What is a "moderate form" of Sharia? Wherever Sharia is implemented, it is markedly similar in form, contrary to the dissembling claims of Islamic supremacist spokesmen in the U.S. like Imam Faisal Rauf and Reza Aslan, who claim that it is so amorphous as to defy characterization. Moaz Al Khatib gives a hint of the kinder, gentler Sharia that he has in mind when he says: "Some in Al Nusra have told women they must wear hijab and that is not right, if you want to preach, do it well, you can talk, you cannot command, there is no compulsion in Islam."
However, the legal code that is circulating among the Syrian opposition just says that "governing justice will be in accordance with the provisions of Sharia law," apparently with no mitigation or caveat. All the talk about justice and equality in the quotations from the code below resembles similar language in the Afghan constitution, which also states that Sharia is the law of the land and interprets justice and equality through the prism of Sharia -- witness the capital trial for apostasy of Abdul Rahman a few years ago.
"Syrian opposition to establish moderate form of Islamic law," by Phil Sands for The National, April 18:
ISTANBUL // The main opposition to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad will begin establishing what it calls a moderate form of Islamic law in all rebel-held areas of the country, as part of an effort to prevent chaos and stop hardline interpretations of Islam from becoming entrenched.
The legal code was drawn up by Muslim scholars, judges and top anti-Assad politicians in advance of meetings this week in Istanbul convened by the Syrian National Council (SNC), where transitional justice arrangements are being discussed.
The opposition hopes that an interim government, as yet unformed, will apply a version of the new legal system nationwide, after it goes into effect in areas currently controlled by the insurgents.
Different systems of Sharia now govern pockets of Syrian territory controlled by the rebels. Some are enforced by Jabhat Al Nusra, a militant group affiliated with Al Qaeda, prompting fears that its interpretation of Islamic law is filling the legal vacuum.
Launching the initiative on Monday, Moaz Al Khatib, president of the SNC and himself a widely respected Islamic cleric, appealed for a moderate, fair legal system, which would meet demands for justice and head off the growing influence of extremists.
"I want to talk frankly. When there is injustice, there is a revolution against that injustice. In the same way there should be a revolution in religious thought," he said.
"The goal of religion is to liberate human beings, all of the prophets came to liberate the people."
Extremists, including groups such as Al Nusra, one of the most powerful rebel factions, should not be allowed to spread their ideas, Mr Al Khatib said.
"We do not need ignorant people coming to Syria and teaching us the meaning of religion," he said, chiding members of Al Nusra for trying to enforce an uncompromising version of Islam on a country with traditions of greater religious tolerance.
"Some in Al Nusra have told women they must wear hijab and that is not right, if you want to preach, do it well, you can talk, you cannot command, there is no compulsion in Islam," he said.
Since the revolt against Mr Assad began in March 2011, central government control has collapsed across vast swathes of Syria.
Local courts, often headed by respected members of the community and delivering a rough-hewn frontier justice, have sprouted in rebel-held areas, meeting a demand of communities to prevent crime and deal with offenders in the absence of a functioning state legal system.
Al Nusra has won respect in zones under its command for an uncompromising attitude towards justice, and its willingness to investigate complaints made by civilians against its own fighters and harshly punish them if found guilty.
Senior Syrian clerics allied to the more moderate SNC, as well as judges and lawyers who have sided with the rebels, have been working on their own legal guidelines for months.
According to internally circulated opposition documents, the first clause of the legal code states that "justice and equality are the basis of governance, as are the rights of litigation and defence, which are all guaranteed and will not be compromised".
Further clauses assure that all people are to be treated equally before the courts, with no discrimination permitted and no exemption from prosecution for anyone on the basis of their position.
Clause three of the code, as presented in documents circulated among opposition legal experts, states that "governing justice will be in accordance with the provisions of Sharia law".
Note that there is nothing in that clause about a "moderate form" of Sharia.
An opposition activist familiar with the closed-door discussions on the legal system said it had been widely agreed on pragmatic grounds that it would be an Islamic legal system.
And in response to this, Obama is forking over more of your taxpayer dollars: "U.S. providing Syrian rebels $123 million more in aid," from the Associated Press, April 20:
ISTANBUL — The United States is providing Syrian rebels with $123 million in new nonlethal aid that may include armor and other types of supplies that haven't been part of the assistance package in the past.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the additional money will double the nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition as well as increase humanitarian aid.
Speaking Saturday in Istanbul, Kerry says the situation in Syria is at a critical moment and that the bloodshed needs to stop.
Foreign ministers from the main supporters of the rebels trying to topple the Syrian government are meeting in Istanbul over the weekend to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar to step down.
The United Nations estimates that the fighting in Syria has killed more than 70,000 people....