Sayonara Shari’a: Japanese Lessons, Lost?


A United States War Department poster highlighting the wrenching reforms of Japan’s state religion, Shintoism (i.e., eliminating Shinto State militarism, and its indoctrination within Japanese schools)—and the guarantee of true religious freedom (including Shintosim as a private, personal faith), under the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), primarily, General Douglas MacArthur.

Professor John David Lewis, in a recent analysis dedicated to the late General Paul Tibbets (d. 11/1/07), commander of the B-29 Enola Gay which bombed Hiroshima, analyzes how the defeated Japanese reformed their nation, dramatically, “under stern American guidance.”

Central to this process was a complete delegitimization and disenfranchisement of Japan’s religio-political state religion, post Meiji Restoration (1868) Shintoism. These wrenching reforms of Japanese Shintoism included eliminating Shinto State militarism, and its indoctrination within Japanese schools, concurrent with the guarantee of true religious freedom—including the practice of Shintoism as a private, de-militarized, and de-politicized personal faith—under the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP—see poster, illustrated above), primarily, General Douglas MacArthur.

State Department chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, John Carter Vincent, elucidated this policy—ever cognizant of the dangers of State Shinto—which nevertheless guaranteed the private practice of Shinto. Vincent’s’ views were quoted in this October, 1945 telegram sent by the U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes to General Douglas MacArthur, establishing basic U.S. policy goals towards Shintoism, while clarifying for MacArthur and his subordinates, the fundamental principles to attain those goal:

Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese, is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and as a measure enforced from above by the government, is to be done away with. People would not be taxed to support National Shinto and there will be no place for Shintoism in the schools. Shintoism as a state religion—National Shinto, that is—will go . . . Our policy on this goes beyond Shinto . . . The dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology in any form will be completely suppressed. And the Japanese Government will be required to cease financial and other support of Shinto establishments.

Immediately thereafter directives were issued which terminated various educational platforms for the indoctrination of students into Shintoism, and fired their purveyors. Textbooks were re-written, and student education re-tooled to emphasize “the importance of challenging dogma, and of forming their own opinions.” As John Lewis observes, when Theodore Geisel—Dr. Seuss—visited Japan a mere 8-years after the Japanese surrender, and initiation of these educational reform programs, asking students to draw pictures of what they desired to be when they grew up,

The children drew hundreds of pictures of doctors, statesmen, teachers, nurses, and even wrestlers. Only one student wanted to be a soldier—and he wanted to be General MacArthur. The values of these children were already far different from those of their parents a decade earlier, when the Japanese dreamed of dying on the battlefield for an Emperor-god.

Sixty years later the lessons from the era of Japanese reconstruction have been ignored entirely following the US-led military interventions in Afghanistan, now under the post-Taliban Karzai regime, and Iraq, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Indeed the post-World War II paradigm of neutralizing Japan’s bellicose, religio-political creed of Shintoism, has been turned on its head with regard to Islam, and the theocratic Islamic legal code, Shari’a—imbued with jihad, and completely antithetical to modern human rights constructs.

Writing in 1955, Joseph Schacht, arguably the greatest 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, identified the still unresolved problems with modern, inchoate Islamic reform efforts. Schacht noted how,

The idea of religious law—the concept that law, as well as the other human relationships, must be ruled by religion—has become an essential part of the Islamic outlook. The same, incidentally, is true of politics, and even economics; it explains the recent attempt to hold an Islamic economic congress in Pakistan. Because they cannot face the problem, because they lack historical understanding of the formation of Mohammedan religious law, because they cannot make up their minds, any more than their predecessors could in the early Abbasid period [which began 750 C.E.], on what is legislation, the modernists cannot get away from a timid, halfhearted, and essentially self-contradictory position.

And Schacht concludes, “The real problem poses itself at the religious and not at the technically legal level.”

Yet despite Schacht’s observations, and the proven, concrete success of the post-World War II reforms in Japan, past intellectual honesty on Shinto has been replaced, at present, by craven, politically correct ignorance on Islam, in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, as championed by a callow American pseudo-scholastic apologist for Islam’s Shari’a, who evangelized for “Islamic Democracy,” Shari’a-compliant Afghani and Iraqi constitutions were crafted (and of course extolled by this same “scholar”, here, and here).

The tragic consequences of such uninformed and dangerous cultural relativism, enshrined as “law,” were glaringly evident, once again, in Afghanistan this past week Pervez Kambakhsh, a 23 year-old Afghan journalist was recently convicted of “blasphemy”—consistent with classical Islamic Law—for downloading and distributing an article “insulting” Islam.

