Grauniad: British interpretation of Sharia is wrong

#1
here:
The Guardian said:
A dangerous ignorance

The widely accepted interpretation of sharia in Britain is wrong and would horrify many young Muslims.
Madeleine Bunting

February 1, 2007 10:59 AM | Printable version

The very best debates are those in which you learn and which help clarify your understanding of an issue, so I'm delighted by the huge response triggered by the comments of myself and AC Grayling on the role of religion in history, and more specifically the contribution of Christianity to learning and science in western European history. Dozens posted on Comment is free to reply on my behalf to the challenge Grayling put to me - to name one positive contribution made by Christianity. Mendel, Newton, the monasteries of the Dark Ages - I can't better their list.

Now I want to see if there is appetite for debate on another, even more controversial, issue. In the last few days, sharia has been much in the news; David Cameron accused Muslim groups who promote sharia law of being the "mirror image" of the British National party and a poll by the Policy Exchange thinktank, which showed that 40% of young Muslims wanted to live under sharia law, was widely reported.

Just in case readers weren't sure what sharia was, the Times gave a summary: "Sharia covers topics including marriage (allowing a man to have four wives, and stoning to death for adultery), criminal justice (hand amputation for theft) and religious affairs (death penalty for leaving Islam)." Stoning, hand chopping: that just about sums up the widely held view of what sharia is all about.

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard people refer to sharia in this way - as a barbaric ancient set of laws with horrific punishments. But such a definition would horrify many of the young Muslims who were polled. The problem about David Cameron and many, many others is that they have only a Taliban understanding of sharia.

It is a dangerous ignorance because the most crucial debates within Islam worldwide are often around sharia - that huge body of Islamic jurisprudence with wide variations in interpretation from west Africa to Indonesia. Sharia's basic meaning is "path to God"; it is a set of spiritual disciplines, which any serious Muslim abides by. The basics are such things as prayer, fasting and the Haj. But it also covers such instructions as no gambling, no backbiting, no alcohol and no cheating. Any devout Muslim is attempting to follow sharia.

But that doesn't mean they want to impose sharia on anyone who is not a Muslim, nor does it mean they agree with the most extreme interpretations of sharia law. Every faith has its laws - churches have canon law, Orthodox Jews have rabbinical courts - and no one argues that this represents separatism as Cameron did of Muslims this week. David Cameron (and there are plenty of others) and the Policy Exchange are feeding the fantasy fear of Muslims as fifth columnists trying to bring about an Islamic state.

Don't get me wrong, there are some exceptionally horrible elements of how sharia has been interpreted - and still is, in some parts of the world - but reducing this vast body of thought to the barbaric practices of the Taliban is a gross simplification, which will do nothing to assist our understanding of the attitudes of Muslims in this country.
Like all those nice people who protested about those nasty cartoons in London calling for infidels to be put to death ... can't think how I got the wrong idea :confused:
 
#2
As far as I am aware it's a pretty comprehensive and cohesive set of rules on how to live your life, not restricted to the stuff that gets the red-tops all sweaty and excited.

Whether a system that was developed such a long time ago, in a climate and culture so very different from our own has any relevence to the modern western world I very much doubt. From the way in which we see it lived out in Afganistan and the Middle East generally I think that it has very little to offer us.

The only places I have seen it work in a way compatible with other cultures is when it is tempered by the tolerance and temperament of either Europe or the Far East (such as Thailand or Maylaysia).
 
#3
You got the wrong idea by imagining that a few people calling for infidels to be put to death represented the majority of muslims.

I see loads of white blokes wearing dodgy outfits on gay pride every year, do you like a bit of man on man action and wear a tutu?
 
#4
It has to be said that Muslims(who comprise I understand,about 2%) of the UK population,seem to have received media and political interest,out of all proportion to their numbers.Is this just a cause taken up by the BBC and the media,or is there a deeper malaise in our society,where minorities are celebrated,and the majority sidelined?
 
#5
I think that the "dangerous ignorance" is in fact hers...

I bet that the MCB, MPACUK etc are rubbing their hands with glee at that marvellous example of "Taqqiya" ( look it up)...
 
#6
#7
Britain is becoming a haven of misinformation, confusion, paranoia, and hatred, within the Muslim community and non-Muslim community. Where will it all end? It's hard to be positive in this climate of fear. Surely we need positivity and clarity and not negativity and confusion. Isn't it possible that this is exactly what the guvurnmunt wishes to have: fear, confusion and division? Divide and conquer and all that. This is not to say there isn't a terrorist threat and that some Muslims are evil scum, but surely this current hysteria is going too far.
 
#8
not_finished_yet,
I think the government try to put out fair and balanced messages, but people seem to have lost trust in them and the much of media plays on the knowledge that sensationalism sells.

