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  • British Muslims, faith and Sharia law

    by Shariq
    4th December, 2005 at 6:10 am    

    MeccaThe implementation of Sharia Law is a rallying cry issued by traditional Muslims and Islamists from London to Lahore.

    One argument used by moderate Muslims to argue against Sharia is the point that Sharia as we see it today is largely the implementation of Muslim values by 10th and 11th century jurists to the world that they lived in. Since then the gates of ijtihad have been closed and there has not been much jurisprudential development to update Islamic law so that it can provide guidance in the modern world.

    I would not disagree with this, but I think that it is difficult to win the argument against traditionalist Muslims if the debate is shaped in the above terms. Therefore I would ask those Muslims who would like to live under Sharia law the following.

    You usually have the most public displays of faith and religion, but if you are so confident of your faith then why do you find it necessary to impose your notions of piety upon other Muslims and Non-Muslims?

    Surely you believe that on the Day of Judgement you will meet your creator and that he will judge you on the way that you have lived your life - whether you were pious or not, as he will all other people.

    In theory and practise the system of government that gives you the greatest opportunity to practise your religion as you believe you should is a liberal democracy where people of all faiths are given the choice of whether or not to follow religion.

    If you are a Sunni Muslim then you may well be persecuted in Islamic but Shia Iran. If you are a Shia or an Ahmadi Muslim then you might well be persecuted in Islamic but Sunni Saudi Arabia (and Pakistan). We all saw the indiscrimanate nature of the Taliban who didn’t seem to give any regard to due process and individual protection.

    This is an example of where John Rawl’s ‘veil of ignorance’ comes in. If you did not know whether you would be born Shia or Sunni or Ismaili or Christian, you would hope that the society that you were being born into was one in which all people had equal rights to follow their consciences and to practise their religion.

    If you were able to live a moral and pious life then I would suggest that a benevolent Almighty would not send you to hell for not forcing others to live by your moral code.

    There are usually some critiques of this point of view. People argue for example that in a society where lets say girls are allowed to wear miniskirts, there is a corrupting influence which prevents others from freely practising their own faith.

    Among other things though, how does this relate to the ever increasing number of young Muslims in the ‘west’ who are wearing the hijab and keeping beards. Surely in a society in which they are free to choose they are choosing to live as Muslims.

    Perhaps one of the reasons why such an argument as projected in this piece is difficult to get across is that there is very little doubt amongst some Muslims that their religion amongst all others is correct. This is despite the fact that scientific advancements and Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection amongst other things cast about the existence of a supreme creator.

    Of course they don’t prove that a creator does not exist but they do provide that element of doubt.

    On the other hand, maybe if there was more self-confidence in ourselves and how we live our lives and the importance of religion in it, then that would reduce the need for religion to be implemented by the state and we could all get on with living our lives.

    After all, if feelings of religious devotion do not come from within, are they worth anything in the grand scheme of things.

    Where ever the balance of the above debate lies, it is hoped that while Muslims continue to have faith they are not so quick to try and push their views on others and that this leads to a more open discourse as to the role of government in a Muslim society, and hopefully help end the oppression of those millions of Muslims who happen to be minorities within Muslim majority states.

    First published by Reformist Muslim on his blog

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    Filed in: Culture,Religion

    82 Comments below   |  

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    1. DesiPundit » British Muslims, faith and Sharia law

      [...] Reformist Muslim over at Pickled Politics has an excellent post on the dilemma of Muslims over the Sharia in rapidly changing times. I may hold true for other religions as well. [...]

    1. Sakshi — on 4th December, 2005 at 7:14 am  

      Very well said.

      The betterment of the ‘society’ as a whole should come first and formost.

    2. El Cid — on 4th December, 2005 at 11:48 am  

      Oi Figgis, give it a rest. Leanardo da Vinci was also a paedophile by today’s standards. Just as it’s ludicrous to impose 11th century values on 21st century society it is equally dumb to judge the past by today’s standards.
      Or do you want Sir Winston Churchill, say, to be written off as nothing more than a deeply racist man who bombed Iraqis with chemical weapons? No, neither do I.

    3. El Cid — on 4th December, 2005 at 12:08 pm  

      Reformist Moslem,
      I hope someone with a fundamentalist slant takes up the challenge.
      I’m not holding my breath though.
      We all have prejudices and one of mine is that people who believe everything they read (especially stuff written centuries ago) are not very bright.
      You raise some very important questions regarding the compatability of radical Islam and Western democracy — the so-called clash of civilisations scenario.
      Jihadist chav like to go on about how voting is futile because you can never change anything. They see it as yet another legitimate reason to kill people. And it’s true that an Islamist victory in Algeria was illegitimately annulled some years ago. It is also true that Mubarak’s regime is doing all it can to suppess the increasingly popular Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt.
      But then can you allow a political group to triumph when it threatens democracy itself? Modern democracy is not about just majority voting — that is mob-rule, the word demos is Greek for mob after all. It is also about protection of minority rights, independent judiciary, bill of rights, etc). Imposing Sharia law would mean destroying that.

    4. reformist muslim — on 4th December, 2005 at 12:26 pm  

      El Cid, a semi-fundamentalist perspective is available in the comments section of this piece up on altmuslim.

      Your points on the protection of minorities, independent judiciary etc are correct. This is why it’s crucial that you have a liberal democracy and raises concerns about the likes of the Muslim Brothers winning in Egypt, although I think that continuing to repress them will only lead to an increase in their popularity (For how to possibly find a middle ground, I’ve posted on this recently on my blog)

      As for Sharia’s compatibility, I think that it is possible to reconcile the two at a certain level but not if you see Sharia as it exists now. As I said, I’m concerned about the ijtihad project though as the Salafi’s will always be able to go to a strict textual interpretation.

    5. jamal — on 4th December, 2005 at 1:07 pm  

      I have difficulties with this article, and it started with the line; “Sharia Law is a rallying cry issued by traditional Muslims and Islamists”. Why not just say Muslims?

      If we are to take current examples of sharia law, it is not the law which causes the difficulties but those that implement it. Yes we know it has its seemingly odd little rules here and there, but so does the law systems of democratic states. Just as the laws and policies of democratic states are not implemented always efficiantly or correctly either. Do you agree?

      In terms of a “liberal democracy where people of all faiths are given the choice of whether or not to follow religion”, I do not think that one actually exists, not one ive lived in anyway. It is a fallacy to say that the Sharia system is oppressive/outdated, while the democratic system is not. We only have to look at the level of oppression, inequality, racism, prejudice and misrepresentation in democracies to evidence this. Yes the same factors occur within the sharia system, therefore we should also be pointing the finger at democracy, of which there is no perfect example either.

      A man called Thomas Hobbes was one of the initial forefathers of the democratic state, penning an ideal where power is given to the state by all so that life is protected and improved for all. However, we find that whether democratic or islamic ideals are used, it is the governments/leaders that cannot be relied on, or trusted. Nevertheless, as mans ideals constantly change, we must not forget that the democratic system provides a permit for much perversity and oppression.

