The Dangerous, Mindslaughtered Fraudulence of Joy Brighton’s “Sharia-ism”

Robert Conquest, the preeminent historian of Soviet Communism’s genocidal depredations, characterized the “mental aberration” of all varieties of Western apologists for Communism, as “mindslaughter.”

The term mindslaughter is an apposite description of what activist Joy Brighton is currently promoting (see here, and here) by coining the absurd—and dangerous—idea of “Sharia-ism.” No matter how clumsy and counterfactual her presentation, what Brighton is attempting to foist upon uninformed audiences, i.e., “educating” them about the alleged “difference between Islam and the political ideology behind sharia law,” is profoundly and dangerously misleading.

From my serious compendium on the Sharia, Sharia Versus Freedom, pp. 110-115, here is but a brief corrective to Brighton’s obfuscating and destructive drivel:

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According to the most authoritative twentieth-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 in 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 wine, eighty lashes. As Schacht further notes, sharia ultimately evolved to become “understood [as] the totality of Allah’s commandments relating to the activities of man.” The holistic sharia, he continues, is nothing less than Islam’s quintessence, “the Sharia is the most characteristic phenomenon of Islamic thought and forms the nucleus of Islam itself.” But Schacht then delineates additional salient characteristics of the sharia which have created historically insurmountable obstacles to its reform, through our present era.

Allah’s law is not to be penetrated by the intelligence . . . i.e., man has to accept it without criticism, with its apparent inconsistencies and its incomprehen­sible decrees, as wisdom into which it is impossible to enquire [inquire]. One must not look in it for causes in our sense, nor for principles; it is based on the will of Allah which is bound by no principles, therefore evasions are consid­ered as a permissible means put at one’s disposal by Allah himself. Muslim law . . . has always been considered by its followers as some­thing elevated, high above human wisdom, and as a matter of fact human logic or system has little share in it. For this very reason, the Sharia is not “law” in the modern sense of the word, any more than it is on account of its subject matter. It comprises without restriction, as an infallible doctrine of duties the whole of the reli­gious, political, social, domestic and private life of those who profess Islam, and the activities of the tolerated members of other faiths so far as they may not be detrimental to Islam.

Elsewhere Schacht 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.

The basis of the Islamic attitude towards unbelievers is the law of war; they must be either converted or subjugated or killed; the third alternative, in general, occurs only if the first are refused. As an exception, the (Arab) pagans are given the choice between conversion to Islam or death. Apart from this prisoners of war are either made slaves or killed or left alive as (free) dhimmis, or exchanged for Muslim prisoners of war, at the discretion of the imam; also a treaty of surrender is concluded which forms the legal basis for the treatment of non-Muslims to whom it applies. . . . This treaty necessarily provides for the surrender of the non-Muslims with all duties derived from it, in particular the payment of tribute, i.e., the fixed poll-tax (jizya) and the land tax (kharaj), the amount of which is determined from case to case. The non-Muslims must wear distinctive clothing and must mark their houses, which must not be built higher than those of Muslims, by distinctive signs; they must not ride horses or bear arms, and they must yield the way to Muslims; they must not scandalize the Muslims by openly performing their worship or their distinctive customs, such as drinking wine; they must not build new churches, synagogues, and hermitages; they must pay the poll-tax under humiliating conditions. It goes without saying they are excluded from the specifically Muslim privileges. . . . A non-Muslim who is not protected by a treaty is called harbi, “in a state of war,” “enemy alien”; his life and property are completely unprotected by law unless he has been given a temporary safe-conduct (aman).

Moreover, Schacht visited Nigeria between February and April 1950 and wrote the following about northern Nigeria’s efforts at rolling back British colonial law, and reintroducing the sharia:

Islamic Law has made great progress there. . . . The next ambition of the Muslim ruling class in Northern Nigeria is to continue in the same direction and seek the removal of the few restrictions which the British administration had to impose on the full application of Islamic law.

The consequences, at present, of this recrudescence of sharia in northern Nigeria—including at least intermittent application of hadd punishments—were described in a brief report published September 8, 2011.

a has sentenced two men to amputation of their right wrists for stealing a bull, with the amputation to be carried out in public if it is given final approval. The Shariah court in the village of Nassarawan Mailayi in the northern state of Zamfara on Thursday ordered that Auwalu Abubaka, 23, and Lawalli Musa, 22, have their right hands chopped off for stealing a bull worth 130,000 naira ($867; 628 euros). However, the two men have 30 days to appeal their sentence and the state governor must approve any amputation. Such sen tences have only rarely been carried out in Nigeria. “Based on the admission of guilt by the two of you of trespassing into the house . . . and stealing a bull whose worth is well above the minimum value to warrant amputation, I hereby order that each of you should have his right wrist amputated,” Judge Muhammadu Abubakar said. “I hereby order that the sentence be carried out on October 8, on market day for members of the public to witness.” The convicts were arraigned on August 8 following complaints to the police by a resident accusing them of stealing his bull from his house, which led to their arrest, court documents showed. Shariah law is in place across 12 states in predominately Muslim northern Nigeria, but it is selectively enforced. It provides for amputation of the wrist for theft and it would be the second time such a sentence is handed down in Zamfara, the first of Nigeria’s 36 states to reintroduce Shariah law after the country returned to democratic rule in 1999. In 2001, a notorious cattle rustler had his right wrist amputated fol­lowing conviction by a Shariah court in the state capital Gusau for stealing a bull after the then state governor approved the sentence.

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 negli­ gence 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 added] 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%).

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 @andrewbostom.org

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