Washington Post whitewashes sharia law

All over the liberal media, most notably at HuffPo, the drive continues to argue that Islam is not responsible for anything bad. Frequently this is done by saying that it’s merely a flawed interpretation of Islam, such as the way ISIS construes it, that leads to bad stuff. This presumes, of course, that there’s a “correct” way to interpret the words of the Qur’an and the hadith.

But that’s mendacious, for if religion causes people to do bad things that they wouldn’t have done otherwise, then one can pin those bad things on religion. Yes, I recognize that sometimes religion is just a convenient excuse for people to work out their hostilities that arise from other causes. But some acts, like trying to get creationism taught in the schools, trying to ban abortions, and valuing the worth of a woman’s testimony as only half of a man’s (a staple of sharia law that comes straight from the Qur’an) are so closely tied to religion that you’d have to be a blinkered apologist to deny the influence of faith.

But denial is the order of the day, and when that denial comes from the Left it represents collusion with oppression and irrationality. The leftish newspaper The Washington Post has just published a piece that would fit very nicely over at HuffPo, whose religion page is such a model for whitewashing Islam that its editor could have been Resa Aslan.

The new and Aslan-ian Post piece, “Five myths about sharia,” is by Asifa Quraishi-Landes, an associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin law school, specializing in “comparative Islamic and U.S.constitutional law, with a current focus on modern Islamic constitutional theory.” As her website notes:

Currently, she is working on “A New Theory of Islamic Constitutionalism: Not Secular.  Not Theocratic.  Not Impossible.” This project seeks to articulate a new constitutional framework for Muslim majority countries that will answer both the Muslim impulse for a sharia-based government, as well as secular concerns that a non-theocratic system is important in order to respect human and civil rights.

Good luck with that, Dr. Quraishi-Landes. Given the clash between sharia law and human and civil rights, your task will be a hard one.

At any rate, Quraishi-Landes’s piece in the Post, with its five “myths” about sharia law, is an exercise in both confirmation bias and mendacity, flying in the face of all the data on sharia—particularly that revealed by the 2013 Pew Poll on the beliefs of Muslims worldwide. Her overall tenet is that sharia law, which most Muslims see as the revealed word of God, differs from its human interpretation, called “fiqh.” So therefore, sharia isn’t really a “law.” In the following discussion of the five “myths” about sharia, which I’ve put in bold, Quraishi-Landes’s words are indented, while my comments are flush left.

  • Sharia is “Islamic law.”

But sharia isn’t even “law” in the sense that we in the West understand it. And most devout Muslims who embrace sharia conceptually don’t think of it as a substitute for civil law. Sharia is not a book of statutes or judicial precedent imposed by a government, and it’s not a set of regulations adjudicated in court. Rather, it is a body of Koran-based guidance that points Muslims toward living an Islamic life. It doesn’t come from the state, and it doesn’t even come in one book or a single collection of rules. Sharia is divine and philosophical. The human interpretation of sharia is called “fiqh,” or Islamic rules of right action, created by individual scholars based on the Koran and hadith (stories of the prophet Muhammad’s life). Fiqh literally means “understanding” — and its many different schools of thought illustrate that scholars knew they didn’t speak for God.

Fiqh distinguishes between the spiritual value of an action (how God sees it) and the worldly value of that action (how it affects others).

This is a distinction without much difference. It’s as if you can’t blame Christianity for denying rights to gays or leading to the murder of abortion doctors, because that’s just one human interpretation of scripture, and others dissent. But of course some adherents to Christianity do interpret the Bible in a way that fosters discrimination and bigotry.

The problem is that the difference between fiqh and sharia seems to be lost on many Muslims, who want the principles of sharia to indeed be the law in their land—or elsewhere. Granted, sometimes Muslims don’t think sharia should apply to non-Muslims (but often do), and sometimes they think it should be restricted to family affairs, including inheritance and marriage (but many argue it should go beyond that, into criminal law involving stoning for adultery, corporal punishment for criminals, the killing of apostates and non-Muslims, and so on). Are the Muslims in the Pew graphs below simply confused?



gsi2-overview-7And what about this?

Why is everybody ignoring these data, which were collected by an organization sympathetic to religion? Further, the data don’t include countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran—countries that have put sharia law into force.

  •  In Muslim countries, sharia is the law of the land. 

I am baffled as to why this is a “myth,” for what Quraishi-Landes says implies that it’s often a fact, though she seems to blame the implementation of sharia law on—yes, you guessed it—colonialism! Her words:

While it’s true that sharia influences the legal codes in most Muslim-majority countries, those codes have been shaped by a lot of things, including, most powerfully, European colonialism. France, England and others imposed nation-state models on nearly every Muslim-majority land, inadvertently joining the crown and the faith. In pre-modern Muslim lands, fiqh authority was separate from the governing authority, or siyasa. Colonialism centralized law with the state, a system that carried over when these countries regained independence.