      Yes we that live in such a system should put up, but not neccessarily shut up. Yes we should “not be forcing others to live by our moral code”, but there is nothing wrong with believing and promoting it to be a better system in theory, and maybe better in practice if the current governments of muslim countries are replaced.

    6. Sunny — on 4th December, 2005 at 1:32 pm  

      We only have to look at the level of oppression, inequality, racism, prejudice and misrepresentation in democracies to evidence this.

      Firstly, im this regard most democracies are much better than those countries in the Middle East who say they’re following the laws of Sharia.

      Secondly, a democracy can be used to oppose opression, such as anti-racial hatred laws, anti-religious hatred laws etc. So democracies constantly mutate with society, and although their progress is not always perfect, they are constantly evolving.

      That doesn’t happen in a system that is set and cannot change (or changes according to how someone hopefully interprets the religious scripture).

    7. El Cid — on 4th December, 2005 at 1:36 pm  

      The brilliant Hobbes is a not a founding father of western liberal democracy. He was a champion of law and order.
      He was concerned with explaining why a strong and efficient state was essential for humanity’s well-being. His Leviathan is not incompatible with Sharia Law, funnily enough.
      His starting point was that human nature was essentially negative and selfish. If left unchecked without a clearly demarcated authority it would lead to anarchy. In Hobbes’ state of nature life would — famously — be “nasty, brutish and short”
      Neither is the equally brilliant Jean Jacques Rousseu a founding father of modern western democracy. He was concerned only with the majority. If you misbehaved outside the norms of society you could be “forced to be free” - that too sounds compatible with Sharia.
      If you really want to go to west’s liberal, rights-based philosophical heart, I suggest you read and cite John Stuart Mill and Thomas Paine not Hobbes.
      I would also recommend John Locke and James Harrington.

    8. Don — on 4th December, 2005 at 1:45 pm  

      Surely the difficulty in engaging in a debate with fundamentalists of any stripe is that a fundamentalist, by definition, maintains that the absolute and unquestionable truth is to be found within their interpretation of their inerrant text. They have no need to debate since any postion other than the one they already hold is wrong, any question is an attack, and anyone posing that question is deluded or evil.

      You mentioned Darwin and doubt; the heart of the matter. Of Christian fundamentalists I know, and of Islamic fundamentalists I am fairly certain, just mentioning those wellsprings of secularism is enough to place you beyond the pale.

      To live in the modern world is to live in a world driven by doubt and questioning. It is hard to maintain a fundamental religious faith in such a world and so we see both a decline in unquestioning faith and religion’s response; to withdraw and refuse to engage with a world where certainties are there to be challenged, or to become aggressive and demand that the world stop enquiring. Some do it by taking over school boards, others by killing.

      As we have seen from the cartoon fundamentalist who pops up here occassionally, any discussion that does get started quickly reverts to circular arguments that cite texts and simply assert rightness.

      Best of luck, all the same. What might be valuable would be to hear from muslims who have moved from a fundamentalist to a moderate position, and to learn how that happened.

    9. jamal — on 4th December, 2005 at 2:18 pm  

      In an ideal world democracy is “better than” and “for the people”, in reality it is not. The amount of people that opposed war in iraq shows this. Democracy may oppose anti religious, racist and sexist laws, but then is it not democracy that made these laws in the first place. Democracy is not what it is theorised as, because we are living in an increasingly policed state where we are nannied and told what to do. This is what we are “evolving” towards.

      El Cid, I hear what you say, but the fact remains that Hobbes’s leviathan was a blueprint for the system of democracy we have now in that it intertwines with the works of the others you refer to in terms of the implementation of the state. Many works of these men are merely enhanced versions of the works of others, and none would i call brilliant or great. As you said; “If left unchecked without a clearly demarcated authority it would lead to anarchy”. Relate this to marx and we see that the law does not rule on its own. Politics, laws, etc exists to maintain the economy and the ruling intrests of the elite. Which is why it has also been said that democracy is a hypocrisy as determined by the aristocracy. Its all a matter of perspectives, which is why it would in fact be possible to correlate sharia with hobbes if we are to assume sharia is designed to implement the best way of living and interaction for a people. Democracy can also be correlated with this system, the only difference being it governs from the ideals of man. The problem being in a system that is not set and can change, it changes according to how someone interprets the policies ideals of the consensus to decide what is best. Religious systems of goverenment may be set or rely on the understanding and more importantly the morals of the interpreter, but then democracies also rely on the morals and interpretations of those rsponsibl for compatibility and change. Lets not slander the sharia, when we all know that democratic policy is many times misrepresenting and outdate requiring a change of government or new generation to grow up in order for change to occur, which even then is not neccessarily significant.

      There is no perfect example of a democratic system, particularly not the ones that Blair and Bush seek to export to other countries they invade.

    10. Jez — on 4th December, 2005 at 2:48 pm  

      As long as the aspiration of sharia politics is limited to some groups and not part of public policy, the diversity of understanding can be accommodated. But if it is a public decision enforced by government institutions, it will bind all Muslims. If that happens, democracy as a governmental system accommodating primordial pluralism including the diversity of understanding about sharia, will be threatened.

    11. Sunny — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:04 pm  

      The amount of people that opposed war in iraq shows this.

      No it doesn’t - the country was roughly half for and against it according to many polls. Plus, you seem to be twisting what democracy means to suit your own thoughts. The war in Iraq was never subject to a referendum, but we had the opportunity to get rid of Blair afterwards - and people chose not to.

      You still miss Reformist Muslim’s point. We are talking about reality here, not theory.

      In reality Muslims of all denominations and kinds can practice their religion much better under a liberal democracy than they can in the Muslim countries right now. Are you disputing this?

      Like most people who want to change the nature of the debate to one they feel comfortable with (on this subject HuT do this quite often) - you’re using one or two silly examples (and the decision for Iraq war is not one of democracy breaking down).

      This is reality as it is practised now. Whether you want to follow your religion or not, to have a girlfriend or not, you can do that in a democracy. You can’t do that in Saudi. Let’s address that, instead of making it into a silly philosophical dicussion about who said what about the nature of democracy.

      In practice it still works better than Sharia.

    12. jamal — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:39 pm  

      “If you are a Sunni Muslim then you may well be persecuted in Islamic but Shia Iran. If you are a Shia or an Ahmadi Muslim then you might well be persecuted in Islamic but Sunni Saudi Arabia (and Pakistan). We all saw the indiscrimanate nature of the Taliban who didn’t seem to give any regard to due process and individual protection. We all saw the indiscrimanate nature of the Taliban who didn’t seem to give any regard to due process and individual protection.”

      Sunny, this is a point reformist muslim made. In terms of representation, not much different from “the country was roughly half for and against it (Iraq war) according to many polls”, or the illegal invasion of Iraq which failed to follow the due process. Though you wont accept this point as you are only able to stick to your rigid views concerning sharia and democracy, determining my views as “silly” and yours as not!

      Maybe all denominations/sects of Islam can be practised in a democracy and not in a sharia system, but is this the point of the article. Lets not forget that in a “liberal democracy”, islam is currently in the spotlight with correlations to terrorism, terror laws infringe rights, race and religious crimes are rife and that religious expression is infringed. Are you disputing this? The “reality as it is practised now” is that there is no perfect example of sharia or democracy.

