There is a number of questions people have been asking me about Muslims. I’ve tried to answer some before, but, upon further reflection, there are a few I’d like to re-visit.
Here, I would like to explain why I consider some Muslims to be ‘moderates’ – but not others.
Yes, there are some who do not see the distinction, pointing out that to follow Islam, one would have to skip large bits of the Koran in order to practice a ‘moderate’ version of the faith. True. But that is also true of the Bible – Jesus famously claims to bring not peace, but the sword. And it is not that many generations ago that my paternal grandmothers’ relatives were burned alive by the Jesuits for practicing the ‘wrong’ branch of Christianity.
In other words, it is not the dogma itself that makes a person a ‘moderate’: rather, it is the bits of the dogma that one takes and ‘owns’ and lives by that makes one a ‘moderate’ or not, regardless of the faith/religion (theistic, atheistic or non-theistic alike)/doctrine/dogma.
When it comes to Islam, I see the divide as being between those Muslims who demand official recognition of Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) and those who do not.
What is Sharia?
Books have been written on this, but, in short, it is ‘Islamic Law’. There are 4 main Sunni and 4 main Shia schools of Sharia and they do indeed differ in some minor aspects, but, on those bits that they all agree, the ‘Islamic Law’ is unalterable.
Sharia evolved over several centuries. Scholars studied the Koran, the sayings of their prophet Muhammed and stories about the life of the prophet Muhammed as told by his companions. None of these were written during the life of Muhammed himself, but rather when many of his companions began dying off and the rest of the Muslims were afraid that his teachings and traditions would be lost, the ruler at the time had all the companions write down all they remembered, gathered all the materials, weeded through them to pick out the ‘most authentic’, recorded those as the only permitted version and had all the rest burned. A lot like the role the Council of Nicaea had in writing the Bible.
So, for centuries after the Koran and the Sayings and Traditions of Muhammed were written down, jurists would look to the scriptures themselves to see what the proper sentence should be. Not all jurists read the same things in these texts, yet, still, over the centuries, a body of jurisprudence had indeed been built up from which some rulings emerged as so common as to constitute laws. The formal collection of these laws is called Sharia.
While it is still being added to (in the form of fatwas, or pronouncements/rulings of learned clerics on legal questions),the major body of it had been codified at around 1100 CE or so – just as the end of the ‘golden age’ of Islamic science came to its end. Those two are closely connected, because Sharia is very inimical to any form of inquiry, including the scientific one.
It is important to keep in mind that while Sharia is based on early scholars’ reading of Koran and the life of Muhammad, it is not actually the Koran and Sunna itself.
The way Sharia is implemented in various Islamic countries does vary, even if the cores are common to them all: the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man, her inheritance is half that of a man’s, a woman is a perpetual minor in they eyes of the law so any and all of her property is managed for her by her guardian, and this guardian is also the one who enters into legal contracts on her behalf (including marriage: under Sharia, a woman is herself not a party to her marrige contract, only her guardian and husband have legal standing in the contract), apostates must be put to death (though one school of thought says female apostates are only to be under house-arrest for life), and so on.
Many Muslims do not like living under Sharia and its harsh rules – or, at least, the way it is imposed on them from the outside.
Thus, they have come to The West in order to practice Islam according to their own understanding and without the straight jacket jurisprudence that is Sharia. These are people who are happy to follow our secular laws and impose any additional religious rules onto themselves, from the inside, without compulsion from anyone else.
These are the people I consider ‘moderate Muslims’.
As opposed to the Muslims who want to live under Sharia – but to do so in our lands, in The West.
The problems with this desire are numerous – not the least of which is that in order to retain integrity and social cohesion in a land, one set of rules has to apply equally to each and every citizen. Equality before the law is such a fundamental cornerstone of our society that to have one class of people ruled by a parallel legal system means it has already been destroyed.
Another problem with Sharia is that it is deeply supremacist. It sees itself as above all mere man-made laws, and wherever there is a conflict between the two, Sharia demands supremacy. And since only Islamic scholars are permitted to issue Sharia rulings, permitting Sharia in a country effectively takes the application of law from the hands of trained jurists and places it in the hands of Islamic clerics…which could, indeed be problematic, to say the least.
Did I mention that non-Muslims are not permitted to speak at a Sharia court, even to defend themselves – even though Sharia reserves the right to rule over them?
And then there are the moderate Muslims – the ones who immigrated to the West specifically to get away from Sharia…if we permit it in our lands, they will automatically be subject to it, whether legally (as in Indonesia) or through peer pressure (as in the UK). Do we not owe them equality under our laws, just like every other citizen?
Though I have barely scratched the surface, I do hope I have demonstrated both that Sharia is incompatible with our governance and that we owe it to the moderate Muslims among us to protect them from it.
Which brings me to the other type of Muslim – the ones who demand Sharia in our lands, under the terms of ‘religious accommodation’, necessarily at the expense of our ‘freedom from religion’.
Sharia is the politico/judicial arm of Islam and not theological teachings.
As such, anyone who wishes for any form of Sharia to be implemented (accommodated is the term used, but due to its supremacist nature, in reality, this ‘accommodation’ requires putting Sharia above our own common laws) in The West is calling not just for freedom of religion, but for the imposition of Islamic law. And not just for themselves, as an act of private worship, but as something to be imposed on the whole of society because Sharia’s laws extend to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
This, by definition, makes them Islamists and not ‘moderate Muslims’.
To recap: those Muslims who call for Sharia accommodation/implementation in The West are not moderate Muslims, they are Islamist colonists who ought to be called out as such and resisted, if we want our culture of tolerance preserved.
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