Arabist Hans Jansen used to defend Muslims against Islamophobia (or so I am told) but has gradually shifted to becoming something of an Islamophobe himself.
Here is his latest article about Shariah law.
first 3 paragraphs provide a taste: The Islamic Sharia is a system of law. It is a collection of prohibitions, admonitions and commands about human behavior. The Sharia is not an internal matter that only concerns Islam and Muslims. The Sharia includes a large number of provisions about people who are not Muslims. These rules are usually prohibitions that carry severe penalties if violated. These provisions of the Sharia make life unsafe and uncertain for someone who lives under Sharia law and who is not a Muslim.
Under Sharia law, someone who is not a Muslim possesses no inalienable rights. If I am wrong here, I will be relieved, and happy to stand corrected and receive your e-mails pointing out why I am wrong. But if I am right, a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay possesses more rights than a Jew or a Christian who lives under Sharia law.
Unlike the legal systems of most modern nation states, Sharia law is not subject to democratic supervision. Like international law and rabbinic law, Sharia law is an academic affair: experts discuss
and debate the rules until they reach an agreement. Sharia law does not know a parliament or a government that acts as legislator, but the rules of the Sharia come into being by being agreed upon by the experts, that is, the Islamic religious leaders, the professional Muslims, the Ulama, Ayatollahs, or whatever these dignitaries are called.
I promised someone I would write a few comments on this, but as usual I am days behind schedule. So these are just a few random thoughts, more later when I get time.
1. Shariah Law is indeed more or less what he says it is in the Sunni core region. But Shias differ enough to deserve separate treatment.
2. RESPECT for shariah as an ideal system of law is very widespread in the core region (but its my impression that even this is significantly diluted in the ex-Russian republics and among the Hui Chinese, to take a couple of peripheral examples).
3. But not only do most people have no idea what is IN shariah law, there really isnt that much in it. There are a few biggies (punishment for blasphemy, apostasy, cutting off hands, stoning adulterers, that sort of thing) but they are mostly just harsh medieval punishments for a few specific crimes. Its very weak on procedure and clueless on political questions. Mullahs (and now, their Westernized supporters) are making a valiant effort to manufacture rules about everything else under the sun, but its a doomed effort. There is no there there.
3. Its main usefulness is negative. It is a convenient handle with which to attack western-derived modern institutions and leaders who operate through those institutions, but the Cheshire cat disappears more and more the closer it gets to actual power. Some gang or some ambitious military leader can use it to get into power where postcolonial institutions have decayed sufficiently or never existed, but really that powerplay becomes indistinguishable from Burmese military dictatorship or any other warlordism except they beat up on women a bit more. At the level of an Afghanistan or Somalia, sure, maybe one can imagine something labelled a “shariah-based state” (even there the “state”, to whatever extent it exists, will need some infidels from Pakistan’s military, banking and telecom sectors to help out and will indulge in internal and external wars soon enough..this is both a prediction and an empirical fact)….there has to be a reason why (60 + years after the end of formal colonial rule) there is no such thing as a shariah-based state even at the level of an Egypt or Jordan.
4. There is some whining on the right wing (Niall Ferguson?) in the “West” that it has supposedly lost confidence in its ability to rule other people and defend itself and whatnot. But I think rumors of death are exaggerated. Relative to other geographical places (China, Korea, even India…interesting if people think Brazil is “east” or “west”?) sure, the dominance is less extreme. But any notion that something called shariah threatens to replace Western law seems fanciful to me. Not just because Western law is so much more advanced and detailed a concept, but because shariah law is really not ready for prime-time.
Things like that.
This is really just a “off the top of my head” comment. Inshallah, more later.