    13. Col. Mustafa — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:40 pm  

      Yes yes, good post.

      Also Dons post, sad but it is true.

    14. j0nz — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:41 pm  

      Jamal the discussion is about “British Muslims, faith and Sharia law”, not the imperfections of democracy.

    15. jamal — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:47 pm  

      Jonz, the article states;

      “In theory and practise the system of government that gives you the greatest opportunity to practise your religion as you believe you should is a liberal democracy where people of all faiths are given the choice of whether or not to follow religion.”

      ..therefore the imperfections of democracy is very relevant.

      Also due to the statement;

      “Since then the gates of ijtihad have been closed and there has not been much jurisprudential development to update Islamic law so that it can provide guidance in the modern world.”

      …I consider it a valid point to investigate the extent to which democracy should be considered a better provision of “guidance”, or not.

    16. Rohin — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:51 pm  

      I was talking to a pretty clueless Muslim girl on Friday (she said Salman Rushdie’s fatwa was ‘a good idea’ but hadn’t read his book).

      She insisted Sharia law was a fantastic idea, but it is implemented in a bad way in reality, echoing some people here. So what does that sound like? Communism! Nice idea, shame about the real world. So, like the vast majority of the world has done with communism, time to consign sharia to the rubbish bin. That’s hardly a radical idea - religions are supposed to move with the times.

    17. j0nz — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:56 pm  

      It’s probably just me and my silly Western sensibilities I thought Freedom, Democracy, Indivdual choice, Equal rights and Human rights were the pinnacle of human society.

    18. j0nz — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:59 pm  

      I Am Kourosh The Great King… Now That I Put The Crown Of The Kingdom Of Persia.., Babylon.., And The Nations Of The Four Directions On The Head With The Help Of Ahura.., I Announce That I Will Respect The Traditions.., Customs And Religions Of The Nations Of My Empire And Never Let Any Of My Governors And Subordinates Look Down On Or Insult Them While I Am Alive… I Will Impose My Monarchy On No Nation… Each Is Free To Accept It, And If Any One Of Them Rejects It.., I Never Resolve On War To Reign… While I Am The King… I Will Never Let Anyone Oppress Others… I Will Never Let Anyone Take Possession Of Movable And Landed Properties Of The Others By Force Or Without Compensation… While I Am Alive.., I Will Prevent Unpaid.., Forced Labor… Today.., I Announce That Everyone Is Free To Choose A Religion… No One Could Be Penalized For His Or Her Relatives’ Faults…

      Kourosh The Great

      The First Charter Of Human Rights Written By The Persian Emperor, Kourosh The Great, 2,500 Years Ago

      That was in the space now known as The Islamic Republic of Iran. How ironic that 2,500 years later this area is characterised by it’s lack of univerally accepted human rights.

    19. Rohin — on 4th December, 2005 at 3:59 pm  

      J0nz, how foolish of you. The pinnacle of society is a glass drinking bird. That and a caliphate, of course.

    20. Col. Mustafa — on 4th December, 2005 at 4:05 pm  

      “time to consign sharia to the rubbish bin. That’s hardly a radical idea - religions are supposed to move with the times.”

      hehe, that would be my idea, or change it according to todays living standards.
      But the mere mention of change let alone abolish might leave us headless.
      Sad state of affairs.

    21. Col. Mustafa — on 4th December, 2005 at 4:32 pm  

      A lawless land.
      Madmax always confused me, i would of thought there would of been millions of homeless destitute people around.

      Thousands upon thousands of gangs roaming and killing, there should of been millions of bodies everywhere.
      But no it was fairly nice, almost appealing to the lawless land.
      Dam films, i dreamt about no law for ages until i started looking at it realistically.

      The only way islam can change is when jesus eventually ressurects and changes it himself.
      He wont even talk to anyone, he’ll just show up and make the changes and go back to sleep again.
      Under his breath obviously saying, “fucking retards couldn’t even do that, i had to wake up for this shit”

    22. Rohin — on 4th December, 2005 at 4:37 pm  

      Resurrecting Jesus eh? Or did you mean Mohammed? South Park had an episode entitled Super Best Friends where Mohammed, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and some other randoms worked together to make a huge John Wilkes Booth to kill the huge Abraham Lincoln you find in Washington, which had been animated by an evil David Blaine.

      Mohammed breathed fire (incomprehensible, but funny!), Krishna kept reincarnating himself as different things and everyone got mad with Buddha for being a pansy.

      Yet Sania Mirza gets a fatwa and the Royal Mail gets Hate Mail.

    23. El Cid — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:00 pm  

      I leave aside the issue of Hobbes et al. You’re badly mistaken — western democracy is a lot more than just a social contract . But it’s all academic anyway.
      At the risk of sounding like a former orange-faced chat show host, maybe you can suggest a few alternative ‘great’ Islamist political and theological thinkers of the last 500 years (i.e. after al-Andalus). Ah, but there’s the rub — how can you improve on God-given perfection handed down to the prophet a millenia ago!!
      The only point I wish to make about democracy and what it means to us who support it is that we know that it’s not an ideal system. It’s a complicated one, it has to be to accomodate a maximum array of opinion and interests. True, it can be very annoying. I mean hands up who’s ever been irritated by the endless cycle of two-party partisanship whenever there’s a serious issue to discuss like the future of the health service or pension reform. And what about the large number of people who dont vote — is that plain apathy or deep-seated alienation? Or the fact democracy near enough = plutocracy in the U.S.? And the fact politicians are all lying cunts? And so on.
      It’s no utopia Jamal. We all know that. But it’s by far the least of all evils.

    24. Vikrant — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:01 pm  

      I think its cos there cartoons and the muslim world probably just think nothing of it.

      appraently some cartoon on mohammed has caused an uproar in Denmark with the cartoonist getting death threats.

    25. j0nz — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:02 pm  

      It’s no utopia Jamal. We all know that. But it’s by far the least of all evils.

      Hear Hear.

    26. Col. Mustafa — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:04 pm  

      “appraently some cartoon on mohammed has caused an uproar in Denmark with the cartoonist getting death threats.”

      Dammit, there goes my plan.

    27. Vikrant — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:09 pm  

      damn can find the episode on limewire… err.. my local dvd store.

    28. Bikhair — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:34 pm  

      Pickled Poopers,

      “Since then the gates of ijtihad have been closed…”

      What the hell does this mean? Please no opinions.

    29. Bikhair — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:45 pm  

      I love when topics such as the Sharia come up on this blog. Its so nice to the these Muslims running around making themselves dizzy trying to satisfy the standards of the kufar. Lovely. My hope is that on Yumal Qiyamah, all this rhetoric is vindicated. Opps! I lied.

    30. Bikhair — on 4th December, 2005 at 5:51 pm  


      I dont know if I would use the word perfect. I’ve never heard that word used by the scholars. He was the best slave of Allah (azwajjal). And if Muslims hope to be good slaves of Allah, they should take the advice and example of the Master Shaikh (Muhammed sallalahu alaihi wa salam) and the understanding of his companions.

