of Western media highlights a cultural self-loathing tendency which has persisted and intensified over the intervening decades, through the present.
One role of the democratic media is, of course, to criticize their own governments, draw attention to the faults and failings of their own country. But when this results in a transfer of loyalties to a far worse and thoroughly inimical culture, or at least to a largely uncritical favoring of such a culture, it becomes a morbid affliction—involving, often enough, the uncritical acceptance of that culture's own standards.
A MINDSLAUGHTER, REDUX
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich delivered a singularly astute and courageous address July 29, 2010. Reactions to that speech across the political spectrum, whether immediate or delayed, illustrate the contemporary equivalent of what Conquest appositely characterized as mindslaughter—a brilliantly evocative term for delusive Western apologetics regarding the ideology of Communism and the tangible horrors its Communist votaries inflicted. What did Newt Gingrich have the temerity to discuss? In defiance of our era's most rigidly enforced cultural relativist taboo, Gingrich provided an irrefragably accurate, if blunt, characterization of the existential threat posed by Islam's living, self-professed mission—to impose sharia, its totalitarian, religio-political "law," globally.
With vanishingly rare intellectual honesty and resolve, Gingrich described how normative sharia—antithetical to bedrock Western legal principles—by "divine," immutable diktat, rejects freedom of conscience, while sanctioning violent jihadism, absurd, misogynistic "rules of evidence" (four male witnesses for rape), barbarous punishments (stoning for adultery), and polygamy.
Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world, and the underlying basic belief which is that law comes directly from God and is therefore imposed upon humans and no human can change the law without it being an act of apostasy is a fundamental violation of a tradition in the Western system which goes back to Rome, Athens and Jerusalem and which has evolved in giving us freedom across the planet on a scale we can hardly imagine and which is now directly threatened by those who would impose it.
Moreover, Gingrich warned about efforts—deliberate, or unwitting—to represent sharia as a benign system.
So let me also be quite clear that the rules are radical and horrific. I think again it's fascinating that even when people go out and do polling and they say to, for example, Muslims in general, do you believe in Sharia, they don't then explain what Sharia is. Sharia becomes like would you like to be a Rotarian and it sounds okay.
Gingrich's unflinching portrayal of the existential threat sharia represents—whether or not this totalitarian system is imposed by violent, or nonviolent means—was accompanied by a clarion call for concrete measures to oppose any sharia encroachment on the US legal code.
Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence. But in fact they're both engaged in jihad and they're both seeking to impose the same end state which is to replace Western civilization with a [radical] imposition of Sharia.
The fight against Sharia and the madrassas in mosques which teach hatred and fanaticism is the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth. It's time we had a national debate on this. One of the things I'm going to suggest today is a federal law which says no court anywhere in the United States under any circumstance is allowed to consider Sharia as a replacement for American law.
Reminiscent of Conquest's earlier assessment of Leftist apologists for Communism—and anticipating reactions to his own speech, albeit from "See No Sharia" cultural relativists not confined to the Left—Gingrich also wondered,
How we don't have some kind of movement in this country on the left that understands that Sharia is a direct mortal threat to virtually every value that the left has is really one of the most interesting historical questions and will someday lead to many dissertations being written.
The ensuing vitriolic, if predictable, attacks on Gingrich, and/ or anti-sharia state legislative initiatives his speech tacitly endorsed (i.e., in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Tennessee), mirror analogous diatribes from Western Communist sympathizers and witless sycophants during the Soviet era. George Orwell trenchantly characterized this particular aspect of Western pro-Communist mindslaughter, and the attitudes it engendered toward those deemed "rabidly anti-Communist."
The upshot is that if from time to time you express a mild distaste for slave-labor camps or one-candidate elections, you are either insane or actuated by the worst motives. In the same way when Henry Wallace is asked by a newspaper interviewer why he issues falsified versions of his speeches to the press, he replies: "So you must be one of those people who are clamoring for war with Russia." There is the milder kind of ridicule that consists in pretending that reasoned opinion is indistinguishable from an absurd out-of-date prejudice. If you do not like Communism you are a Red-baiter.
