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.

Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism " (Prometheus, November, 2008) You can contact Dr. Bostom at

9 responses to “Sayonara Shari’a: Japanese Lessons, Lost?

  1. Your 2003 Frontpage article on Feldman and sharia deserves the Pulitzer given how prescient it was. I was wrong, not nearly pessimistic enough. Your Feldman article was right on the money – bucking the trend of the herd of ‘experts’ who are strangely silent now – and got me thinking about what the goals of the ‘terrorists’ really are. There aren’t that many articles which get me thinking very much and you seem to write a significant percentage of the ones which do when it comes to the great questions of our times.

    This blog post is one of the most important I’ve read. Like Legacy of Jihad, should be required reading for everyone at the Pentagon.

    I can dream.

  2. Andy: This posting deserves wide circulation along with the fabled SCAP poster. The analogies between Shinto militarism, the cult of Bushido and militant Islamic Jihad are too perfect for words, as is your delineation of the delusion that America is doing much to eradicate Sharia in regions under its nominal control in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anything, we have benightedly perpetuated it with consultants like NYU law professor Noah Feldman, and Kanan Makiya of Brandeis U who have sinuously tried to craft ‘constitutions’ that give credence to Sharia as a sop to introducing ‘democracy’ that the Muslim ummah and their Sunni and Shiah religious leaders reject. Separation of Mosque from State and deracinating Political Islam doctrine from personal spiritual beliefs as suggested by R. Zhudi Jasser and other nominal Muslims should have been the norm in ‘occupied’ Iraq and Afghanistan. General McArthur as the ‘American Caesar’ and his occupation administration in post-war Japan understood that. It was reflected in the written Constitution of modern, post militarist Japan. It took two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in the waning days of WWII to send the Militarists reeling and to convince Emperor Hirohito and his court advisers to sue for peace. In retrospect, we knew that was a close run thing as the fanatic militarists were intent on stealing the recorded capitulation speech, but failed on the eve of surrender in August, 1945. That effort by the Emperor was recognized by McArthur and his occupation staff and eased the transformation and in the process eliminated the religio cult of personality that lead to post-war democratization of Japan. So, if there’s an award for Blog journalism equivalent to the Pultizer prize controlled by the miscreants at the New York Times, then we hope you’d get the nod for this important piece, buddy

  3. Thank you so much, Dr. Bostom. This essay presents the first intelligent model of a proposal for a strategy for victory in what I call the War Against Militant Islam. (This title is meant to suggest that our problem is bigger than the global jihad alone.)

    The battle lines have been drawn. On one side are those, like the President, who assured us that “Islam is a religion of peace”. Others, frustrated with such ignorance and naivete, have grown bolder in bloodthirsty calls for the “eradication” of Islam.

    I have thought for some time that the right model was World War 2. We made war against Germany, Italy and Japan, not against a battlefield tactic (as in the “War on Terror”). Our goal, however, was not the “eradication” of our enemies, but rather their defeat – indeed, their unconditional surrender. That surrender was obtained at the price of hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, and millions of the enemy. (Note that we have flinched from initiating such wholesale destruction in the current conflict – very worrisome.)

    Following that defeat, in order to insure that the war would not have to be fought again a few years later, we occupied each of the enemy countries, and as you describe so well, “deprogrammed” each society, as it were. Shinto was not eradicated, but it was privatized and demilitarized. Education was made secular.

    The War Against Militant Islam cries out for such specific goals: unconditional surrender of our enemies, a decoupling of Islam from the state, the banning of barbaric practices (female genital mutilation, honor killing, beheading, amputation, stoning, Ashura, etc.), and an overhaul of education and the media to eliminate incitement.

    I would add the following to the proposal: a list of countries whose social transformation is an urgent matter for the world. The leading countries are Egypt (home of Muslim Brotherhood and al-Azhar University), Iran (center of Shi’a and Islamic revolution), Pakistan (home of the madrasas and the Muslim nuke), and Saudi Arabia (home of Islam and the world’s largest reserves of petroleum).

  4. I should add a footnote, to state my frustration that the Bush administration has wasted more than six years without engaging the American public as to what our enemy really is, or what it will take to defeat that enemy. When I call for the occupation and transformation of Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, that would take an enormous amount of resources, including a vastly larger military – and the American public is already impatient with our small efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am not optimistic about the prospects of our political class having the courage to explain what is really going on in the world.

  5. The allegedly “blasphemous” book by Mariwan Halabjaee is available online with the author’s permission at:
    Sex, Sharia and Women in the History of Islam

    The site also contains information regarding the author, Mariwan Halabjaee,* “the Salman Rushdie of Iraqi Kurdistan.”

