Michael Gerson: Preening purveyor of dangerously uninformed intellectual and moral cretinism on Sharia
Former President George W. Bush’s aide Michael Gerson posted a distressingly ignorant column on 12/13/11 which attacked both former speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and my colleague Andrew C. McCarthy, for their sober, if frank conceptions of the Sharia. The counterfactual basis for Mr. Gerson’s diatribe is his own thoroughly deficient understanding of Islam’s religio-political code for personal, societal, and Muslim state behavior. He glibly—and wrongly—imputes unique Western notions of individual rights, equality before the law, or even rational legal procedures of evidence to the Sharia’s so-called “set of transcendent principles of justice.”
Gerson condemns Gingrich’s apt summary conclusion (made during a July 2010 speech at the American Enterprise Institute) that “Shariah in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world,” while deriding the former speaker’s “qualifications” to make such an assessment. The crux of Gerson’s vitriolic, uninformed “argument”—that Gingrich has deliberately misrepresented as normative Sharia “the most radical form of Islamic law”, and dared to identify this sacralized code as “totalitarian”—is factually-challenged—and dangerous—drivel.
With vanishingly rare intellectual honesty and resolve, Gingrich has described how normative Sharia—antithetical to bedrock Western legal principles—by “divine,” immutable diktat, rejects freedom of conscience, while sanctioning violent jihadism, absurd, misogynistc “rules of evidence” (four male witnesses for rape), barbarous punishments (stoning for adultery), and polygamy. 10
Sharia in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world, and the underlying basic belief which is that law comes directly from God and is therefore imposed upon humans and no human can change the law without it being an act of apostasy is a fundamental violation of a tradition in the Western system which goes back to Rome, Athens and Jerusalem and which has evolved in giving us freedom across the planet on a scale we can hardly imagine and which is now directly threatened by those who would impose it.
Moreover, Gingrich warned about efforts—deliberate, or unwitting—to represent Sharia as a benign system.
So let me also be quite clear that the rules are radical and horrific. I think again it’s fascinating that even when people go out and do polling and they say to, for example, Muslims in general, do you believe in Sharia, they don’t then explain what Sharia is. Sharia becomes like would you like to be a Rotarian and it sounds okay.
Gingrich’s unflinching portrayal of the existential threat Sharia represents—whether or not this totalitarian system is imposed by violent, or non-violent means—was accompanied by a clarion call for concrete measures to oppose any Sharia encroachment on the US legal code.
Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence. But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state which is to replace Western civilization with a [radical] imposition of Sharia.
The fight against Sharia and the madrassas in mosques which teach hatred and fanaticism is the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth. It’s time we had a national debate on this. One of the things I’m going to suggest today is a federal law which says no court anywhere in the United States under any circumstance is allowed to consider Sharia as a replacement for American law.
Reminiscent of Robert Conquest’s appellation “mindslaughter”—a brilliantly evocative term for delusive Western apologetics regarding the ideology of Communism, and anticipating reactions to his own speech, albeit from “See No Sharia” cultural relativists not confined to the Left, such as Michael Gerson—Gingrich also wondered,
How we don’t have some kind of movement in this country on the left that understands that Sharia is a direct mortal threat to virtually every value that the left has is really one of the most interesting historical questions and will someday lead to many dissertations being written.
According to the most authoritative 20th century Western Islamic legal scholar, Joseph Schacht (d. 1969), the Sharia, or “clear path to be followed,” is the “canon law of Islam,” which “denotes all the individual prescriptions composing it.” Schacht traces the use of the term Sharia to Koranic verses such as 45:18, 42:13, 42:21, and 5:48, noting an “old definition” of the Sharia by the seminal Koranic commentator and early Muslim historian Tabari (d. 923), as comprising the law of inheritance, various commandments and prohibitions, and the so-called “hadd” punishments. These latter draconian punishments, defined by the Muslim prophet Muhammad either in the Koran, or the hadith (the canonical collections of Muhammad’s deeds and pronouncements), included: (lethal) stoning for adultery; death for apostasy; death for highway robbery, when accompanied by murder of the robbery victim; for simple highway robbery, the loss of hands and feet; for simple theft, cutting off of the right hand; for “fornication,” a hundred lashes; for drinking win, eighty lashes. Schacht also elucidates how Sharia—via the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad war—regulates the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. These regulations make explicit the sacralized vulnerability of unvanquished non-Muslims to jihad depredations, and the permanent, deliberately humiliating legal inferiority for those who survive their jihad conquest, and incorporation into an Islamic polity governed by Sharia.