Now the Afghan Senate has issued a statement on the case—signed by its leader, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a reputed ally of President Hamid Karzai—approving the death sentence conferred on Mr Kambaksh, also in full accord with the Shari’a, by a city court in Mazar-e-Sharif. Although not universal, commonplace public sentiments in support of this Shari’a ruling were expressed by Afghans across the age spectrum. Abdul Wasi Tokhi, an 18-year-old student at the American University in Kabul, argued for a swift execution, stating: “The guy should be hanged. He was making fun of Islam’s rules and regulations. He was making fun of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. You cannot criticize any principles which have been approved by sharia. It is the words of the Prophet.” And Qari Imam Bakhsh, a Muslim cleric, concurred, maintaining: “I think he is not a Muslim. A Muslim would not make this kind of mistake. He should be punished so that others can learn from him.”

Two years before in March 2006, Abdul Rahman, similarly faced death at the hands of our Afghan allies—supported by the masses—for the “crime” of converting to Christianity. This fate was no fluke, not a brutal Afghan variant on the practice of “tolerant” Islam. Death for apostasy is part and parcel of Islamic scripture and tradition, codified in the Shari’a. When Afghanistan’s leading clerics endorsed Rahman’s death, they were on solid ground. Thus, in the wake of appeals by world leaders, including the Pope, and even though Mr. Rahman appears to have received a “dispensation” by the Karzai Government —for “mental health”, or other reasons, unfortunately, he is and remains guilty as per Afghan religious leaders, and Shari’a. Ultimately, Mr. Rahman had to be taken out of Afghanistan, clandestinely, and given asylum in Italy.

Notwithstanding the clear tactical success of the much ballyhooed 2007 surge (and the current obsessive Republican nomination campaign discussion, aptly termed, “The War on Timetables,” these military operations have engendered), if Iraq continues its seemingly inexorable progression towards a Shari’a state [“Islamic State by the will of the people”, in popular Islamic parlance], it will be neither a “free nation”, nor “a strong ally in the war on terror”.

Perhaps the earliest, most disturbing sign of things going awry in Iraq’s march toward “freedom” was already evident in February 2004: the refusal of the interim Iraqi government to allow its ancient, historically oppressed (often brutally so) Jews to return in the wake of the 2003 liberation. Singling out the Jews was agreed upon absent any objection, except for the dissent of one lone Assyrian Christian representative in the interim government, who knew well what such bigotry foreshadowed: the oppression and resultant exodus of the Assyrian community – which has transpired.

Although much lionized, Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sistani remains an irredentist Shi’ite cleric who believes in najis—one of the more despicable belief systems in all of Islam—which imposes ugly restrictions on non-Muslim “infidels” due to their supposed physical and spiritual “impurity” [I have written about najis here, here, and here]. Sistani also “wishes” for Shari’a to be implemented in Iraq. As a result, Sistani-supporting women in the Iraqi Parliament are putting forth his repressive agenda. (From the Times of London, “Iraq’s women of power who tolerate wife-beating and promote polygamy”):

As a devout Shia Muslim and one of eighty-nine women sitting in the new parliament, she knows what her first priority there is: to implement Islamic law. When Dr Ubaedey took her seat at last week’s [March, 2005] assembly opening, she found herself among an increasingly powerful group of religious women politicians who are seeking to repeal old laws giving women some of the same rights as men and replace them with Sharia, Islam’s divine law.

And when Sistani posted this fatwa about gays on his website (see below), he precipitated a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and Shi’ite religious militias.

Q: What is the judgment on sodomy and lesbianism?

A: “Forbidden. Those involved in the act should be punished. In fact, sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible,” [emphasis added]

Conservative political scientist, and former University President John Agresto, wrote a poignant, and sympathetic, yet brutally honest memoir of the 9-months (September 2003 to June 2004) he spent in Iraq working as then Ambassador Paul Bremer’s senior advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Agresto, who had direct dealings with Sistani, has remained “more skeptical of the Ayatollah al-Sistani and his partisans than so many of my colleagues in the Coalition.” He highlights one astonishing fact about Sistani that has received scant attention, let alone comment, in light of legitimate concerns over undue Iranian influence on Iraqi affairs:

The Ayatollah Sistani is…Iranian by birth, Iranian by religious training–he still retains his Iranian citizenship in preference to accepting Iraqi citizenship.

But Agresto’s more immediate and tangible concerns with Sistani derive from the Ayatollah’s deeply rooted Islamic religious bigotry, and his illiberal, theocratic vision of the governance of Iraqi society.

I do not believe that parties that demand that all public legislation be based on Islamic law as interpreted by Shiite imams are liberal. I do not believe that a religious leader who refused even once to meet with Ambassador Bremer, or any American, but would gladly meet with every anti-American antagonist and criminal, from Muqtada al-Sadr to Ahmed Chalabi, is a “moderate.” I do not believe that the same Sistani who condemned the interim Iraqi Constitution because it protected the rights of the Kurds and secured property rights to Jews should be thought of as terribly tolerant. Indeed, the very first time I heard, in all my months there, an Antisemitic diatribe was from the Grand Ayatollah.