When Muslim political movements, such as Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have looked to codify sharia in their countries, they have done so without any attention to the classical separation of fiqh and siyasa, instead continuing the legal centralization of the European nation-state. That’s why these movements look to legislate sharia — they want centralized laws for everything. But by using state power to force particular religious doctrines upon the public, they would essentially create Muslim theocracies, contrary to what existed for most of Muslim history.

But what we’re concerned with is not what existed over most of Muslim history (although Muslim-controlled states historically disenfranchised non-Muslims), but what is happening now. And what the data show is that many, many Muslims want sharia enshrined as the law of the land, and a non-trivial subset of these want it applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

  • Sharia is anti-woman.

Seriously? That’s a myth? I reproduce Quraishi-Landes’s section in its entirety, with my emphases put in bold:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali American, former member of the Dutch parliament and one of the most visible critics of Islam, says that Islamic law “is inherently hostile to women” because of its marriage laws, among other reasons. Many Westerners see Muslim women’s headcover as a kind of oppression. This year, for instance, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls endorsed his country’s effort to ban the hijab on university campuses, calling it a symbol of the “enslavement of women.” There is a verse in the Koran that holds that men are the “protectors” of women, but many contemporary scholars dispute the notion that this suggests women must obey men or that women are inferior.

While it’s true that many majority-Muslim societies have laws that treat women unfairly, many of these laws, like Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers, have no basis in fiqh. In instances where there is a fiqh origin for modern legislation, that legislation often cherry-picks certain rules, including more woman-affirming interpretations. And on a range of issues, Islam can fairly be described as feminist. Fiqh scholars, for instance, have concluded that women have the right to orgasm during sex and to fight in combat. (Women fought alongside the prophet Muhammad himself.) Fiqh can also be interpreted as pro-choice, with certain scholars positing that although abortion is forbidden, first-trimester abortions are not punishable.

Fiqh doctrine says a woman’s property, held exclusively in her name, cannot be appropriated by her husband, brother or father. (For centuries, this stood in stark contrast with the property rights of women in Europe.) Muslim women in America are sometimes shocked to find that, even though they were careful to list their assets as separate, those can be considered joint assets after marriage.

To be sure, there are patriarchal rules in fiqh, and many of these are legislated in modern Muslim-majority countries. For example, women in Iran can’t run for president or attend men’s soccer matches. But these rules are human interpretations, not sharia.

To be sure, to be sure, to be sure. . . And of course yes, some scholars are more pro-women than others, but does that mean that the entire Muslim world under sharia law would be a paradise of feminism? Somehow I doubt it.

And, of course, Quraishi-Landes continues her insistence that it’s not sharia, but fiqh that oppresses women. And that’s only the human interpretation, not the god-given laws of sharia!

With that, though, Quraishi-Landes turns black into white by saying that “on a range of issues, Islam can fairly be described as feminist.” There is no word about the many feminists who fight against the oppression of Islam, about the forced genital mutilation approved or mandated by many imams, about the morality police in Afghanistan and Iran who beat women not properly clothed or veiled, about the inability of women to go out alone without a male relative or guardian, and so on. But even if that’s true, well, that’s just fiqh!

As for beliefs about divorce and inheritance, do the data below show that sharia is pro-woman? You’d have to squint pretty hard to get that interpretation:


Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.18.30 AM

  • Islam demands brutal punishments.

Myth? Yes, of course, because it’s not sharia to blame, but fiqh. Read and weep (my emphasis):

The faith’s reputation for savagely punishing lawbreakers — with stoning, flogging, etc. — is so prevalent that even Disney’s 1992 film “Aladdin” made light of cutting off thieves’ hands. It doesn’t help that the Islamic State routinely kills innocents for all sorts of perceived transgressions, despite the Koran’s prohibition of wanton violence: It forbids attacks on civilians, property, houses of worship and even animals.

In the same way that the Ku Klux Klan’s tactics are a poor representation of Christian practice (despite its claims to be a Christian organization), the Islamic State is the worst place to look to understand what sharia says about punishment and the treatment of innocents and prisoners. It’s true that sharia permits harsh corporal punishment, including amputation of limbs, but fiqh restricts its application. Theft, for example, doesn’t include anything stolen out of hunger or items of low value. (That piece of fruit Jasmine “stole” in “Aladdin” certainly wouldn’t qualify.) Adultery? Yes, corporal punishment for extramarital sex is Koranic in origin, but it comes with an extremely high evidentiary burden of proof: four eye-witnesses. It’s a sin but not one that is the business of the state to punish.

Look at the Pew data below, which of course do not come from the Islamic state, but from surveys of Muslims—in this case, Muslims who want sharia as the law of the land! (And don’t forget, data from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, and Syria weren’t included.)