      Hope that helps my child.

    31. Don — on 4th December, 2005 at 6:43 pm  

      If religious fundamentalism were limited to spiteful ego-trippers like Bikhair or hate-filled bearded ranters then it would pose no more of a problem than any other pushy cult.

      But millions of ordinary, decent people grow up and live their lives immersed in a belief system which defines itself as perfect. A perfect system, imperfect humans; something has to give. Usually the humans.

      The great advantage of democracy is that it recognises itself as imperfect and always evolving. If you don’t like it, change it. I’m an equable sort of bloke, but one thing that pisses me off is people who say you can’t make a difference, whoever you vote for, yadda yadda. Bollocks. How hard did you try? Yeah, it’s a drag getting a council seat and paying your dues for years, it’s frustrating when you have a big demo but the decision goes against you, it’s humbling when you realise that you might have to put in twenty years of hard slog to make a tiny change to a single aspect of democracy. But that’s the game.

      Democrats, secularists, rationalists; flawed and damned proud of it.

    32. Jai Singh — on 4th December, 2005 at 6:49 pm  


      Absolutely correct — this is the problem that can occur when a religious theology, beyond the spiritual aspects, also consists of a formalised system of government (ie. it also has a fully organised legal and political system). The danger which arises here is that, since the system is supposed to be based on divinely-ordained scriptures and precedents, there is a risk of conservatives declaring “It’s people who fail, not the system” — which can be used to crush both dissidents and free-thinkers.

    33. Sunny — on 4th December, 2005 at 8:10 pm  

      People, please stick to the discussion and stop feeding the trolls. They’ve been deleted.

    34. Reehana Taj — on 4th December, 2005 at 8:12 pm  

      Look Paul, just because we live in a so called Christian country. it does not mean that we should automatically convert to Christianity. Course you would be allowed to carry the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with carrying a Bible in a Muslim country, provided you genuinely believed in God, adhered to the morals in the Bible, and that you don’t go out of your way to harm people, I honestly don’t think it’s a problem. I have many friends who are Christian, in that they attend Church, they act on the teachings in the Bible, but more importantly they are not hostile like you. Why are you so consumed with hate. Where is that good Christian compassion that I hear about? I should be allowed to discuss Sharia in this country. This country belongs to all those who call it a home, and do abide by its laws, even if they disagree with them.
      The whole point of Sharia is to improve the quality of life for all those who live under this system. Non Muslims are also protected under the Sharia as is their property and other assets.

    35. j0nz — on 4th December, 2005 at 8:13 pm  

      Reformist Muslim, this is an excellent post by yourself. I had already bookmarked you a couple of weeks ago ;)

    36. Sunny — on 4th December, 2005 at 8:37 pm  

      Jamal - two points.

      A few years after the Iraq war we had the opportunity to decide whether we wanted those leaders to stay in power or not. That is democracy in action. Secondly, we also have a much freerer press - again democracy in action.

      Those two elements don’t exist in Middle Eastern countries. So just saying “there are no perfect examples of democracy or Sharia” is you making a relativist excuse.

      The fact of the matter is if you saw that one country was better than here in practicising Islam, then you would move there. But many scholars also point out that Liberal democracies are more Sharia than Muslim countries themselves.

      Secondly, you said:
      islam is currently in the spotlight with correlations to terrorism, terror laws infringe rights, race and religious crimes are rife and that religious expression is infringed. Are you disputing this?

      No I’m not disputing that. You think that might have anything to do with 9/11 and support for that mass murder Osama Bin Laden, and then 7/7 and loads of other bombings around the world.

      Do you think that might have anything to do with Muslims being under the spotlight? It’s just a hunch but I think there might be a clue there somewhere.

    37. Sunny — on 4th December, 2005 at 8:39 pm  

      Bikhar, this is what you said:Its so nice to the these Muslims running around making themselves dizzy trying to satisfy the standards of the kufar. Lovely

      And this is what Reformist Muslim said:
      but if you are so confident of your faith then why do you find it necessary to impose your notions of piety upon other Muslims and Non-Muslims?

      I love it when you fall into your own trap. Your insecurity is on display every day here.

    38. Don — on 4th December, 2005 at 9:21 pm  

      Is Sharia compatible with democracy? I can’t see how, but I’m no scholar. Is there a theory that reconciles the two?

      When society changes, as over millennia it must, and the law remains static, then the law must be increasingly at variance with society.

      I’m happy to accept that Sharia law was the best system that could have been devised at the time and under the circumstances, but both have changed. Democracy is a matter of negotiation between beliefs, opinions, rights and obligations. My understanding is that Sharia is non-negotiable.

      If that is the case, you can have either or, not both.

      Jamal, I’m sure I’ve misread your position. You’re not arguing Sharia as preferable to liberal democracy?

    39. Jai Singh — on 5th December, 2005 at 10:33 am  


      =>”Is Sharia compatible with democracy?”

      I guess it probably depends on a) the location, and b) what version of Sharia is implemented.

      In a Muslim-majority nation ? Possibly.
      In a Muslim-majority nation where the citizens define the proposed rules of Sharia for themselves ? Again, possibly.
      In a Muslim-majority nation where the version of Sharia that is implemented is one “written in stone” centuries ago ? I don’t think so.

      In a Western nation, or one where the majority of citizens are not Muslims ? No. Sharia is based on principles within Islam, and unless one believes in the validity of Islam itself — either in full measure or at least with regards to the Islamic principles relevant to Sharia — I don’t think that particular society’s citizens could (or should) submit to this system of law.

      For the benefit of non-Asians browsing this blog who can’t differentiate between Asians based on their names, I should add that I am not a Muslim myself.

    40. sonia — on 5th December, 2005 at 2:59 pm  

      i asked someone this and i hadn’t had any input. i can’t see any need for sharia law at all, in fact quite the opposite. ( i find it very scary because of the power issues)

      however going with a theoretical argument - if human rights legislation is already in place ( oh ok that doesn’t mean there aren’t any transgressions but we’re talking about legislation here) then why does anyone need ‘religious law’. Civil law if offering the protection of rights needed - is surely sufficient ( i think a distinction of religious and civil law is theoretically silly in itself anyway)

      Looking at the socio-historical context of Islam - back in pre-Islamic Arabia - its quite clear women didn’t have certain rights - e.g. property and inheritance etc. ( 1882 when the property rights for women came into force in the UK ) and also in the event of divorce being able to keep a certain amount of money ( equivalent to the modern day pre-nuptial contract). So if some one had said ‘well these women need some legal protection that they aren’t getting from the current laws of the land’ - then hey i could see they had a point. ( though i dont see from an implementation perspective how the hell it would have worked - offering some people access to some rights and not others..?Obviously Islam was supposed to be taken in a cosmpolitan way - not oh these are rights only offered to muslim women - ha ha)

      Now that the rest of the world has caught up -
      ( theoretically i mean - its not like these in theory rights for women have often ever been implemented by the dodgy male counterparts : we all know the Mullahs especially - and also loads of other religious types elsewhere e.g. the Catholic Church - have been very dodgy with women’s rights even when they’re specifically not supposed to be, according to their own religion)

      I can’t think of anything else that may be relevant to this discussion.

      and anyway the fundamental idea behind ‘religious’ law is strange - rights are supposed to be universally protected and accessible to all - ( a cosmopolitan notion- and one that was the original idea behind islam anyway before it got distorted to the usual ‘tribal’ us and them shit - or so i imagined..) and if you’re applying one set of rules to one lot of people than to another lot - it’s not exactly sensible and i have major theoretical and ethical issues with it.

