In “A soulless distortion of Islamic law,” Australian lawyer Irfan Yusef argues that Australian Treasurer Peter Costello was wrong to say that Muslims who wanted to see Australia become a Sharia state should leave the country. Why? Because Sharia, you see, has been misunderstood. From The Sydney Morning Herald, with thanks to JE:
Costello says most migrants become Australian citizens because they want to embrace the things this country stands for. He lists six core Australian values, including economic opportunity, security, democracy and personal freedom….
In the annual CIS Acton Lecture, on the topic of sharia and pluralism in Indonesia, Falaakh listed five basic values of sharia, agreed on by sharia scholars from all schools of Islamic law. If one compares the five principles of sharia to the six values espoused by Costello, one finds they are virtually identical.
Perhaps for Muslims, anyway. But to claim that Sharia upholds the ideals of democracy and personal freedom, for Muslims as well as non-Muslims, flies in the face of the evidence of Sharia states in history and of the present-day Sharia states of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It ignores the elements of Sharia that mandate inequality for religious minorities — elements which manifest themselves in discrimination against non-Muslims today in every Muslim state, even those in which Sharia is not fully enforced.
Perhaps this is what Australian imams mean when they state in their sermons that Australia is a more Islamic country than most Muslim-majority states.
But this should be of no surprise. After all, sharia is not the name of a draconian system of legal punishments. It is not a synonym for amputations and beheadings. Rather, sharia is a legal tradition, a set of legal principles based on certain values. And those values are identical to those expressed in the Old and New Testaments.
Further, legal scholars in the East and West agree that the traditions of sharia, English common law (from which our legal systems are derived) and European civil law have borrowed from, and influenced, each other.
Some commentators present sharia as a system of medieval criminal punishments. But for Australian Muslims, sharia represents little more than ethics (honesty, enterprise) and liturgy (how to perform prayers, weddings, funerals). Costello’s comments on sharia are, in effect, an attack on liturgy that should concern followers of all faiths.
Indeed, Costello’s comments about those seeking to establish sharia in Australia do not go far enough. What he should have said was that those seeking to establish only sharia (outward liturgy) without its spirit (inner liturgy or the spirit of the law) should find another country and another religion.
Christ castigated rabbis who followed the letter, but ignored the spirit, of sacred law. Muslims believe the sharia to be an updated version of the same law, the outer manifestation of the same Abrahamic values. However, this must exist in tandem with an inner manifestation – given a variety of labels by Muslims and commonly known in the West as sufism.
A minority of Muslims seek to establish sharia without sufism across the world. They are the source of virtually all terrorist groups in the Muslim world. Their theology is regarded by mainstream Muslims as isolationist and fringe. They distort sharia by imposing it on people without the inner discipline of sufism. They are openly hostile to sufi tradition.
These people seek to destroy Islam from within. They are arguably more of a threat to Muslims than non-Muslims. Hence, the majority of their victims are Muslims. Costello would like to see such people leave Australia. Most Muslims, on the other hand, would prefer to see these people leave our planet.
These people distort our perceptions about sharia. Most Australians regard sharia as purely consisting of draconian medieval punishments. Costello’s own inaccurate comments about sharia are a manifestation of distorted perceptions.
All this would hold up fine if the “Sufis” to which Yusef refers actually rejected those draconian punishments — but supplementing them with some “inner law” is not the same thing. In fact, Sultanhussein Tabandeh, the author of A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was a Sufi leader — and in that book he defends those punishments and says: “Islam and its peoples must be above the infidels, and never permit non-Muslims to acquire lordship over them.”
Note that even Yusef doesn’t say that the draconian punishments are actually rejected by adherents of Sharia. He knows better.