“Equality,” of course, can only mean the equal accountability of Muslim men before the law, because Sharia is not designed to provide the same for women or unbelievers. And by their nature, theocracies do not lend themselves to accountability due to the sense of entitlement to rule, and the paternalistic “government knows best” attitude that clerics and politicians can invoke holy writ to support.
Aside from that, two themes in this article are worth noting: The first is that it is the poor implementation of Sharia that is the root of the problem. Sharia’s legitimacy cannot be questioned: It is “good” because divine law has to be good (otherwise, one has crafted a deity worthy of being portrayed on screen by John Malkovich), and of course, the deity in charge has the last word on goodness.
In a related vein, there is the unshakeable belief among Muslims in this article– one that is widely transmitted to naÃ¯ve multiculturalists in the West — that the “good” Sharia has to be out there, somewhere. And maybe, if we try it here, this time will be the one that works; that assessment is always subject yet again to the circular reasoning described in the preceding paragraph.
The alternative, and more realistic assessment of the situation in Nigeria is that any implementation of Sharia — even a supposedly diluted, de-fanged version — is a slippery slope toward the rest of the package: Theocratic systems do not lend themselves to partial implementation, and despite the fact that its supporters act as though there is nothing inherently wrong with the system, any Sharia is a ticking time bomb for civil rights and liberties — because after all, the people in power are in agreement that it is “good.”
And at the end of the day, power corrupts. So it should be no surprise that Sharia has only shifted around corruption in northern Nigeria rather than solving it.
“In Nigeria, Sharia Fails to Deliver,” by Karin Brulliard for the Washington Post, August 12:
KANO, Nigeria — As military rule ended in Nigeria a decade ago, an Islamic legal system was swept into place on a wave of popular support in the country’s desperately poor and mostly Muslim northern states. It has turned out in a way few expected.
The draconian amputation sentences warned of by human rights activists and the religious oppression feared by Christians have mostly not come to pass. But neither has the utopia envisioned by backers of sharia law, who believed politicians’ promises that it would end decades of corruption and pillaging by civilian and military rulers. The people are still poor and miserable, residents complain, and politicians are still rich.
How the battles over sharia play out could have effects beyond Nigeria, a nation pivotal to West Africa’s stability and viewed by the United States as key to stopping the spread of religious extremism in Africa. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to discuss the issue with Nigerian leaders on a visit to the country this week.
“People want sharia. But not this kind of sharia,” said Ahmad Al-Khanawy, 41, a reed-thin filmmaker, adding that the most visible signs of Islamic law are new censorship rules banning dancing and singing in movies made in Kannywood, as this city’s film industry is known. Sharia-promoting politicians, he said, “want to cover their failure by making noise about fighting immorality. That is it.”
Nigeria’s moderate form of sharia may not have delivered a Muslim revolution, but it has fueled a growing disillusionment that analysts say has weakened public faith in democracy — and could, if unchecked, spark religious militancy. That prospect was highlighted last month when a radical Islamist sect called Boko Haram attacked security forces in northern Nigeria, triggering violence that killed more than 700 people. The group draws its members from the ranks of frustrated youths.
Hence the slippery slope: Partial Sharia is a foot in the door, creating an opening for the rest of it — or else.
“Sharia is about justice. Where you have sharia, you have development,” said Salisu Saidu, 32, standing amid the leather bags he sells in Kano’s labyrinthine market. “Nothing has changed. If one relied on tap water, one would die of thirst. We don’t even talk of electricity.”
Islam has dominated in this region on the edge of the Sahara for centuries, in a tenuous coexistence with the Christianity that is prevalent in more prosperous southern Nigeria. When Kano and 11 other northern states that had long applied Islamic law to civil cases adopted sharia for criminal matters, clashes broke out between Christians and Muslims. Early on, several sentences of death by stoning for female adulterers — never carried out — and the amputation of two men’s hands for theft drew international condemnation.
This is a pattern we have seen across the Islamic world. International scrutiny and bad press have a way of causing a temporary softening of Sharia for public consumption.
And the article goes on like this, though with a nod to the oppression of Christians is so blithely dismissed earlier. Read it all.