Saturday, August 28, 2010

Elham Manea on Sharia . . . Versus Imam Rauf?

Dr. Elham Manea

Born in Egypt in 1966 and educated in Kuwait, Yemen, the United States, and Switzerland, Dr. Elham Manea earned her PhD in Political Science from the University of Zurich in 2001 and has a postdoctoral position there in the Institute of Political Science. According to an article in MEMRI, "Yemeni-Swiss Liberal: The Shari'a Is Unjust," Dr. Manea recently offered -- in a number of papers -- some frank words about sharia, so I've abstracted the following:
The shari'a, as it is viewed and implemented by all the theocratic Islamic regimes of our times, is unjust . . . . I say this unequivocally because the time has come to call things by their proper names: a theocracy that applies the precepts of the shari'a to [its] society today [is one that] violates individual rights, discriminates between its citizens, and oppresses its women and its religious minorities . . . .

It is unjust to chop off the hand of a thief and cripple him for life. Such a punishment [may] have befitted the society of the seventh century. Nowadays, without question, it is a heinous penalty . . . . Chopping off a [thief's] hand renders him disabled for life and a burden on society, as he is unable to work. Therefore, [let me] say explicitly that it is illogical to preach the implementation of such physical punishments. Punishments of this sort are outdated . . . .

The best example of [the injustice in the shari'a] are its laws regarding women . . . . The Koranic passages relating to women regard them on two [different] levels: according to one, man and woman are equal before Allah . . . . According to the second, a woman's legal rights and obligations are not equal to those of a man. This inequality is manifest in [laws of] divorce, in a man's [entitlement] to the sexual enjoyment of a woman whenever he likes [and regardless of her will], in [laws of] polygamy -- [allowing a man] up to four wives, in addition to concubines . . . . in [laws of] inheritance, in testimony, in the beating of a 'shrewish' woman in order to discipline her, and others . . . . [Islamic law] raised the status of the man, and lowered the woman to an inferior social degree . . . .

[Shari'a expert] Dr. Su'ad Saleh . . . said, in response to a question . . . about the right of a Christian Egyptian to serve as the country's president, that it was forbidden, from both a religious and a political standpoint, for a Christian ever to serve as president. In this she relied upon the Koranic verse, "Allah will by no means give the unbelievers a way against the believers" [Koran 4:141] . . . . This was not enough for her, and she [added]: 'There is no escaping [the fact] that the Muslim will rule over the infidel, and not the other way around. That is why Allah permitted marriage between a Muslim man and a non-Muslim woman, and not vice versa, because in marriage it is the man who is in charge, just as . . . guardianship . . . [over the children] is awarded to [the parent] with the superior religion and not [that of] the inferior' . . . .
Dr. Manea, who is critical of all such views inspired by sharia, expresses an opinion almost exactly like my own, and I'd be more reassured if 'moderates' like Imam Rauf would speak out with similar clarity. My problem with the imam is that I'm really not certain where he actually stands when he says the following on his Cordoba Initiative website concerning his Sharia Index Project:
After two years of work, the Sharia Index Project's working team of Sunni and Shi'a legal scholars from Morocco to Indonesia achieved consensus on a final structure on philosophy, methodology, and approach to providing the general public, opinion leaders, and state officials in both the Muslim and Western worlds with an Islamic legal benchmark for measuring "Islamicity" of a state.
Measuring a state's 'Islamicity'? I wonder how Iran's Islamicity would measure up, given Imam Rauf's advice to Obama on the same Cordoba site:
[Obama] should say [that] his administration respects many of the guiding principles of . . . [Iran's] 1979 revolution -- to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.
As noted in my blog entry of three days ago, Imam Rauf acknowledges that "Vilayet-i-faqih . . . means the rule of the jurisprudent . . . . [and thereby] institutionalizes the Islamic rule of law," i.e., sharia. Now, I don't know what sort of sharia ranks high in Islamicity according to Imam Rauf's Sharia Index, but his seemingly positive words about Iran's rule of Islamic law don't especially reassure me.

I recognize, however, that the situation of Islam in our global society presents a complicated problem for truly moderate Muslims who genuinely wish to reform Islam and bring the religion into consonance with modern conceptions of human rights. Such Muslims sometimes take the approach of Elham Manea and denounce sharia, hoping to galvanize -- or perhaps at least shame -- fellow Muslims into pressing for liberalization. Or they can take a different, more subtle approach, nominally speaking in positive words about sharia even while transforming its substance to exclude anything that conflicts with human rights.

Is Imam Rauf taking the latter approach?

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At 2:18 AM, Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

No matter how much Sharia foolish Western societies accept, there is always more Sharia to accommodate.

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's certainly one of the problems.

Jeffery Hodges

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