      Not withstanding the issues of who gets to interpret the law’ and apply the rules - a bunch of dodgy old men again -pah! I wouldn’t have them interfere in my life for a minute - they claim tis divine rules they’re applying but why the hell do they think ( even if one accepts these divine ‘rules’) that they are applying it ‘divinely’. ?

      In any case assume for a moment we’ve agreed to have these ‘rules’ and we accept some one’s going to do their best to apply them fairly - well who do you apply them to? Muslims? - what a term. well who goes about then saying who’s a muslim and who’s not? See that’s where all the trouble will start. U have that anyway - and in my view that’s the problem of ‘religion’ - (the problem that most people identify - though it ends up a slanging match against some particular religion) - but this is one of the problem identified within the sociology of religion.

      Religion if it is a personal belief system/philosophy is one thing - if it is able to stay in the realms of spirituality blah blah for an individual - but- once it becomes tied up with well who’s a member of this Group ( and these are the rules hard and fast) - then bam! Trouble. Back to square one. You’re back to the problems that say some of the ideas in religion are supposed to address.

      so again - whichever way anyone thinks - even if you accept tenets of a faith, who’s got the right to say you’ve declared yourself a Muslim - so now you’re going to have to abide by these laws. Religion becomes institutionalized -and that’s the big problem. And that’s why secularism makes sense. At the end of the day there’s no reason why if you’re a moral person with some ethics of some kind or other- you can’t live by them without thse sharia courts. And frankly - they scare me and remind me of the Puritan witch hunty type business; usually people who’re in favour of these things think the rest of us are lax morally and ought to be punished in some severe way. Which i don’t really get - if God’s supposed to be forgiving and all that - which we’re supposed to believe if we Believe - then what’s this severe court doing trying to kill us b4 we’ve had a chance to think about whatever it is. Pah i say. I personally think in the current social context the sharia court is a smokescreen which a certain bunch of people are trying to use to gain power over people in the ‘mortal world’ ( excuse the funny language - but assuming this argument is directed at the ones who use religious terminology and religion to back this Sh. court thingie) - and nothing to do with ethics or morality. ( and even if they think its about ethics and morality they ought to think harder as nasty punishments never helped anyone be more ethical )

    41. Col. Mustafa — on 5th December, 2005 at 3:23 pm  

      I really should read what sonia wrote as it looks like it deserves a read, but i say ban all monotheistic religions in an attempt to solve the entire issue.
      I dont mind hinduism. Im actually thinking of worshipping Horus, but hey monothesim, its gotta stop.
      Monotheism has never been a good thing, it took religion into a more serious role.

      No, noooooooooooooooooo, theres only one god.

      But but, i just wanna be friends with you….

      My god said nooooooo.
      You have too many gods, i only have one.
      Therefore i am right, and you are wrong.


      Now i will read it.

    42. Jai Singh — on 5th December, 2005 at 3:34 pm  

      Colonel saab,

      The problem isn’t monotheism, it’s the idea of monotheistic exclusivity, ie. “My” God versus “Your” God. etc.


      I read through your post and thought you made some good points — although I don’t agree with your statement that “God is all about forgiveness”, as this depends very much on the specific religion. Some faiths do teach this, others do not and are more concerned with divine punishment, retribution, and damnation.

      But yes, in a nutshell you’re right about the problems that can occur when you have a system governing the minutiae of people’s lives, where there is no distinction between the private, public, and indeed political spheres.

    43. Col. Mustafa — on 5th December, 2005 at 3:49 pm  

      hehehehe, please dont take that seriously.

      But saying that it would be interesting to see what would happen if all monotheistic religions did get abolished.

      You know just suddenly one day, hey dudes our religion dont exist any more.
      Yep, hmmm.

      Who said so?


      Lets kill them, they cant tell us what to do.


      Lets kill.


    44. sonia — on 5th December, 2005 at 3:51 pm  

      right jai singh - i see your point re that comment. it wasn’t a ‘statement’ as obviously that depends on people’s notion of God in the first place - assuming that in this case we’re talking about Islam - well i was just using this ‘point’ as an argument - given the fact that in Islam people believe God is forgiving - if you ask for forgiveness. Obviously some of the preachers have more of a vicious understanding of God than others - ( it starts getting subjective)

      But i was referring to the fact that they do turn around after describing hellfire in gleeful terms ( which of course turns anyone away) and say ah but if you do this this and this..and ask God’s forgiveness.. ( presumably thats why they think we ought to pray or sth)

      sidepoint: divine ‘retribution’ and forgiveness aren’t necessary mutually exclusive..one could always conceptualize in terms of ‘justice’ which is tempered with forgiveness.. but again this is a sidepoint..it doesn’t matter in this context and is a point that’s subjective as anything is..

      ..you’re absolutely right about the private political and public spheres thing.

    45. Don — on 5th December, 2005 at 3:53 pm  

      But, mon colonel, monotheism means I only have to disbelieve in one god, which I can quite easily do over morning coffee. If I had to disbelieve in a whole pantheon I’d be at it all day. Besides, I might miss one and end up believing in an obscure and uninspiring godling by default.

    46. sonia — on 5th December, 2005 at 3:53 pm  

      er..i meant up above that when the preachers talk about hellfire gleefully its a turn-off and generally has the opposite effect on the populace. ( ha silly old fools they are)

    47. Bikhair — on 5th December, 2005 at 4:04 pm  


      “And this is what Reformist Muslim said:
      but if you are so confident of your faith then why do you find it necessary to impose your notions of piety upon other Muslims and Non-Muslims?

      I love it when you fall into your own trap. Your insecurity is on display every day here.”

      My notion of piety is what I can prove Prophet Muhammed (sallalahu alaihi wa salam) did or allowed Muslims to do and what his companions understood as being peity. If I speak from my opinions you have every right to ignore me, clown me, and even hit me over the head with a wet noodle.

    48. Jai Singh — on 5th December, 2005 at 4:06 pm  


      Well it’s just about using extreme fear as an incentive (especially as knowledge of what happens after death can’t be experienced directly until one actually dies), but that’s a whole off-topic argument.

      Other than that, I stand by the views expressed in my post no. 40, especially with regards to the issues concering implementation of Sharia in non-Muslim-majority societies.

    49. Col. Mustafa — on 5th December, 2005 at 4:09 pm  

      So your suggestion is ban all religion of all forms.
      I dont have probs with hinduism, as it doesn’t try and force me that its correct.
      It could do, given the right environment and people, but chances are i wont be there.