    The book has also been published as two music videos:
    Alice Cooper – Only Women Bleed (Sex, Sharia remix) music video

    Stuck Mojo (Sex, Sharia remix) music video

    * Mariwan Halabjaee (sp. Marywan / Halabjay, Halabjayee, Halabjaye, Halabjayi)

  6. A fine article, certainly, in it’s evaluation of the flaws of Muslim society. However, the link with State Shinto is strained. State Shinto was an imposed ideology on an inchoate folk religion without scripture or doctrine. It was (quietly) opposed by the majority of Shinto shrines and sects. A far better simile would be the imposition of Nazism upon the Germans, or Communism upon the Eastern Europeans. An ideology without any strong basis within the religion or culture is easy to peel away, given different circumstances.
    Islam, however, IS the ideology. Unlike Shinto – which could be reformed, recreated at will, there is only one Islam. One is left with Ann Coultier’s fantasy of forcibly converting all to Christianity. That is impossible and there is no half-way measure. Rather, the task is to become completely energy independent of Oil states, so that they are broken economically and, then, they can be ignored, except in suppressing the threats of military actions, terrorism, or immigration. Without any economic leverage, the West will no longer ingratiate itself to what is unreformable.

  7. This is a test to determine if anonymity in commenting is possible on this site. Commenter anonymity is an incredibly potent format, albeit one which is typically abused. With regard to achieving victory in the present world war, however I believe it will become increasingly indespensible – especially when combined with intelligent, no-nonsense moderation.

  8. Ok, attempting to corral and neuter an idiotology works well when you can get the whole set of idiots in one place, surrounded by those who wish to do the corraling. But since we are averse to Draconian measures, and the idiots are spread all over, this does not compute for the present war.

    Next option is to wipe out their power centers. This might work, but the rest of the idiots spread all over the planet aren’t just going to fall down like when you take out the droid control ship. And do we really want to spill that much blood to regain our freedom? No giving up, meesa gonna think a something…

    I said “regain” our freedom above because, let’s be honest, our true freedoms went out the window with those falling mothers and fathers on IX.XI. And so now I must tell my seven-year-old son: “shhh, be careful – you shouldn’t say that, you never can tell who’s listening”. Also, I don’t leave comments anymore if I can’t comment anonymously.

    So I’ve been thinking on this war from the angle of Reconquista.

    I will invoke Darwin. A pitri dish contains two kinds of micro-organisms – Idioti and Anti-Idioti. Idioti are spread throughout the dish but they have a special private corner of the dish where only they can thrive and multiply (and plot the destruction of the Anti-Idioti). Anti-Idioti thrive in most parts of the dish but alas, they allow the Idioti some apparently suicidal Darwinian breeding and socio-dominational advantages.

    Question: How can the Anti-Idioti organisms compete generation after generation?

    Answer: They probably can’t unless they create their own special uninhibited part of the dish from which they can safely and joyfully launch their war cookies, cartoons, and DNA shredding musical mockery.

    I believe it’s mass migration time folks – in one form or another. The hour is getting late and you all know it.

  9. Since I don’t see any additional comments, I’ll elaborate a bit more. Firstly, I don’t fancy myself a sophisticated or deeply intelligent commentator on the Long War or what I see as the chilling state of liberty and human situational awareness in the twenty-first century. I could not produce a comprehensive book like The Legacy of Jihad, or Norman Podhoretz’s World War IV. It’s just not in me.

    Yet I am more than passingly familiar with Robert Spencer, LGF, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Coughlin-Hesham-Boxer, Shoebat, the EAD, Danish Cartoons-including the “udder3”, the Saddam-Hussini-Nazi-MB-AQ linkage, Stuck Mojo, Jawas, IBA, Oriana Fallaci, Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Fox News, immigration foolishness, MSM negligence, (re)appeasement, ROPMA, Newt, John Boyd, and on and on and on.

    So I feel I can and should add my voice somewhere to suggest we bandage up our four or five hundred little cuts, chip in our buck-O-five, bless our awesome fighting forces, and ask what the F*ck we want to happen to this little blue ball we call home. I for one don’t want to live on a Stepford Planet any longer.

    I recall that Mike Lorrey was working on a “Free State” concept some time ago – I don’t know if it went anywhere – but now I see the idea in a whole new light. Not just free as in “libertarian,” but free as in “not going to stick my ass in the air for your dead pedophile pal”. A place where roses are red and I don’t have to ride a bus with people indoctrinated with the notion that mass murder is holy, or dare I say it, sexy. I’m just sayin’ a place like an America within America. Or an America V2 if you will. A seed. A place where the pressure of the force of numbers and an aware populace can make the death cultists just want to LEAVE. A place where Wafa Sultan is asked for her input regarding State public school curriculum.

    Can we do it please? Take a page out of our enemy’s playbook and effectively concentrate our harbi voting power?