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.33.29 AM Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.33.40 AM

The most offensive part of Quraishi-Landes’s argument is the part in bold above: “Yes, corporal punishment for extramarital sex is Koranic in origin, but it comes with an extremely high evidentiary burden of proof: four eye-witnesses. It’s a sin but not one that is the business of the state to punish.” You can read the relevant law hereIt may be true that to convict someone for extramarital sex you need to have the testimony of four witnesses (for some reason Qurashi-Landes omits that these must be male witnesses), but it’s also true that to convict a man of rape you also need four male eyewitnesses. That is a huge evidentiary burden, especially since Islamic law gives priority to eyewitness testimony over forensic evidence such as DNA. What’s even worse is what has happened recently: if a woman says she was raped, and there are not four male eyewitnesses to support her and testify on her behalf (good luck with that!), then she is in effect testifying to having either premarital or extramarital sex, and can be convicted on those grounds! You can get jailed or lashed for saying you were raped! Such is Qur’anic law.

By pretending that sharia law promotes feminism, Qurashi-Landes gives up all pretense at objectivity. She is simply an apologist for Islam, and a liar as well. The distortion of Islamic law about adultery is perhaps the worst example of her leaving out relevant information in the service of her faith—if she is indeed faithful).

The last myth is this:

  • Sharia is about conquest.

And fiqh scholars have always insisted that Muslims in non-Muslim lands must obey the laws of those lands and do no harm within host countries. If local law conflicts with Muslims’ sharia obligations? Some scholars say they should emigrate; others allow them to stay. But none advocate violence or a takeover of those governments.

It’s possible that Quraishi-Landes is right—that no Muslim fiqh scholars advocate governmental takeover. But certainly many Muslim theologians and religious leaders advocate a caliphate and jihad, urging takeovers of non-Muslim land and the imposition of sharia law. Who do the Muslims of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim-majority lands listen to: scholars or imams?

Frankly, I don’t care much whether sharia is about conquest. What I’m concerned with are those branches of Islam that are about conquest, and there are too many of them.

Quraishi-Landes is, in my view, contemptible, for she simply distorts sharia law to make it seem friendly to Enlightenment and Western values. That’s not scholarship but propaganda, and confirmation bias. More important, it’s dangerous.

If only Hitchens or Orwell were hear to read and denounce this kind of apologetic doublespeak!


Asifa Quraishi-Landes


  1. GodlessMarkets
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    As for the idea that Islamic terrorism and extremism is the product of colonialism, there is a new paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows that most ISIS fighters are coming from countries with high levels of economic development, low income inequality, and highly developed political institutions. Places like Finland, Belgium, and Norway. See Benmelech and Klor, NBER Working Paper, 22190. Earlier economic research shows similar findings.

    • somer
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      But living in the wealthy western countries has instilled a sense of dissatisfaction = either from too much stress due to competition for educated jobs or from ennui due to easier life and consumerism. This wealth and opportunity has driven them into the arms of Isis.

      • somer
        Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        “competition for educated jobs” Really “large diverse pool of professional, technical jobs requiring high skill or simply higher family expectations to do well from their family in a new society with more opportunities. Of course adjustment to the western/wealthier post industrial society can be hard – but are exactly what the left in other situations argue everyone should have access to.

      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Why aren’t the Japanese joining ISIS and killing people? They have extremely high levels of stress due to competition, starting in lower schools. They have ennui and consumerism and easier life.

        I wonder if it could be that they aren’t Islamic?

        • somer
          Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

          What an offensive suggestion to an anti anglo-capito-liberal-demo-westo belief system. And it smacks of humanism and cold nasty rationalism. Uhggh! I interpret this as racism towards 1.6 million people (who are of course helpless). Im utterly triggered and need to safe space.

    • Joshua
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Of course, being from a well-off country has never stopped people from going abroad to fight for causes they truly believe in, whether they are religious or secular.

      • Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        There is some pernicious asymmetry in human motivation that makes supporters of bad causes more active than those of good causes. Very few anti-ISIS Westerners have gone abroad to fight. I haven’t, and do not intend to.

        • Posted June 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

          Your comment makes me think about how disadvantaged rationalism is.

    • Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      That’s not inconsistent: the goal for many jihadis (if we take them at their word) is to fight against imperialist powers *in solidarity with their coreligionists*. So Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, etc. are *destinations* for that reason. It says nothing about origin.

      As for ISIS, I imagine they maybe similar, but I have yet to see anything … maybe because in part people aren’t asking the right questions.

    • Christoph Allin
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      It strikes me that there are two reasons to focus on colonialism, or rather on Western actions more generally, when evaluating Islamic extremism:

      1) We, by which I mean the governments of Europe and America, have direct control over those actions, rather more control than we have over the fuzzy realm of ideas. We overthrew the moderate and democratic government of Iran, which led directly to the Islamic revolution. The British, then the Soviets, then the Americans, have poured in weapons and encouraged proxy wars in Afghanistan for decades, and lo and behold it has become a violent, extremist hellscape. Maybe it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if the Afghans and Iranian were all Jains, but unless your plan is to send in missionaries, shouldn’t that history of involvement be the *first* thing to reconsider?

