“With this centrality in mind, our goals in the Middle East should change from, in effect, promoting sharia-democracy to preventing the export of sharia and terrorism to advance sharia.” — Diana West, in her proposed speech for President Bush
Diana West’s speech would be a considerable improvement on what is coming from Washington today. But “Shari”a” is perhaps not the best framing of the conflict either. The problem with the use of the term “Shari’a” is that while it is the ideal which the more fanatically “immoderate” Muslim states (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan under the Taliban) attempt most closely to approximate in their legal codes, other Muslim states do not. And if they do not, then some Muslims well versed in taqiyya-and-tu-quoque would answer the speech by saying that this is an “exaggeration” and just look, look at all the Muslim states that, while independent, have not imposed the Shari’a.
To this one can reply in several ways. First, the Shari’a is aspirational, and not always and everywhere to be imposed at once. But surely Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the Sudan are four Muslim countries that are very large in land area, contain between two and three hundred million of the world’s Muslims, include both the center of Shi’a Islam (Iran) and of Sunni Islam (Saudi Arabia, with its Two Holy Places), and two of the four are currently the greatest recipients of oil and gas revenues and likely to remain so for years to come. So to say that “only four” of the 57 members of the O.I.C. have accepted the full Shari’a should be seen as the taqiyya it is.
And a further reply would note that even in the so-called “soft” states that insist that their legal codes take the Shari’a only as a guide, in fact the treatment of non-Muslims has clearly reflected the legal status they would receive under the full Shari’a. In Egypt, for example, the treatment of Copts is unequal at law. In Kuwait, another supposedly “soft” or “moderate” and progressive Muslim state, the treatment of apostates (e.g., Mr. Qambar) shows that the letter, and where not the letter the spirit, of the Shari’a is to be found there.
Despite these caveats, and warnings of how this perfectly sensible suggestion might be replied to, it would be a significant advance. It is different from the suggestion I have made before, which is to emphasize Jihad — but Jihad as being understood as a struggle to remove all obstacles to the spread of Islam until, at some point, every part of Dar al-Harb has been subsumed into Dar al-Islam. And subsumed it must be, not only through “qital” (combat) but through the “money” weapon and the campaigns of Da’wa (the Call to Islam), and the demographic conquest which creates ever greater pressure on Infidels, in their own Infidel nation-states, to succumb, slowly at first, and then more rapidly, to Muslim demands for exceptional treatment, and then to Muslim demands for actual changes in the political and legal institutions of the Infidel nation-state. The particular name or history of the government or people of that Infidel nation-state hardly matter in the calculation of what must be its final fate, for no Infidel state is any more to be accepted as permanent as any other would be.
Or perhaps both can be discussed. The Shari’a has to be discussed, made a deliberate topic, so that everyone — guests on Charlie Rose, interviewers on Sixty Minutes, Larry King and Christiane Amanpour and local talk-show hosts, even unto the lowliest and tommiest of pontificating friedmans and pretend-inquiring ashbrooks, will be forced to learn about what the Shari’a is.
Nearly five years have gone by, and there is not a single major figure — outside, that is, of the Internet, where all sorts of intelligent life can be detected — in politics or in the press, who has deliberately taken upon himself the task of learning about Islam and relating what he learns to his audience, in making sense of Islam’s tenets, attitudes, atmospherics, as they explain so much of what is otherwise inexplicable in Iran and in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia and in Yemen, in Egypt and in Algeria, in the Sudan and in Mauritania, in Nigeria and in Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, in Bosnia and Kosovo, in France and Spain and England, in Denmark and in Sweden, in Germany and in Russia.
They have not felt that responsibility. They have not understood, not been forced to understand, not forced themselves to understand, the intellectual work now to be required of them. They will do everything they can, it seems, to resist such work. Too bad. No one can now offer an opinion on anything — on Israel’s understanding of what it faces, nor the understanding of those who would impose on it a “two-state solution” that is hopeless and dangerous, and will only whet rather than sate Muslim appetites, on America’s understanding of why the currently-stated goal of American policy in Iraq is both unrealistic and exactly the opposite of what the American goal should be, if Islam and its menace were to be rightly understood. No one has bothered to find out about Islam. Not those who have continued to support a war in Iraq that, once the scouring for weapons was over, lost its only legitimate rationale, and who are now trying the trick of dampening, by slow degrees, their three-year enthusiasm as they try to backtrack or to distance themselves from their former opinions without quite admitting how wrong they have been. And those opposed to the war in Iraq are mostly opposed for all the wrong reasons, which is why when one is opposed for the right reasons, one feels compelled to carefully explain the right reasons for opposing the war, in order to clear up what otherwise would be almost certain confusion.
Raising the matter of the Shari’a puts on the spot all those who make pronouncements — the buchanans and novaks, brothers under the skin, just beneath the first layer, to the coles and kosses, all of whom have ignored Islam because it would take too much time, it is too complicated for them, it isn’t really relevant –any absurd excuse will do.
Everyone will have to recognize, and to study, and no longer to ignore, the legal status of non-Muslims and women under Islam, and the rights accorded even to individual Believers in Islam, which is a collectivist belief-system that has no discernible interest in the freedom of conscience, much less other conceivable rights that are accorded to individuals under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
So whether one wishes to go by the South Face (Jihad) or the North Face (Shari’a) to obtain one’s purchase on the slippery and sometimes sheerest rock-face of Islam, it can be said of all intrepid mountaineers, that in this case, climbing to reach the summit of understanding and to look down with an inobnubilated view of men and events that can only be understood or made sense of once one has attained to that summit of understanding, can be done by one route or another. One person will have his trip made easier by personal experience of living as a non-Muslim in a Muslim society; another will have himself whisked to the top once he has digested the testimonies of ex-Muslims, those essential defectors from Islam. Still another may have that summit-experience given to him when he discovers that a smiling Muslim apologist in his town has all the time been saying quite other things to Muslim audiences, and that these have been caught on tape, or overheard by an informant. Some will simply spend time in the library with books on Islam and the history of Islamic conquest. Some by one path, some by another, some delivered to the top by motorized vehicles on paths widened over time by who preceded them, some making the slow trip on their own, pedibus calcantibus.
In this case, it is the Arrival, and not the Journey, that matters.