      If all religion were abolished, it would eventually lead to old religions being brought back or new religions being formed with pretty much the same ideas as the old religions. hehe

      Humans need something to believe in for some reason or another.
      Even 50 cent is kind of like a religious figure to some, wheras i would class Hip hop as the religion and 50 as one of the many gods.
      The old gods were always more knowledgeable and wise.
      The new ones just suck.

    50. sonia — on 5th December, 2005 at 5:13 pm  

      banning anyone from having a religion is exactly the same as forcing one particular religion. it all depends on what you define as religion which at the end of the day is a belief in something - (believing in no god is still an opinion, and could be construed as a religion someday - why not -) and no one ( religious or non-religious) should force other people in their private spheres to accept their own viewpoint.

      the emphasis should be on freedom to have any opinion -whether that involves a belief in divinity, no divinity or a half-way perspective - without interference from the State and/or religious institutions. That’s what was behind secularism and is pretty sensible.

      Religious persecution comes in many forms - not allowing people to have their personal beliefs is a form of religious persecution.

      sorry i keep saying that..but its pretty crucial

    51. sonia — on 5th December, 2005 at 5:19 pm  

      perhaps using terminology like “ijtihad” without explaining what it is isn’t a great idea. i found this article on countercurrents.org which is pretty interesting:

      ijtihad :’a simple idea, the application of reason and reinterpretation.

      thinking for yourself and us your intellect - makes sense eh! the problem i see all around ( and not just religion - but any sets of ideas/philosophies) is people try and turn it into dogma and therein lies the problem.


    52. sonia — on 5th December, 2005 at 5:29 pm  

      oi jamal speak for yourself. certainly most muslims are definitively not calling for sharia. they run miles from it. i think some of you lot have your heads in the sand. some
      british muslims or diasporic muslims may be freakish about their religion - why? just as a point of identity and to be different from the ‘corrupt goras’. Ridiculous. thats more to do with a majority minority dynamic. if you’d ever lived in a country where being muslim was the norm u’d realize that most people are ordinary, conform to religion in as much as its a socially and culturally required, and there’s a small no. of religious ‘goody goody’ types and a smaller fraction of fanaticy types.

    53. Mirax — on 5th December, 2005 at 6:33 pm  

      “certainly most muslims are definitively not calling for sharia. they run miles from it.”

      Ha! Spot on Sonia! this is true as the vast majority of muslims are fairly sensible humans with healthy sense of self-preservation who do not want the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Suppression of Vice (inevitable with Sharia law) taking up a command post down their street. But it is considered blasphemy or heresy to actually say so aloud, no?

    54. Mirax — on 5th December, 2005 at 6:46 pm  

      Jai Singh,

      I do think that the Col is more correct about monotheism than you. Monotheism must- logically- and does lead to what you term monotheistic exclusivity. A monotheistic religion can only ever be non-aggressive if there aren’t any other monotheistic or polytheistic beliefs around - their very existence calls into question the most fundamental tenet of there being only god and sets up a terrible tension for the true believer which is often resolved by violence. The polytheist Hindus and near atheist Buddhists do not seem to have had fought that many religious wars.

    55. Mirax — on 5th December, 2005 at 6:48 pm  

      “there being only god ” should read only ONE god

    56. Siddharth — on 5th December, 2005 at 8:06 pm  

      The polytheist Hindus and near atheist Buddhists do not seem to have had fought that many religious wars.

      Hinduism is not polytheist per se. There is the concept of Brahma , as described in the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharjya.

      And are Buddhists atheistic? I have my doubts.

    57. Jai Singh — on 5th December, 2005 at 8:27 pm  


      With all due respect, I don’t agree with you. Whether or not Monotheism automatically leads (sooner or later) to an exclusivist perspective depends on the specific tenets of the faith concerned. Sikhism is also a Monotheistic faith but it is by no means “exclusivist” or inherently hostile to other organised religions — the opposite, in fact.


      A practising Buddhist would obviously be the best person to answer your question, but to my understanding, Buddhism is neutral about the existence of God. The religion’s tenets focus on how an individual can break out of the cycle of existence, and the question of God just isn’t factored into the equation at all — it’s discretely ignored.

      This isn’t an attack on Buddhism, by the way — just a quick summary of my understanding of its tenets.

    58. Siddharth — on 5th December, 2005 at 9:55 pm  

      IMO, Muslims would be best served if they kept only to that which is mandatory - the 5 pillars of faith. Ditch everything else. Most Sunnah practices should be dropped. That means the Hadith as a 2nd division Law book should be dropped. Thats my opinion. But thats also the day to day practice of most of the one billion Muslims. So, all that needs to be done is to formalise that practice. Shariah Law should only inspire but not inform the law of State. Secularise, secularise, secularise!

    59. Sunny — on 6th December, 2005 at 12:23 am  

      Bikhair: My notion of piety is what I can prove
      Hunny - you can’t prove anything, you can only speculate and you can only believe. Though hitting you with a wet noodle sounds quite disarming and funny :)

      I’d like to clear something up. It’s not actually compulsory for Muslims to live under Sharia or in a Caliphatem - so why is such a big deal made out it? It’s a politicisation tactic that the likes of Hizb ut Tahrir use just to scare Muslims into supporting them.

    60. Bikhair — on 6th December, 2005 at 1:55 am  


      Girl please! that is not the meaning of ijtihad. Get over it.

    61. Iain — on 6th December, 2005 at 11:43 am  

      From a non-muslim perspective Islamists use these theoretical concepts of Sharia and Caliphate to intimidate (create fear and using threats of violence against) muslims living in non-muslim countries and to attempt to intimidate non-muslims, who have been moving in ever larger numbers to arab-controlled countries in the middle-east, from expecting the same freedoms they have left in their countries of origin.

      The long-standing geographical compartmentalisation of Christandom/Islam, and their much wiser parent Judaism, that for so long served them so well is in irretrievable breakdown and these most reactionary of the reactionaries are really, really scared by that.

      The Islamists are actually terrified of modern, secular, liberal and democratic states being created by this remixing of the cultural threads of the Judaisms.

      Sharia is not and never was ‘Gods Law’. Even if it is entirely based on the Talmudic tradition of legal disputation. That is why it can never be useful to anyone in the modern world as it stands. It needs not Reformation (these Takfiris and murderous jihadis have a lot in common with the Puritans already thanks) but a complete Enlightenment with a gale of Freethought blown through it.

      It has been surpassed by ‘Western’ democracy and being free to say that is what Islamists hate the most.

    62. Siddharth — on 6th December, 2005 at 11:56 am  

      Iain, I don’t agree with the way you equate Shari’ah law with Jihadis. Shari’ah is a valid legal system that is valid and applicable.

      [...] the automatic shiver produced at the mere mention of Shari’a law is symptomatic of the way in which Islam is produced for Western audiences as a freakish sideshow, a chilling horror tale of Cold War simplicity, a noxious brew of fantastic violence and sexual degradation that, inevitably, is a projection of what our rulers are presently inflicting on Iraq.

      Those words are from a superb analysis of the perceptions of Shari’ah Law, from historical precepts to Modern day application in Iraq is found here, over at Lenin’s Tomb. The man’s a marvel.