Responses to Gingrich's speech, when not ignoring the factual content of his presentation or engaging in ridiculous casuistry (pretentiously, if clumsily put forth as [semi-]educated "nuance"), offered mendacious, bowdlerized portrayals of living Islamic doctrine and its historical consequences, past as prologue to the present. But a collective wealth of unambiguous evidence—readily available—reveals the breathtaking shallowness and intellectual dishonesty of these self-righteous attacks on Gingrich, and US state anti-sharia initiatives, including: objective, erudite analyses of the sharia by leading Western scholars of Islam; the acknowledgment of sharia's global "resurgence," even by postmodern, "anticolonial" (i.e., against Western colonialism, not Islamic jihad colonialism!) academic apologists for Islam, combined with an abundance of recent polling data from Muslim nations, and Muslim immigrant communities in the West confirming the ongoing, widespread adherence to the sharia's tenets; the plaintive warnings and admonitions of contemporary Muslim intellectuals—freethinkers and believers, alike—about the incompatibility of sharia with modern, Western-derived conceptions of universal human rights; and the overt promulgation of traditional, sharia-based Muslim legal systems as an integrated whole (i.e., extending well beyond mere "family-law aspects" of the sharia), by authoritative, mainstream international and North American Islamic religio-political organizations.
SEEING SHARIA THROUGH THE PRISM OF SERIOUS WESTERN SCHOLARSHIP
According to the most authoritative twentieth-century Western Islamic legal scholar, Joseph Schacht (d. 1969), the sharia, or "clear path to be followed," is the "canon law of Islam," which "denotes all the individual prescriptions composing it." Schacht traces the use of the term sharia to Koranic verses such as 45:18, 42:13, 42:21, and 5:48, noting an "old definition" of the sharia by the seminal Koranic commentator and early Muslim historian Tabari (d. 923), as comprising the law of inheritance, various commandments and prohibitions, and the so-called hadd punishments. These latter draconian punishments, defined by the Muslim prophet Muhammad either in the Koran or in the hadith (the canonical collections of Muhammad's deeds and pronouncements), included: (lethal) stoning for adultery; death for apostasy; death for highway robbery when accompanied by murder of the robbery victim; for simple highway robbery, the loss of hands and feet; for simple theft, cutting off of the right hand; for "fornication," a hundred lashes; for drinking wine, eighty lashes. As Schacht further notes, sharia ultimately evolved to become "understood [as] the totality of Allah's commandments relating to the activities of man." The holistic sharia, he continues, is nothing less than Islam's quintessence, "the Sharia is the most characteristic phenomenon of Islamic thought and forms the nucleus of Islam itself." But Schacht then delineates additional salient characteristics of the sharia which have created historically insurmountable obstacles to its reform, through our present era.
Allah's law is not to be penetrated by the intelligence ... i.e., man has to accept it without criticism, with its apparent inconsistencies and its incomprehensible decrees, as wisdom into which it is impossible to enquire [inquire]. One must not look in it for causes in our sense, nor for principles; it is based on the will of Allah which is bound by no principles, therefore evasions are considered as a permissible means put at one's disposal by Allah himself.
Muslim law ... has always been considered by its followers as something elevated, high above human wisdom, and as a matter of fact human logic or system has little share in it.
For this very reason, the Sharia is not "law" in the modern sense of the word, any more than it is on account of its subject matter. It comprises without restriction, as an infallible doctrine of duties the whole of the religious, political, social, domestic and private life of those who profess Islam, and the activities of the tolerated members of other faiths so far as they may not be detrimental to Islam.
Elsewhere Schacht elucidates how sharia—via the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war—regulates the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. These regulations make explicit the sacralized vulnerability of unvanquished non-Muslims to jihad depredations, and the permanent, deliberately humiliating legal inferiority for those who survive their jihad conquest, and incorporation into an Islamic polity governed by sharia.