Independently endorsing Schacht’s views, Professor Carl Brockelmann (1868-1956), the renowned scholar of Semitic languages, and arguably the foremost Orientalist of his generation, made these candid observations about the Sharia’s injunctions pertaining to jihad, and penal law, in 1939—Islamic Law being “valid” eternally, and all too widely applied in Brockelmann’s era, till now.
The Muslim may show only hostility to infidels when encountered: war against them is a religious duty. Idol-worshippers must always be attacked without more ado, Jews and Christians, however, only after they have ignored a summons made three times, to accept Islam. After defeat the men are to be killed, women and children sold into slavery. Whoever is killed in the Holy War [Jihad] is sure of paradise, as a martyr. In addition, it is permitted to conclude treaties with Jews and Christians, following the example of the Prophet; later on the Parsee Zoroastrians were placed on the same level as these “People of the Book.” But the obligation of the Holy War is merely postponed by such contracts, not annulled.
The penal code of Islam has remained on a rather primitive level and only marks a slight advance over the ancient pagan concepts of law. The murderer is subject to death through blood vengeance; manslaughter through negligence is recompensed by an indemnity to the survivors. Bodily injuries may be atoned for by the culprit according to the principles of lex talionis—but the culprit may also redeem himself by paying damages. Theft is punished by amputation of the right hand, in case of relapse by additional maiming. Adultery is punished by a hundred strokes of the lash; but if an infidel seduces a Muslim woman, he is subject to the death penalty. Blasphemy with respect to God [Allah], the Prophet, and his predecessors is punished by death, as is defection from Islam, if the culprit persists in his disbelief.
A brutal contemporary example of the application of hadd punishment in Khartoum, The Sudan, during December 2010, was documented in this interview of Khartoum’s Governor, Dr. Abd Al-Rahman Al-Khadr.
Governor of Khartoum, Dr. Abd Al-Rahman Al-Khadr: “What was aired was the implementation of an Islamic punishment. The sentence of a court of the state was carried out in that manner. We should distinguish between two things: the punishment in and of itself, and the way it was carried out, about which something might be said…We should consider the more important issue in this case – our penal code is in keeping with Islam, and the shari’a is the main source of our legislation. Islamic punishments are carried out to purge the perpetrator. [emphasis added]…The people who made this public could have concealed the girl’s face. There are many techniques that allow you to do so. Things that were kept hidden were exposed by this harmful media publication. This proves that their goal was not to discuss the crime or the punishment. Rather, this is a case of political harassment.”
Interviewer: “This is not a case of a woman wearing pants, is it?”
Dr. Abd Al-Rahman Al-Khadr: “No, it is not. I did not mention the nature of the crime, because I do not want to slander her. It has to do with immoral activity and prostitution. The verdict was issued by judges, [emphasis aadded] not by the police.”
Rising Restrictions on Religion, a report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life issued August 9, 2011, examined the issue of “defamation” of religion, tracking countries where various penalties are enforced for apostasy, blasphemy or criticism of religions. “While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical,” the report noted. The Pew report, consistent with Brockelmann’s assessment from 1939, found that application of the Sharia at present resulted in a disproportionate number of Muslim countries, twenty-one—Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Western Sahara and Yemen—registering the highest (i.e., worst) persecution scores on their scale. Furthermore, the Pew investigators observed,
Eight-in-ten countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion, the highest share of any region. These penalties are enforced in 60% of the countries in the region.
As a predictable consequence of this Sharia-based application of apostasy and blasphemy laws by Islamic governments, the Pew report also documented that
the share of national governments that showed hostility toward minority religions involving physical violence was much higher in countries where laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion are actively enforced than in countries without such laws (55% versus 22%).