      2) Citizens of democracies have direct moral responsibility for what their governments do. We have supported dictators who suppress religious freedom in the same breath as political freedom. This does not nurture a respect for liberal values. We have continued to promote violence directly or by proxy, for our own interests. There is something really sick about turning around and saying “I think *you’re* the ones with the problem. It is your collective pathology, and you are, collectively, to blame”. Would anyone actually tell a Yemeni “Yes I know we killed your relatives with that drone strike, but it was an accident, we promise. And I know your children are now afraid of the sky, but we dropped an A-bomb on Japan and they didn’t become violent, so you really have no right to complain”?

      • Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        If you support a repressive and aggressive ideology that hurts others, you cannot blame them for defending themselves by dropping things from the sky onto your head. My country was an ally of Nazi Germany during WWII and declared war to Britain and the USA. In response, they bombed some cities and killed a number of civilians. They never apologized, and I do not think they should.

        • Christoph Allin
          Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          So the threat posed by Islamic radicalism to the Western world is equal to that posed by Nazi Germany? It’s one thing to point out that Muslim countries are themselves often unpleasant places to live, but you’re saying that Western actions are justified as self-defence. This despite the fact that, in Europe and America, Islamic terrorism kills literally dozens of people every year.

          • mikeyc
            Posted June 28, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            “So the threat posed by Islamic radicalism to the Western world is equal to that posed by Nazi Germany?”

            This is a tactic known as poisoning S(h)e gave their country’s experience in a previous war as an example of how it is entirely possible for one country through provocation to bomb civilians of another and for it to be justifiable or at least legally so.

            The argument then goes; those countries supporting or aiding Islamic terrorism have no cause to complain when people in their territories are targeted.

            “….Islamic terrorism kills literally dozens of people every year.”

            Except for that one year in particular. Which is sort of the point.

            • mickeyc
              Posted June 28, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

              Grrr typo….Should read….”…poisoning the well.”

            • mikeyc
              Posted June 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

              grrrr. Something ate part of a sentence. Should read “This is a tactic known as poisoning the well.”

            • Christoph Allin
              Posted June 28, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

              Perhaps “equal” was not implied in the comment, in which case I was wrong to read it that way. However it remains a very bad comparison.

              For one thing “Islam”, unlike Nazi Germany, has not and cannot declare war on anyone, because it is a religion and not a state. If it only concerns particular nations and their particular support for terrorism, then I have to wonder why America is not bombing Ssudi Arabia? Or for that matter why America is supporting the Saudi-led terrorising of Yemen? Or why, in response to 9/11, *which was not even carried out by a state*, the US thought it justified to invade Iraq, resulting in a death toll at least 100 times greater? It also ignores the fact that we were at war with Nazi Germany, whereas we have not been at war with Pakistan, though we have killed Pakistanis, in Pakistan.

              The only way this makes sense is if we say Muslims as a whole are responsible for extremism, and must therefore endure the reprisals, from drone strikes to government surveillance, with stoic acceptance. I contend that my Muslim friends do not shoulder any blame for the actions of Al Qaeda or ISIS whatsoever. Nor can I demand that they answer for the Islamic law of a country that is not their own. Any minimal respect for liberal values should tell you that collective guilt cannot be applied so broadly. It cannot be applied to a quarter of the worlds people, who do not share the same culture, or the same language, and certainly not the same body politic.

              • Posted June 28, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

                “For one thing “Islam”, unlike Nazi Germany, has not and cannot declare war on anyone, because it is a religion and not a state.”

                Whatever else may be said about the argument here, this is rather specious. No matter what level of destruction and fatality is visited upon “enemies”, we can’t use the word “war” because “Islam is a religion”?

              • mikeyc
                Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

                “For one thing “Islam”, unlike Nazi Germany, has not and cannot declare war on anyone… ”

                Except that is has. It’s called jihad and it’s been claimed many times in the past, as it is today. It is derived directly from their holy works. You can not seriously deny this. Sweeping it under the rug because you don’t like associating the doctrine with your Muslim friends does no one any good. It doesn’t matter a fig if 1% or 99% of Muslims support jihad. My own feeling, without any data to back it up except my own circle of Muslim friends, is that that number is far below 1%. But whatever the actual number is, it is not zero. Dr Ceiling Cat posted numerous polling data above that demonstrates the opinions of Muslims around the world. Your claim is wrong, QED.

                The discussion here anyway was about the actions of nation states. In those terms many have argued that the US and other western countries are justified in attacking jihadists in other countries, with or without the approval of that country. Whether one agrees or not with specific acts, few think that such violence is never justified. That both the targeted and non-targeted are almost all Muslims is due to geography – the jihadists are often there. It is my opinion that Obama has done great damage to us in terms of our moral standing in the world by pursuing the Bush doctrine of targeting combatants outside the theater of war, and I admit his administration has made a solid case for it, at least in most cases. But the quality of that argument is neither here nor there with respect to this discussion. I believe that we as a country have the right to strike anywhere any time against our enemies (and make no mistake – Islamists ARE our enemy). I acknowledge how dangerous this is and that we have not always done it right.