The basis of the Islamic attitude towards unbelievers is the law of war; they must be either converted or subjugated or killed; the third alternative, in general, occurs only if the first are refused. As an exception, the (Arab) pagans are given the choice between conversion to Islam or death. Apart from this prisoners of war are either made slaves or killed or left alive as (free) dhimmis, or exchanged for Muslim prisoners of war, at the discretion of the imam; also a treaty of surrender is concluded which forms the legal basis for the treatment of non-Muslims to whom it applies.... This treaty necessarily provides for the surrender of the non-Muslims with all duties derived from it, in particular the payment of tribute, i.e., the fixed poll-tax (jizya) and the land tax (kharaj), the amount of which is determined from case to case. The non-Muslims must wear distinctive clothing and must mark their houses, which must not be built higher than those of Muslims, by distinctive signs; they must not ride horses or bear arms, and they must yield the way to Muslims; they must not scandalize the Muslims by openly performing their worship or their distinctive customs, such as drinking wine; they must not build new churches, synagogues, and hermitages; they must pay the poll-tax under humiliating conditions. It goes without saying they are excluded from the specifically Muslim privileges....
A non-Muslim who is not protected by a treaty is called harbi, "in a state of war," "enemy alien"; his life and property are completely unprotected by law unless he has been given a temporary safe-conduct (aman).
Moreover, Schacht visited Nigeria between February and April 1950 and wrote the following about northern Nigeria's efforts at rolling back British colonial law, and reintroducing the sharia:
Islamic Law has made great progress there.... The next ambition of the Muslim ruling class in Northern Nigeria is to continue in the same direction and seek the removal of the few restrictions which the British administration had to impose on the full application of Islamic law.
The consequences, at present, of this recrudescence of sharia in northern Nigeria—including at least intermittent application of hadd punishments—were described in a brief report published September 8, 2011.
a has sentenced two men to amputation of their right wrists for stealing a bull, with the amputation to be carried out in public if it is given final approval. The Shariah court in the village of Nassarawan Mailayi in the northern state of Zamfara on Thursday ordered that Auwalu Abubaka, 23, and Lawalli Musa, 22, have their right hands chopped off for stealing a bull worth 130,000 naira ($867; 628 euros). However, the two men have 30 days to appeal their sentence and the state governor must approve any amputation. Such sentences have only rarely been carried out in Nigeria. "Based on the admission of guilt by the two of you of trespassing into the house ... and stealing a bull whose worth is well above the minimum value to warrant amputation, I hereby order that each of you should have his right wrist amputated," Judge Muhammadu Abubakar said. "I hereby order that the sentence be carried out on October 8, on market day for members of the public to witness." The convicts were arraigned on August 8 following complaints to the police by a resident accusing them of stealing his bull from his house, which led to their arrest, court documents showed. Shariah law is in place across 12 states in predominately Muslim northern Nigeria, but it is selectively enforced. It provides for amputation of the wrist for theft and it would be the second time such a sentence is handed down in Zamfara, the first of Nigeria's 36 states to reintroduce Shariah law after the country returned to democratic rule in 1999. In 2001, a notorious cattle rustler had his right wrist amputated following conviction by a Shariah court in the state capital Gusau for stealing a bull after the then state governor approved the sentence.
Independently endorsing Schacht's views, Professor Carl Brockelmann (1868–1956), the renowned scholar of Semitic languages, and arguably the foremost Orientalist of his generation, made these candid observations about the sharia's injunctions pertaining to jihad, and penal law, in 1939—Islamic law being "valid" eternally, and all too widely applied in Brockelmann's era, till now.
The Muslim may show only hostility to infidels when encountered: war against them is a religious duty. Idol-worshippers must always be attacked without more ado, Jews and Christians, however, only after they have ignored a summons made three times, to accept Islam. After defeat the men are to be killed, women and children sold into slavery. Whoever is killed in the Holy War [Jihad] is sure of paradise, as a martyr. In addition, it is permitted to conclude treaties with Jews and Christians, following the example of the Prophet; later on the Parsee Zoroastrians were placed on the same level as these "People of the Book." But the obligation of the Holy War is merely postponed by such contracts, not annulled.
Excerpted from SHARIA VERSUS FREEDOM by ANDREW G. BOSTOM Copyright © 2012 by Andrew G. Bostom. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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