Concrete readily discernible evidence aside, Agresto laments, comforting, if corrosive delusions about Sistani, and “Iraqi democracy,” persist.

We insisted that the Ayatollah Sistani was surely a “moderate” and a friend to civil and religious liberty despite all the hard evidence to the contrary. Let me repeat my previous observations and predictions: The Ayatollah Sistani is an Islamist bent on establishing a theocracy not far removed from that found in Iran. He is an open antisemite and a not-too-subtle anti-Christian. He threw his support behind democratic elections because they were the handy vehicles for imposing religious authority all over Iraq. Nor is he the only one, or even the worst, only the most prominent. Yet while I believe the evidence is as clear here as it is in the case of [Ahmad] Chalabi, we only see what we want to see, not what’s visible. In our religious lives, hope may well be a virtue — but in foreign policy it is more often a sin, a temptation to willful blindness.

And this month, within Iraqi Kurdistan—upheld as a successful model of regional Islamic moderation, even secularization—more evidence of oppressive, re-emergent Shari’a was on display. A court in Halabja (where Saddam Hussein’s minions gassed thousands of Kurdish civilians in 1988, 15 years prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom), sentenced a Kurdish author in absentia to six months in prison for blasphemy. The author, Mariwan Halabjaee, was accused writing in a book that Mohammed had 19 wives, married a 9-year-old when he was 54, and took part in murder and rape—all of which can confirmed from the “sira,” the authoritative, earliest pious Muslim biographies of his life. From his asylum in Norway, Mr. Halabjee also maintained a fatwa calling for his death unless he asks forgiveness has been issued.

Finally, we ignore at our peril that during the summer 2006 conflagration between Israel and the Shi’ite jihad terrorist organization (and Iranian proxy) Hezbollah, Baghdad was the scene of the largest pro-Hezbollah demonstration in the Middle East. This disturbing, if predictable, popular expression of Iraqi Shi’ite sentiments is now being transcended by an overt political alliance between the Iraqi government and the Iranian Shi’ite theocracy, which continues to pose far graver dangers.

President Bush’s (January 28, 2008) State of the Union rhetoric about “men and women who are free,” in the “young democracy” of Afghanistan (and Iraq)—disconnected as it was from the recent blasphemy cases which illustrate graphically the lack of freedom of conscience in those Sharia-law based Muslim societies—was eerily reminiscent of the same misplaced optimism expressed over 70 years ago by the British Arabist S.A. Morrison. Despite great expense of British blood and treasure, over more than a decade of military occupation, and even after the Assyrian massacres (by Arab and Kurdish Muslims) of 1933-34 that transpired upon Britain’s withdrawal, Morrison wrote, (in “Religious Liberty in Iraq”, Moslem World, 1935, p. 128):

Iraq is moving steadily forward towards the modern conception of the State, with a single judicial and administrative system, unaffected by considerations of religion or nationality. The Millet system [i.e., Ottoman dhimmitude—not reflected by this euphemism] still survives, but its scope is definitely limited. Even the Assyrian tragedy of 1933 does not shake our faith in the essential progress that has been made. The Government is endeavoring to carry out faithfully the undertakings it has given, even when these run directly counter to the long-cherished provisions of the Shari’a Law. But it is not easy; it cannot be easy in the very nature of the case, for the common people quickly to adjust their minds to the new legal situation, and to eradicate from their outlook the results covering many centuries of a system which implies the superiority of Islam over the non-Moslem minority groups. The legal guarantees of liberty and equality represent the goal towards which the country is moving, rather than the expression of the present thoughts and wishes of the population. The movement, however, is in the right direction, and it may yet prove possible for Islam to disentangle religious faith from political status and privilege.

More than seven decades later, the goals of true “liberty and equality” for Iraq and Afghanistan remain just as elusive. After yet another Western power has committed great blood and treasure toward their liberation, in both Muslim nations, their politico-religious leadership appears more likely to continue promoting Shari’a despotism, than liberal democracy.

We have a moral obligation to oppose Shari’a which is antithetical to the core beliefs for which hundreds of thousands of brave Americans have died, including, ostensibly, over 4000 now, in Iraq, and Afghanistan. There has never been a Shari’a state in history that has not discriminated (often violently) against the non-Muslims (and Muslim women) under its suzerainty. Moreover such states have invariably taught (starting with Muslim children) the aggressive jihad ideology which leads to predatory jihad “razzias” on neighboring “infidels”—even when certain of those “infidels” happened to consider themselves Muslims, let alone if those infidels were clearly non-Muslims. That is the ultimate danger and geopolitical absurdity of a policy that ignores or whitewashes basic Islamic doctrine and history, while however inadvertently, making or re-making these societies “safe for Sharia.

US policymaking elites should use whatever influence we retain, heed the ignored lessons of the Japanese experience, and encourage the “young democracies” of Afghanistan to say Sayonara to Shari’a if our goal is to midwife true liberal democracies, not two more illiberal Shari’a states.

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