                You seem to think that Muslims have some special sauce that makes them immune to the demands humans have on the behavior of other members of our species. Of course most (vast majority of) Muslims are appalled and horrified by the acts of ISIL and all the other Islamic groups responsible for the horrors of today (it hasn’t come out yet, at least to me, but I’ll give you exactly one guess about the religion of the perpetrators of the attack at the airport in Turkey today). Any nation that actively harbors or supports them should not be surprised to find bombs dropping on them. That we can (and do) make mistakes and that such violence can worsen already bad situations are factors that go into deciding whether or not to pursue the action, but such considerations are beside the point of whether or not those actions are justified. We can be justified in taking an action but wrong for doing it.

                So why don’t we bomb Saudi? Why not indeed. They should have long ago been targets of if not bombs then serious, worldwide condemnation and isolation. They should have been brought to their knees on Sept 12th 2001, if no other atrocity they supported in Islam’s name -and with Islam’s guidance- will suffice. No greater state sponsor and exporter of hate, jihad, and terror exists in the world today. But it hasn’t happened. Partly because oil and petropolitics. But also because a significant number of people are afraid to point to the problem. It’s Islam.

    • Kai
      Posted July 11, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Benmelech and Klor misquote the figures from the original paper by Barrett (and the other source they ‘cite’ they do not provide in their References) horribly. They quote 70 (official) or 85 (unofficial) ISIS fighters from Finland, whereas the original from which they claim to quote says SUPO (Finnish Security Intelligence Service) estimate is “over 30” – note, estimate.

      Also, from the most likely countries to supply ISIS members there is no data, not even estimates. At all. According to Barrett, that is.

      So, dig a bit instead of believing what you want to believe.

      • Posted July 11, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Lay off the kind of snark in your last sentence. There was no reason you had to say that except to be snide, and we try to be civil here. Capiche?

        • Kai
          Posted July 11, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          Sorry about that.

          Of course, it does not help to “Capiche?” back, so kettle and black and what-not.

          In any case, when topics like this are discussed, often people become too stuck in the bubbles they inhabit to bother to be critical towards results which strengthen what they already want to believe.

          Anyway, sorry about that again. But check your sources.

  2. angelaevans773
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Great article! Thanks for posting.

    • Craw
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Yes, great article. This sort of thing needs to be called out.

  3. Kevin
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Delusion without insight or perspective. This is what happens to some people who are relatively bright and like to think about rules and semantics and ideas and claim that they understand how they all insularly fit together.

    With regard to our civilization, it is wholly unimportant whether sharia is a book, a rule, a law, or some philosophy. My nine year son could tell me it is f**ked up s**t that is unfair.

    Sharia is universally restrictive and unnecessary to everyone involved; particularly for the rest of us who are not participants, but have to watch impotently as harsh disparities are unfolded onto fellow humans.

  4. Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Eyewitness testimony is not exactly “evidentiary proof,” and four witnesses are not an especially high burden. But literally everyone knows this.

    • Posted June 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      Eyewitness testimony is a far, far cry from “evidentiary proof”.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee must be spinning in their graves.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted June 29, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Just recently finished reading All The President’s Men* and Ben Bradlee sounds like a very cool guy. I don’t know any more about that era in American journalism than I learnt from the book(and occasional Simpsons references) but I immediately wanted to know more about him. ‘Larger than life’ as they often say.

      * this is also pretty cool: the copy of ATPM in question is signed by Woodward and Bernstein, with a personal message to my late stepfather who helmed the BBC’s 1974 Panorama special on Watergate.

  6. Ken Phelps
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “It’s a sin but not one that is the business of the state to punish.”

    Yeah? So what? If there is one thing that the self-proclaimed moderate Muslims in Muslim majority countries have demonstrated, it is impotence in the face of Islamists who take it upon themselves to punish “sin” when and wherever they see it.

    Nothing in this article is worth a bucket of warm spit until the supposed majority of “moderate” Muslims start showing the same courage in Muslim majority countries that they do in Western newspapers.

    What an irrelevant, dissembling clown.

  7. Stephen
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    This point is tangential to your argument with which I am in full agreement but it’s been a long time since the Washington Post could be described as “leftish”. George Will, Michael Gerson and Charles Krauthammer have regular space on the Op-Ed pages and it’s own editorial stances could be only be described as establishment conservative. But it’s the conservatism of the Republicans of 20 years ago and it does appear liberal when contrasted with the hard right wing that dominates our current political discourse.

  8. Claudia Baker
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    “…modern Islamic constitutional theory”. – holy oxymoron!

  9. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I think people think that religion is just something you can up and get into like yoga. Also, people think all religions are practically the same.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    How’d Turkey wind up in “Central Asia” with the ‘Stans?