    63. Jai Singh — on 6th December, 2005 at 12:06 pm  

      There’s currently a good debate on the Sepia Mutiny blog about India potentially exporting its Sufi-inspired version of Islam in order to counteract the Wahabbi version increasingly prevalent worldwide:


      This is also a very good site summarising Islam and, even more interestingly, the various versions and “sects” of the faith (links on the right hand side, in blue):


      (Thanks to Sepia Mutiny for the second link too).

    64. Mirax — on 6th December, 2005 at 2:49 pm  

      The ‘analysis’ at lenin’s tomb is pretty crap. No wonder you write things like sharia is “valid legal system that is valid and applicable”

      What do you actually know of the sharia and its hudud ordinances? I suspect not much, from the rather glib, superficial comments you make.

    65. Siddharth — on 6th December, 2005 at 3:05 pm  

      Dearest Mirax,

      My sentence construction might be crap but Lenin’s potted history of Shari’ah and the countries where it has been applied is the best I’ve seen by an objective writer.

      My post was in reaction to Iain’s (62) which was the usual hysyeric overreaction which lazily equates Shari’ah (which has been implemented in some parts of the World for centuries) with a very current antagonism to Islamist terrorism.

      As Lenin’s article specifies, Shari’ah has only ever been as a variant.

      I did not condone hudud or full Shariah application. All I said that was it has been used and applied in countries for centuries without so much as a exploding rucksack in a packed train in any of them. Neither does Lenin for that matter, by my reading of the article.

      So before you bite my head off, I’d like to know what you found so objectionable about it.


    66. douglas — on 6th December, 2005 at 8:13 pm  


      There is a huge degree of sympathy amongst the rest of society for the idea that the Muslim religion needs a reformation. A reform in the sense of updating itself to recognise the modern world. Muslim women should be wearing short skirts and muslim men shouldn’t care, except obviously to fanct their legs. Women should have their entire genitalia intact, and this should not be a thing that Moslems say is tribal and not Moslem. It is something that goes on in Moslem societies and it is an intrinsically evil thing. If there are people here that think otherwise they are morons.
      Muslim men should be loving other Muslim men without fear of a stoning. Ooh err. Luv a duck.! It is not the place of ant religion to insert iteslf between swethearts. If anyone can find a bit of the |Koran that says so, I say the Koran is wrong. It requires reformation. There is no way that a historical book has any relevance in the twenty first century. And that goes for the Bible too. (Err. When does this new religious intolerance act come in?)


    67. Iain — on 7th December, 2005 at 10:40 am  


      Before you go putting further ‘hysterical’ words into my mouth allow my to expand. I equate Islamists with the call for the implementation of Shar’ia and a Caliphate. And a political ideology supporting violence or jihad. This is an equation Islamists have already made for every muslim in the world. I think Islamists are Islamophobic myself.

      Islamism is the political ideology upon which rests the modern ‘Jihadi’ call too. Islamists support and justify these killers’ new Jihad. And feed the addiction to the white raisins.

      Shar’ia could be saved from these ‘Takfiris’ if a healthy dose of Freethought was allowed to enter the wider Islamic discourse. It was the only thing that saved Christendom from the Reformation violence and that is what is apparently happening to Islam right now. Not an Enlightenment which is what Islam still really needs to catch up with its other half.

      These are political reactionaries that hate the fact that they the clerical fascists of Jihadist Islam (rather than say of Catholicism last century) and your apparent defence of these reactionaries is remarkable in-itself. They are reactionary as immigration and emmigration and the modernist and ecumenical project of re-intergration of the ‘Flowers of the Desert’ and the mixing and hope for the future that this brings about is their anathema. They have to keep us unnaturally divided to continue their self-serving illusion of separate civilsations when we are One.

      Shar’ia, as a broad and diverse set of legal institutions, is capable of modernisation and secularisation. I suppose that is why there are all these campaign groups and sites in favour of that. In the meantime the extant Sharia were implemented as in Iran or Nigeria or Sudan brings Islam (being based on Judaeo-Christianity is based on the commandments about implementing Justice) and this brings it further into disrepute.

      Am I being hysterical?

    68. Iain — on 7th December, 2005 at 10:53 am  

      Apologies please insert ‘are losing control’ after (…Catholicism last century)…

    69. Jai Singh — on 7th December, 2005 at 10:58 am  

      Hello Iain,

      A “reformation” of Islam (with regards to a more liberal interpretation of Sharia and the contents of the Quran) already happened centuries ago with regards to many Sufi sects, especially in the Indian subcontinent.

      The problem is that in the rest of the world, and particularly these days, it is the Saudi Arabian Wahabbi-version (with its parallels in Iran, the Taleban etc) which is becoming more vocal and more prevalent.

      Take a look at the links I provided in post no. 64 when you have any spare time. People are already considering “exporting” the Indian Sufi version as a way of counteracting the excesses of Wahabbism, which appears to have hijacked Islam somewhat in our troubled times.

    70. Jai Singh — on 7th December, 2005 at 11:00 am  

      PS — In my opinion, Siddharth’s summary in post no. 59 is absolutely spot-on.

    71. Fe'reeha — on 7th December, 2005 at 11:39 am  

      Regarding Douglas:
      If there are people here that think otherwise they are morons.
      I guess there could not be a more totalitarian view. If you are not even willing to listen a case “otherwise” then people (morons?) will be wasting their breath in establishing a debate with you.
      I do not support any of the injustices done in the name of Quran, but at the same time, I do realise that poeple can and do live their lives acting on Quran in a “peaceful” way. If they can go about their daily lives without blowing others up, it is fine. It does not mean when we take viels off and shave beards off, only then reform comes. Everyone has a right to live his life, be it as an epitome of Quran or Sunnah or as a homosexual, atheist whatever….!
      When we start dictating others lives for them, that’s when problems arise!

    72. Don — on 7th December, 2005 at 6:07 pm  


      I think you are being a tiny bit harsh on Douglas. My reading of his post was that ‘If there are people here that think otherwise they are morons.’ referred only to ‘Women should have their entire genitalia intact’. I’d go along with that. :)

    73. Fe'reeha — on 8th December, 2005 at 8:11 am  

      Don/ Douglas

      OK! I apologise for my earlier post. I had not read it properly I guess.

    74. Iain — on 8th December, 2005 at 11:59 am  


      I agree that the Salafis (thanks to the Saudi Oil money are pursuing a cultural pogrom in Saudi and around the Umma esp. the UK and Pakistan) are a major component of the current Jihadi problem but they are joined by other branches of Islam who refer to existing problems actually inherant in the medieval jurisprudence, the Hadiths and even the Qur’an.

      All Jihadis I have heard so far espouse Islamist politics and all Islamists I have heard justify Jihadi violence. I am aware that not every Islamist is bent on violent destruction and the imposition of totalitarian regimes abusing muslim and non-muslim alike.

      But most are.

      Especially if against the (other ) Jews. The ‘Saturday and Sunday people’ as we are charmingly listed on their deathlists.

      On Shar’ia, another Reformation is not required but a wholesale Enlightenment. That is, Freethought applied to the Qur’an, the Hadiths and therefore the Shar’ia. This would take those closed doors and blow them off their hinges.