Another important mid 20th century scholar of Islamic Law, G.H. Bousquet (d. 1978), explained how Islam’s unique institution of jihad war, and its eternal quest to impose the Sharia on all of humanity, represented a “dual” totalitarianism. Writing in 1950, Bousquet further warned that these ancient Muslim doctrines remained vibrant, and relevant to the modern era.
Islam first came before the world as a doubly totalitarian system. It claimed to impose itself on the whole world and it claimed also, by the divinely appointed Muhammadan law, by the principles of fiqh, to regulate down to the smallest details the whole life of the Islamic community and of every individual believer…Viewed from this angle, the study of Muhammadan Law (dry and forbidding though it may appear to be to those who confine themselves to the indispensable study of the fiqh), is of great importance to the world of today.
Bousquet’s characterization was reiterated by one of Mr. Gerson’s former mentors at the Bush White House, the contemporary sage of Islam, Bernard Lewis. In a 1954 essay comparing the totalitarian natures of Communism and Islam, Lewis provided this pellucid analysis which belittled the ahistorical, treacly apologetics of Muslim fantasists, and applies equally to their dilettante, non-Muslim champions, such as Gerson:
I turn now from the accidental to the essential factors, to those deriving from the very nature of Islamic society, tradition, and thought. The first of these is the authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition…. Many attempts have been made to show that Islam and democracy are identical-attempts usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both. This sort of argument expresses a need of the up- rooted Muslim intellectual who is no longer satisfied with or capable of understanding traditional Islamic values, and who tries to justify, or rather, re-state, his inherited faith in terms of the fashionable ideology of the day. It is an example of the romantic and apologetic presentation of Islam.. …[I]t [Islam] was authoritarian, often arbitrary, sometimes tyrannical. There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind, no councils or communes, no chambers of nobility or estates, no municipalities in the history of Islam; nothing but the sovereign power, to which the subject owed complete and unwavering obedience as a religious duty imposed by the Holy Law.
And Gerson, unlike Newt Gingrich, remains willfully blind to Sharia encroachment in the US itself. Predictably, Gerson ignores all evidence of this phenomenon, from ominous polling data, to jihad funding trial revelations and the content of more banal Muslim litigation proceedings, mosque surveillance reports, analyses of Islamic education institutions and their Muslim schoolchildren’s textbooks, the issuance of obscurantist “fatwas” (Islamic legal rulings) by the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, and finally, an open declaration by one of America’s largest mainstream Muslims organizations, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), in its 2010 ICNA Member’s Hand Book, calling for the (re-)creation of a global Muslim Caliphate, and the imposition of Sharia law in America. Salient details from these illustrative examples, include:
- Data (compiled here) from an April 2001 survey performed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) revealing that 69% of American Muslims in America affirmed that it was “absolutely fundamental” or “very important” to have Salafi (i.e., fundamentalist Islamic) teachings at their mosques, while 67 % of respondents agreed with the statement “America is an immoral, corrupt society.” Another poll conducted in Detroit area mosques during 2003 found that 81% of the respondents endorsed the application of the Sharia where Muslims comprised a majority.
- An internal Muslim Brotherhood statement dated May 22, 1991, whose contents were revealed during the Texas Holy Land Foundation jihad-terrorism funding trial. Written by an acolyte of the Brotherhood’s major theoretician, lionized Qatari cleric, popular Al-Jazeera television personality, and head of the European Fatwa Council Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the document entitled “An Explanatory Memorandum On the General Strategic Goal for the Group In North America,” is indeed self-explanatory: The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and by the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.