  11. Cameron
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Wow, talk about reinterpreting history. I couldn’t read anymore beyond the colonialism canard; the ignorance was just too painful to comprehend. The very powerful Ottoman empire was a centralized religious state long before colonialism. Why does everyone need to blame colonialism as though it only happened once in human history. Colonizing people and lands is pretty much the standard in human population movement; to point out a specific period of colonization as being the be-all and end-all of cultural control denotes her utter lack of understanding of history.

    • Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      However, the last rounds of colonialism attempted to force specific nation states on places where they had never existed: Iraq and so on are an artifact of that approach; arguably so is Vietnam, for example (from the round after).

      • darrelle
        Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think that is accurate. From what history I have formally studied, mostly ancient Greek, and informally learned over the years destroying polities, creating new ones and redrawing borders are also “pretty much (all) standard” in human history. I don’t see anything about the last rounds of colonialism that hasn’t been done many times over the past thousands of years of human history.

      • josh
        Posted June 28, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        darrelle is correct. Iraq was part of the Ottoman empire, before which it was controlled by various Khanates and Caliphates going back for centuries. These were larger political bodies than modern Iraq so it’s not as though the British forced previously separate groups to live under a new common government. The modern state no doubt bears the marks of “Western” administration but that is on top of millennia of local and “Eastern” machinations (which were far less humane, incidentally).

        There is plenty of room to criticize American, British, etc. decisions about how to deal with the Middle East but the idea that its problems are all caused by colonialism is nonsense.

        • Posted June 30, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

          Of course the territory was claimed by Ottomans. But was there a “this line and no further” anywhere near Iraq as understood now? No. And that’s the point. People from the area repeatedly point to Sykes-Picot as the clearest example, though there are others. Boundaries in our modern sense (Westphalia) were literally drawn without consultation of the people who *actually lived there*. This is *still* a concern, because it affects migration, cultural exchange, etc. Is this the *only* factor? No, of course not. But understanding what people say their grievances are starts by what they say.

  12. Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Isn’t the desire to re-establish a caliphate itself an act of colonialism? The psychology of apology is so transparent. One’s identity is threatened the minute an admission is made that critical exposure of one religion decimates the veracity of adherence to any religion. The fanaticism of fantasy will always be inimical to flourishing. Q.E.D.

    • Zado
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      That’s what I always try to point out about jihadists: they’re not anti-imperialists; they want to resurrect (and extend) an empire!

      • Posted June 30, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        True (for some), but irrelevant. Why? Think of a smoker – he can tell you that smoking is bad for you. He’s a hypocrite, but he *is* correct. Similarly, a jihadi can tell you why he is fighting. For example, because Russians are oppressing ethnic and religious minorities in Chechnya. Etc. for all the other places. He’s not *wrong* because it happens he may want an Islamic state there joined with other areas in that form government, even if he wants to do so in places where there is no support at all.

        • Posted June 30, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          (wrong about the colonialism, oppression, etc. He may yet be *morally* wrong in both goals and means.)

  13. sensorrhea
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    To me this is all about sectarianism. Fiqh is just another word for this. It acknowledges that there are differing interpretations of Islam while implicitly positing a sort of Platonic ideal of Islam that, I guess, is unknowable by imperfect humans – according to her.

    But, here’s the thing, for most believers sectarianism is evidence that their chosen sect is the correct one, not an admission that there are multiple sects so nobody knows what’s true.

    So this quote is her essential logical failure:

    “Its many different schools of thought illustrate that scholars knew they didn’t speak for God.”

    There are over 40,000 Protestant Christian sects and they all think they are the correct one.

    Until liberals can deal with this in general, and the fact that ISIS is one of these sects of Islam in particular, they can never honestly discuss this stuff.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      “Its many different schools of thought illustrate that scholars knew they didn’t speak for God.”

      Yes indeed. That statement made me think she must be either impossibly naive or blatantly disingenuous. In any case it is complete crap and warrants a high level of skepticism regarding everything she says due to either incompetence or dishonesty.

  14. GodlessMarkets
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Let me just reproduce this quote the original posting above:

    There is a verse in the Koran that holds that men are the “protectors” of women, but many contemporary scholars dispute the notion that this suggests women must obey men or that women are inferior.

    Does this sound like Southern apologists for paternalism and Jim Crow? Or hard-core Christians justifying their attitudes toward women?

  15. Alan Clark
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    If you think that ANY interpretation of the Koran is correct, doesn’t that make you a muslim?

    • Ken Elliott
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Or delusional.

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Quraishi-Landes’s piece is an extended exercise in a “No True Islamic Scholar” fallacy.

    Most of the time she faults fiqh as a bastardization of sharia law; but in other instances, she claims fiqh gives a moderating interpretation to the harshness of sharia. If you’re gonna cherry-pick, at least pick your cherries consistently.