      I am doubtful if Siddharts’ view of ignoring the rest of the Islamic civilisation could ever work, nice and simple though it is and almost a Unitarian type of approach.

      The obvious flaw with a return of any Caliphcy is that there was one (several I fact) and it didn’t work any better than an Imperialist Papacy did ,or currently does, for Christendom. I feel that the exclusions between the Desert Flowers were created by the ruling classes both secular and clerical to control the people. This view stretches back to the C14th proto-reformation in Christendom, (see John Wyclif and the Lollards and further anti-clerical traditions in the big three).

      So, in my view, Ecumenism and sharing perspectives on our interwoven histories (whilst being frank about our mistakes) can teach us a great deal about how to deal with this current problem. The texts need to be approached with skepticism and reinterpretated for the modern world. I guess I’m saying don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Mainly because that would again allow the Islamists to play their ‘apostates’ card.

      Everyone just loves the Sufis except the Islamists and especially the Salafis in Pakistan.

      Never trust a hippy?

    75. Siddharth — on 8th December, 2005 at 12:26 pm  

      I am doubtful if Siddharts’ view of ignoring the rest of the Islamic civilisation could ever work, nice and simple though it is and almost a Unitarian type of approach.

      Iain, in the danger of any misunderstanding, let me state my point again. I did not say anything about ignoring any part of Islamic Civilisation. I said that it would be best if Muslims applied only the mandatory (Fard) tenets and to drop or stop applying all obligitory (Sunnah) tenets in their religious obersavtions.

      This means that the Hadith - which is the Summa of the Prophets sayings and actions should not be used to inform religious law - since much of it is inappropriate and more importantly, unreliable for use as a Meta-Legal reference.

    76. douglas — on 8th December, 2005 at 10:57 pm  


      I appreciate the fact that you re-read my post and understood the point I was trying to make. Thanks. It is a pretty pass when an atheist - me - is making fundamental human rights points and there is hardly any support on here for it. Your support is welcomed.

    77. douglas — on 8th December, 2005 at 11:12 pm  

      Tough Viewpoint.

      It seems to me that this debate is largely about the role of women in society. When is any intelligent debate about anything else? The problem, and the reformation that Islam requires it, to see women as the equals of men. If it does not, it will die on the vine.

      Will it reform to the extent that the nutjobs in the Taliban will be taken out by men? How can these arseholes allowed to get their sado-masochistic kicks out of a religion? That has got to be wrong. It is a religion that millions of women will rightly wish reformed or abandoned.

    78. El Cid — on 9th December, 2005 at 11:42 am  

      Shame we haven’t got any Nigerian contributions here, given the bloody conflict in recent years in some mixed Hausa/Yoruba areas over the attempted imposition of Sharia.

    79. thabet — on 10th December, 2005 at 10:33 pm  

      This is a bit late in the day, but …

      Shari’ah exists wherever a Muslim prays, or decides not to eat a BLT for lunch, or ritually washes him/herself, and so on and so forth. So it is meaningless to talk of “shari’ah and democracy” as opposed to one another, as the two already functioning in practice together, however imperfectly.

      The shari’ah can be seen as the entire legal, ethical and political history of Muslims (warts and all perhaps), and is a vast, enormous book, which expands/contracts with geography, culture, time and so on. This allows it to contain localised customs as part of shari’ah, as well as universal practices and beliefs. This also includes more abstract ideas as well as concrete practices. This is probably the “traditional” view, and some contemporary champions of traditionalism argue for local European (or American) people to interpret shari’ah, but within this tradition.

      Others interpret the shari’ah as some set of universal laws, which stand outside time altogether and are forever unchanging. Everything else is, indeed must, always be subject to change. This is probably the “reformist”view, advocated by a range of people one could describe as “liberal” or “fundamentalist” (depending on who is doing the local colouring, or how one views the characters who hold such views). And, of course, there are overlapping psitions.

      It is between these two, broad, positions that a debate is taking place. As with any continous religious/intellectual tradition, there is always tension between various ideas.

    80. Mutahara Ahmed — on 29th December, 2005 at 1:21 pm  

      As someone who has lived in a Sharia state I can tell you this. It doesn’t work.

      Yes, yes, The Koran is a perfect way of life and it’s just the people who implement it incorectly that are to blame, yada yada… But the fact is there’s no way of knowing because the people who implement it will always be imperfect. They’re politicians (and most of the time religious hypocrites too).

      Any country where the law is based on the fact that ‘God says so’ gives carte blanche to those who see themselves as the mouthpiece of ‘God’.

      And it’s true, if you want to live by Sharia law then just follow the rules in your own life, don’t go imposing them on everyone else.

      Brought up in a very small, very white town in the north of England, I was desperate to belong and at the age of 14 told my mum that I felt the only way was to live in a Muslim country.

      I thought that all the sinful ‘urges’ I was having - in particular a desire to go out with boys - were a result of the society I was living in. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a crazy fundamentalist. I didn’t hate the way my white friends lived, I didn’t even think it was wrong, I just thought, “That’s their way, and this is ours, and I feel left out.”

      Whenever I went to Pakistan I felt like I belonged, late nights out with my cousins at ice-cream parlours, days at the beach with the family - for me, an Islamic state was all about freedom to live a normal life. And to not feel as though I was missing out because everyone my age was doing the same thing.

      But the reality of life under Sharia law is different. Whatever the Sharia apologists say, it doesn’t work.
      Minorities are mistreated, there is open, shameless, institutional discrimination against minorities. I’ve seen the way Christians are treated by the good Muslims of Pakistan, it’s obscene.

      And whatever my issues with the treatment of women in western society - particularly the commoditisation and use of ‘naked ladies’ to sell soap and the like - it doesn’t compare with a society where women’s lives are so restricted that women are unable to leave the home in many parts of Pakistan (try going to the NWFP).

      As an adult I went out to work in north Pakistan as a gender researcher. I couldn’t go for a walk on my own, I was fully veiled all the time and I was still told that my ‘menfolk’ were terrible to have allowed me to come to work there on my own.

      When a local policeman and his pals attempted to rape me, I was told I was ‘asking for it’. Why? Because I smiled at the servants and said please and thank you (therefore leading them on).

      Women are controlled, feared and hated in a Sharia state. Power is in the hand of those with beards and the only woman I know whose got one of those is a spokesperson for the MCB.

      And I’m sorry but those women who don’t see this are either lucky enought to be protected from the realities of Sharia law by their families (as I was). Or, are, dare I say it, falsely concious.

      I know that if I’d spent a lifetime under a harshly prescriptive system which controlled what I wore, what I did, where I went, what I ate and who I married, then I’d want to believe that at the end of it all I’d at least be going to heaven. And if anyone tried to tell me otherwise I may not be particularly receptive.

      OK, I know I’m ranting and going off on tangents but my point is this. It doesn’t work. It just seems like an easy option for those who want black and white answers in the post-modern world we live in.

    81. El Cid — on 29th December, 2005 at 5:56 pm  

      An excellent post Mutahara.
      You seem to have come full circle.
      Did you return to England?
      Have you rejected the burkha now?

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