- The “Sharia and Violence in American Mosques” (Kedar M, Yerushalmi D. The Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2011, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 59-72) studied 100 mosques randomly selected across the U.S. testing the hypothesis that Sharia adherence within mosques (including, among many other factors, gender separation, clothing, male facial hair, jewelry, strictness on alignment shoulder-to-shoulder during prayer, etc.) would correlate with incitement to jihadism. This key summary finding was highlighted by the authors: …51 percent of mosques had texts that either advocated the use of violence in the pursuit of a Shari’a-based political order or advocated violent jihad as a duty that should be of paramount importance to a Muslim; 30 percent had only texts that were moderately supportive of violence like the Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Fiqh as-Sunna; 19 percent had no violent texts at all. Thus 81% of this statistical sample representative of US mosques were deemed as moderately (30%) to highly (51%) supportive of promulgating jihad violence to impose Sharia
- A provisional inquiry “Shariah Law and American State Courts” evaluated 50 Appellate Court cases from 23 states that involved conflicts between Shariah (Islamic law) and American state law. Examples of American judges accepting “input” from Sharia in rendering judgments, included an odious, widely publicized New Jersey ruling that upheld Sharia-sanctioned marital rape. Appellate court intervention was required to reverse this ruling in July 2010-Western legal norms prevailing over the Sharia-with the presiding judge soberly concluding that the Muslim husband’s “…conduct in engaging in nonconsensual sexual intercourse was unquestionably knowing, regardless of his view that his [Islamic] religion permitted him to act as he did.” Completely ignored at the time of these New Jersey proceedings was the fact that marital rape is not recognized as criminal, i.e., it is sanctioned, by a fatwa of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America! (see below)
- Investigations of textbooks widely used in the New York city area Islamic schools, as well as the Islamic Saudi Academy of Fairfax Virginia which discovered the inculcation of Sharia supremacism, including sacralized disparagement and hatred of non-Muslims, especially Jews. When questioned for the March, 30 2003 NY Daily News story on New York area Islamic school textbooks, Yahiya Emerick, head of a Queens-based nonprofit curriculum development project for the Islamic Foundation of North America, defended the language in these books, denying they were inflammatory. Emerick opined, Islam, like any belief system, believes its program is better than others. I don’t feel embarrassed to say that…[The books] are directed to kids in a Muslim educational environment. They must learn and appreciate there are differences between what they have and what other religions teach. It’s telling kids that we have our own tradition.
- The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), whose mission statement maintains the organization was, “…founded to provide guidance for Muslims living in North America…AMJA is a religious organization that does not exploit religion to achieve any political ends, but instead provides practical solutions within the guidelines of Islam and the nation’s laws to the various challenges experienced by Muslim communities…”, is accepted as such by the mainstream American Muslim community. Notwithstanding this mainstream acceptance, including uncritical endorsement of its recent seventh annual American conference in Houston (October 15-18, 2010) to train American imams, AMJA has issued rulings which sanction the killing of apostates, “blasphemers” (including non-Muslims guilty of this “crime”), or adulterers (by stoning to death), condone female genital mutilation, marital rape, and polygamy, and even endorse the possibility for offensive jihad against the US, as soon as Muslims are strong enough to wage it.
- Finally, as reported by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), one of the largest mainstream U.S. Muslim organizations, in its 2010 ICNA Member’s Hand Book, openly acknowledges being the American branch of a global jihadist phenomenon referred to as the ‘Islamic Movement.’ The 2010 Hand Book observes, that branches of this movement “…are active in various parts of the world to achieve the same objectives. It is our obligation as Muslims to engage in the same noble cause here in North America.” These efforts will culminate in the (re-)creation of a transnational Islamic superstate, the Caliphate, under the Sharia .…the united Muslim Ummah [community] in a united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah in accordance with the laws of shari’ah.
Notwithstanding the intellectually and morally cretinous sniping of Michael Gerson, we must heed Newt Gingrich’s clarion call, and promote the Sharia educational, and anti-Sharia advocacy resources provided, in particular, by the Center for Security Policy, under the aegis of the indefatigable Frank Gaffney. The American public may be awakening to this evidence, as suggested by a national poll of 1,000 likely American voters that was completed in August, 2011 by Democratic pollster Pat Caddell, and Republican pollster John McLaughlin. The published results indicate that despite the prevailing apologetics and denial about Sharia, by a ratio of 13:1 Americans oppose the application of Sharia in US federal or state courts.