    Quraishi-Landes also claims that the spread of sharia is an outgrowth of the colonial introduction of the “nation-state” to majority-Muslim countries, but overlooks that pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, and the rise of the new Caliphate all stem from a desire to abandon nation-states in favor of a return to the supposedly Edenic, pre-colonial state.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I hope AQ-L sees this. Any chance you might send it to WaPo?

    • Posted June 28, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I added a link as a comment in the discussion, which already had 1,300 comments this morning. (Post was 4 days old.) I need to start writing for newspapers!

      • Hempenstein
        Posted June 28, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        You could go into syndication! (& now with his conversions of late, Geo Will might be happy to offer some tips.)

  18. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    While it’s true that sharia is more philosophical (the name means “path to be followed”), fiqh is basically an elaboration and elucidation of sharia for mostly legal purposes.

    Sharia says that gay sex is illegal, period.
    Some Muslim countries impose the death penalty for homosexuality. Others just put in in prison and/or flog you. Why does this make a difference to folks defending gay rights?

  19. Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised that WaPo publishes such an apology for Sharia, while HuffPo gives tribune to Nemat Sadat, a gay ex-Muslim atheist speaking against Sharia:

    “…It irks me when the regressive left and their Islamist allies call the far right and populist nationalist parties racist and xenophobic while refusing to push back against the regressive strains of Islamic thought. I can empathize with conservatives who defend their secular democratic culture from a theocratic ideological system bent on replacing the Constitution with the Quran. How can it be fear mongering when Islamic law is already a reality for nearly a quarter of the world’s population and 85 Sharia courts operate parallel to the British legal system…”


    The press world upside down!

    • Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      You seem to be mostly reasonable, but where you go wrong is in assuming conservative opposition to Islam and the attendant Shariah is born from a commitment to secularism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The GOP in the U.S. would love nothing more than to see a Christian theocracy implemented.

      • Posted June 29, 2016 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        It is actually Mr. Sadat, not me. I agree that he is idealizing the conservative opposition. As for me, I know that particularly in the USA, too many conservatives are Christian fundamentalists. I do not like them, and I know that they do harm, but nevertheless I welcome their opposition to Islam. I remember that the Duke University had decided to react to the Paris terror attacks by broadcasting “Allahu akbar” in the campus, and a fundie Christian called Graham successfully campaigned against this.

  20. Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    “Why is everybody ignoring these data, which were collected by an organization sympathetic to religion?”

    It’s amazes me how many otherwise reasonable people, who would ordinarily consider the Pew Research Center the gold standard when it comes to polling, will reject this poll because it doesn’t fit their narrative. They’ll come up with any excuse for it being wrong without a shred of evidence.

  21. rickflick
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Quraishi-Landes reads like some squishy, wishful Pollyanna. I wonder if she ever lived under Sharia and if she, or her friends ever ran afoul of the “guidelines”.

    It seems to me rather silly to envision returning to some form of Sharia which is separate from the state. Under that system, a family can take their adulterous daughter out on a desert road at night and stone her to death without anyone knowing or caring. At least with the state in control you’d have hope of an eventual update of 1500 year old rules.

    It seems strange to think the U.S. went into Iraq to save them from Sadam’s totalitarianism. But, according to the above, 91% of Iraqis want to be governed by Sharia law. It could be they were not asking us to help them set up a modern democratic state, but perhaps something more like Saudi Arabia, or even Afghanistan under the Taliban. Talk about a major misunderstanding.

  22. Markham Thomas
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    “Adultery? Yes, corporal punishment for extramarital sex is Koranic in origin, but it comes with an extremely high evidentiary burden of proof: four eye-witnesses. It’s a sin but not one that is the business of the state to punish.”

    Ummm… I think he needs to rethink this one. If a Women accuses a man of rape and there is no confession or she cannot provide 4 eyewitnesses she is accused of adultery.

    From: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/rape-adultery.aspx

    “Why are rape victims often punished by Islamic courts as adulterers?

    Under Islamic law, rape can only be proven if the rapist confesses or if there are four male witnesses. Women who allege rape without the benefit of the act having been witnessed by four men (who presumably develop a conscience afterwards) are actually confessing to having sex. If they or the accused happens to be married, then it is considered to be adultery.”

    • Posted June 28, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      It just boggles the mind.

      How Quraishi-Landes can ignore things like this and how some people can behave like this. In 2016.

  23. Filippo
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    ” . . . Quraishi-Landes continues her insistence that it’s not sharia, but fiqh that oppresses women. And that’s only the human interpretation, not the god-given laws of sharia!”

    Don’t the Islamic Masters of Mankind (claim to) know exactly what sharia is? Have they been vouchsafed by Allah (may his name be praaiissed-duh!)the exact wording of sharia? Has Quraishi-Landes been similarly vouchsafed so as to know exactly what is sharia so as to be able to identify “fiqh” when she sees it? Ought it not be “fiqh courts” instead of “sharia courts”?

