The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Support for Sharia Law

There seems to be a widely held belief in the West that only a small minority of Muslims support Islamist terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, that most Muslims do not want to live under the harsh reality of Sharia Law, and that Muslims are generally respectful of other religions. And yet, when one looks for evidence to support these beliefs, there is little to be found. Perhaps the opinion makers who believe these things speak only with Muslims who not only live in the West but have drunk the Kool-Aid of Western culture. Or maybe they just listen to front organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) who love to tell us what we want to hear. As I stated above, there's little evidence to support these beliefs which are contradicted by the facts.

For example, a series of polls in which Pakistani Muslims were asked about their religious and political beliefs indicated that a solid majority support the idea of "strict Sharia Law" being the law of the land in Pakistan. (See one poll result here: Reuters Cites IRI Pakistani Poll.) There's also widespread majority support among the general population in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Muslim nations for the strict application of blasphemy laws that call for the death of anyone who violates them. In Pakistan the blasphemy law is actually quite vague and has been frequently misapplied and even used by some to accuse others with whom they might have a dispute. Here's the core of the law as stated in the Pakistani penal code:
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine." 
Lots of room for misapplication in those words, and many Christians and others have suffered as a result, And yet a vast majority of Pakistanis support the strict application of this law.

Obviously, if a Pakistani Catholic were asked to state the Church's teaching as it relates to Muhammad, and he replied honestly, he would be guilty of blasphemy and risk the death penalty. Indeed, such a law would pretty much preclude any serious religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, at least inside Pakistan where the law is enforced. Is it any wonder that Christians tend to keep a rather low profile in Muslim nations?

Another element of Sharia Law widely supported in Muslim nations is the prohibition against "apostasy" in which anyone who converts from Islam to another religion must be put to death. In other words, if you convert, you die.

The following video (in German, but translated with subtitles into English) addresses the plight of Egyptian apostates who converted from Islam to Christianity. The Gohary and Hegazy families are living in terror under the constant threat of being killed. Jussuf al Badri, the Egyptian Islamic jurist depicted in the video states that under Sharia “God has commanded us to kill those who leave Islam.” Such is the fragile and tragic plight of apostates in Muslim countries who daily face the threat of vigilantism and death.

Sharia is designed to govern all aspects of life, from relations between the sexes to business ethics. In some nations, aspects of Sharia have become part of modern legal codes and are enforced by national judicial systems, while others are a matter of personal conscience. Entirely secular law is not an option under a classical interpretation of Islam. David Powers, Professor of Islamic Law at Cornell, stated, 'In Islam, there is no separation between the secular and the sacred. The law is suffused with religion.'

The increasing support for Sharia Law among the general population in Muslim countries often puts the people at odds with their political leadership. For example, in Pakistan and Egypt, while those in power have created a division between secular and Sharia courts, the people overwhelmingly favor the idea of Sharia Law as the sole judicial system. In this, then, the people are more in tune with the teachings of Islam then are their leaders. Terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, by strongly supporting the imposition of Sharia Law, have cleverly exploited this disconnect between the people and their current political leadership in some Muslim countries. And although most Muslims reject al-Qaeda and the Taliban and their terrorism, support for them and their policies is growing. The situation doesn't bode well for the future.

News from Baghdad. The Christian churches of Baghdad have called on Iraqi Christians to participate in a day of fasting on December 9 to commemorate those Christians who were killed when al-Qaeda terrorists stormed Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral on October 31. Women, children, and two priests were among the 46 Christians murdered in the attack. Over 70 others were wounded. More information here: IRAQ Churches Plan Day of Fasting. I think it would be a good thing for all of us to join our Iraqi bothers and sisters in the day of fasting and prayer.

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