Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shariah: As explained by a Jewish Scholar

Noah Feldman, a Jewish American, was born in Massashusetts, USA in 1970, graduated from Harvard, Oxoford and Yale, and has, among other credentials, two Doctorate degrees, one of them in Islamic Thought. He's published over 5 books (that I know of), almost all of them related to Islam.

And that's not the impressive part!

I read his latest article on Shariah, what it means, how it came to be, how it's been put to use and manipulated to suite supreme leaders and lawmakers in the Muslim world today. It was published in support of the latest row over the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments of introducing Shariah in the British Courts, which I commented on in one of my eariler posts.

This man has correctly and accurately described to his readers ( an excerpt from an upcoming book on the rise of the Islamic Empire). An excerpt from his article is;

"In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation."

Catch your attention yet? Read on...

"The Islamists today, partly out of realism, partly because they are rarely scholars themselves, seem to have little interest in restoring the scholars to their old role as the constitutional balance to the executive. The Islamist movement, like other modern ideologies, seeks to capture the existing state and then transform society through the tools of modern government. Its vision for bringing Shariah to bear therefore incorporates two common features of modern government: the legislature and the constitution."

..interesting, isn't it? Read on..

"The result is a profound change in the theoretical structure underlying Islamic law: Shariah is democratized in that its care is given to a popularly elected legislature."

Oh yes....very bold statements, and very accurate! Read on..

"The modern incarnation of Shariah is nostalgic in its invocation of the rule of law but forward-looking in how it seeks to bring this result about. What the Islamists generally do not acknowledge, though, is that such institutions on their own cannot deliver the rule of law. The executive authority also has to develop a commitment to obeying legal and constitutional judgments. That will take real-world incentives, not just a warm feeling for the values associated with Shariah. How that happens — how an executive administration accustomed to overweening power can be given incentives to subordinate itself to the rule of law — is one of the great mysteries of constitutional development worldwide."

Now then, 'assume' this man knows what he's talking about for a second, and compare what was discussed in the above excerpts to what has been happening to the Kuwaiti Parliament since 2006, and THEN tell me whether you actually believe that all those Islamic MP's are striving for the same thing!
By definition, then, an Islamic "Shura" Council or any similar legislative or advisory body attached to a leader of the state invokes the need for a righteous leader, who is willing to place himself as a subordinate-not a dictator-of the Rule of Law, and checked by it. In effect, he (and his minsters) would be the Executive branch of the government, while the council acts as the Legislative branch, and with both of them held in check by the Judicial Branch, represented by the Courts of Justice.
How that differs from what's happening in a Democracy is up to you to decide.

1 comment:

bu ziyad said...

I just read his article in today's Herald Tribune. Thought it was interesting!