    I’d like to hear her say what the penalty for apostasy is in Islam (Is it death – does she agree with that?) and how she knows that – or anything else in Islam – with total conviction. I’d like to hear her say whether it’s OK to leave the faith without negative consequence, or for a British muslim to decline to submit him-/herself to a British sharia court.

  24. Katamari
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Ah, as a woman I have the “right” to orgasm during sex! How enlightened these scholars are! And the fact that these people even considered this a matter to be decided upon is not disturbing in the slightest….

  25. keith cook + / -
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Malala Yousafzai is a name Asifa Quraishi-Landes should keep in mind,
    … and then ask herself, am I able to support the ‘anti women’ myth and indeed rise to a position as associate professor of law at a university had Pakistan been my home.
    I funking think not, they face a male dominated discriminating profession where most give up as there is no future or just become subservient to male lawyers and paper and pen pushes. They simply don’t trust women to be competent.
    It would be the only time I would concede to a ‘myth’ in Quraishi-Landes words to actually being true, that is, Sharia is anti-woman. Dumb I know but I can’t help myself.
    Malala is just one of many dents in this above scree of apologetics and she got a bullet in the head for her yearning for learning.. and letting it be known. Very brave young women that Malala Yousafzai.

  26. Posted June 28, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    “Currently, she is working on “A New Theory of Islamic Constitutionalism: Not Secular. Not Theocratic. Not Impossible.”

    It makes me want to cry that shit like this lands people in respectable careers. Can I have tenure at a large university for my thesis, “Not wet. Not dry. Not impossible”?

  27. Posted June 29, 2016 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    My question is:
    Why do you care?

    Really, Let Muslims fight for the soul of their religion. Let Muslim intellectuals try and come up with new ways to “save” their beloved religion from extremists.

    As an atheist, ALL interpretations of Islam are nonsensical to me. I think engaging in these debates is equivalent with debating a medieval Christian scholar about how many angels can sit on a pinhead! It is unnecessary, boring, and unhelpful.

    What we need to do is to actually help these scholars spread their messages in the Islamic countries. In the open societies of the West, freedom of speech will hopefully do its job and reason will prevail in the end. If it doesn’t, then we have a bigger problem already!

    The thing about Sharia and Islamic law is that they were brilliant inventions for their own times. Some of the ideas are still thought provoking. For example, killers are required to compensate for the loss the victim’s family have suffered. This stands in stark contrast to sending a killer to prison and then forcing the victim’s family to pay (in the form of taxation) for covering incarceration costs!

    I am not advocating Islamic laws. Many Muslims use those laws to justify the most abhorrent atrocities. But there was a reason Muslims prevailed over the great empires of their times in those early centuries of Islam. Namely, Islamic laws helped create just and prosperous societies in most of the occupied territory. Just as we can’t cast aside the historical importance of the Roman law, it doesn’t help to dismiss Islamic laws without proper analysis and scrutiny.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 29, 2016 at 6:11 am | Permalink

      At one time, we would have to say, any law is better than none. We still look to ancient Rome as the foundation of western law. But then again, a lot has happened since then to improve our idea of the just society. It’s not that the ancients never had a good idea, it’s that their overall basis and authority was unjustified. A redo of Sharia is really overdue.

  28. marcusa1971
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    Holy crapulence, Batman!
    That could be the most rigorous example of attempted turd-polishing that I have seen!

  29. Jon Butler
    Posted July 1, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Dr Coyne –

    Ken Hamm (?) and his “Noah’s Arc” was just reported – straight – on NBC Nightly News.

    Unspeakable (I wish).

    BTW – nice boots!

    Best wishes & Happy Canada Day!

    Jon Butler

    On Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 11:16 AM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “All over the liberal media, most notably > at HuffPo, the drive continues to argue that Islam is not responsible for > anything bad. Frequently this is done by saying that it’s merely a > flawed interpretation of Islam, such as the way ISIS construes it, that l” >

  30. Jon Butler
    Posted July 1, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Correction: …Ark. Noah’s Ark.

    And there was no mention (that I caught) of public money being used for the construction. (I was speaking to the TV during the segment….)

  31. Eric
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    If this surprises you then you have not been paying attention and you have not been applying critical thinking. The media is extremely biased and it is not limited to religious issues.

  32. Posted July 10, 2016 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    The research highlights what an exceptionally effective management system Islam has established. It is a system that is largely self policing by virtue of the daily/hourly rituals that seem to be compulsory. Failure to conform to these is immediately noticed and social pressure to conform is applied. In extreme cases where non conformity is regarded as apostasy the penalty is death.
    Other religions like Christianity don’t come close with their weekly rituals so it is not surprising that Islam is as entrenched as it is…. A phenomenal system for control of humans.

  33. Edward Duggal
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    Agreed with what you’re saying, but I’d prefer a term other than “Western values” at the end of the speech. Many of these values are to be found in non-Western cultures in times that predate the Enlightenment.

    Universal values would be a better phrase.

  34. Giovanni
    Posted July 23, 2016 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    If only Hitchens or Orwell were hear (HERE)

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