Some do present balanced reporting, Channel 4's dispatches as mentioned earlier is a good example. But even then people latch onto the sensational bits which reinforce their own prejudices or misconceptions. I note that didn't mention their earlier programme "what muslims want" or the many programmes they have broadcast showing white extremists.

I have no idea how you prevent the hysteria.
 
#9
If the "British" interpretation is wrong, then also the consensus view of the majority of Sunni, Shia, Sufi etc. Imams and scholars is also wrong.
 
#10
GwaiLo said:
not_finished_yet,
I think the government try to put out fair and balanced messages, but people seem to have lost trust in them and the much of media plays on the knowledge that sensationalism sells.

Some do present balanced reporting, Channel 4's dispatches as mentioned earlier is a good example. But even then people latch onto the sensational bits which reinforce their own prejudices or misconceptions. I note that didn't mention their earlier programme "what muslims want" or the many programmes they have broadcast showing white extremists.

I have no idea how you prevent the hysteria.
Which programs would they be? about white extremists?
 
#11
If the "British" interpretation is wrong, then also the consensus view of the majority of Sunni, Shia, Sufi etc. Imams and scholars is also wrong.
Is there a "British" interpretation then? I am British and mine is evidently different to yours. I don't know the majority of those Imams and scholars, do you? How many are there? I am just asking so we can establish how many we need to constitute a majority.

Which programs would they be? about white extremists?
Well I recall one they did about the BNP soon after the Bradford riots, showing how those riots were incited by BNP supporters from outside of Bradford.
 
#12
GwaiLo said:
If the "British" interpretation is wrong, then also the consensus view of the majority of Sunni, Shia, Sufi etc. Imams and scholars is also wrong.
Is there a "British" interpretation then? I am British and mine is evidently different to yours. I don't know the majority of those Imams and scholars, do you? How many are there? I am just asking so we can establish how many we need to constitute a majority.

Which programs would they be? about white extremists?
Well I recall one they did about the BNP soon after the Bradford riots, showing how those riots were incited by BNP supporters from outside of Bradford.
I havent seen it. would I be able to get it off torrents or download anywhere?
 
#13
Brads_REME
I have no idea, but you could try searching C4's website for BNP. I also recall a more recent expose on the BNP by the BBC, which you may find on the BBC website. I am not sure how long they leave these things online.
 
#14
After the death of Muhammed, some kind of legal system was required by which the new Muslim faith could live. What was set down in the Koran was not nearly comprehensive enough; so to fill in the gaps, a legal system based on traditions (hadith) stemming from the sayings and deeds of the Prophet was devised. This was - and still is - Sharia law.

Basically, this system was devised by men and for men - NOT WOMEN. Muslims tend to regard the period of Muhammed as a golden era, and think the Sharia to be pretty much as sacred as the text of the Koran. This is a huge mistake. Sharia law was made by man, not God and anything devised by man will be riddled with faults and open to question. Unfortunately this has always been a complete no go area for Muslims. They regard Muhammed and anything linked to him as being beyond criticism, even although he made his full share of mistakes and admitted that he could change his mind if circumstances warranted!

The proof of the pudding is that every state that is governed by Sharia law today is essentially medieval in nature. Sharia was devised for an agrarian pre-industrial society. It completely fails to separate church from state, and its absolute rigidity has formed a major block towards the advance of science. It is true that long ago the Muslims led the world in science, particularly in Spain, but that all came to a halt a long time ago when hard liners took over.

Sharia also utterly fails to deal with modern societies - in particular with the transformed role of women, who, now earning a crust does not revolve around hard physical labour, are fully the equal of men in the workplace. Bluntly put, there are many brilliant Muslim women out there who are still regarded as chattels, who are actively discouraged from learning and building a career and whose talents and genius are being completely wasted.

That piece in the Guardian argues that Muslims do not want to impose Sharia on anyone who is not a Muslim. That is very debatable. Muhammed and the "divinely inspired" Caliphs who came immediately after him treated non-Muslims as second class citizens, and even forced them to wear emblems so that they could be easily identified (a practice revived by the Nazis, by the way). I am also reading and hearing far too much about Muslims wanting to convert this country to Islam and bring in Sharia law. However, I hope that the media have been getting this out of proportion.

I think the bottom line is that any faith or brotherhood that ignores and suppresses the talents of fully half its population is shooting itself repeatedly in the foot. I believe that a Muslim reformation is now desperately needed, in order for these people to take their place in the modern world. Very brave people such as Irshad Manji are now starting to question the more rigid interpretations of the faith in public, and are putting their lives at risk in consequence. However, they are starting to be listened to so hopefully the reformation will happen. I think that it will be a long and bloody process though.

SLR (Not to be confused with SLR Boy).
 

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