This is a couple of weeks old, but Jihad Watch reader Benedict just brought it to my attention today, and I thought in light of the ongoing recent attempts to whitewash Sharia, it was worth setting the record straight. Gerecht never answered my response to his straw-man attack on Pamela Geller, so I doubt he will respond to this — which is unfortunate only because his befuddled New Republic readers will continue blithely on with the misconceptions he has given them.
Gerecht here criticizes those who allegedly “blur the line between militant Muslims and the everyday faithful,” and asserts that Sharia should not be subjected to a “blanket demonization,” because, he says, just look at fine men like the Ayatollahs Sistani and Montazeri, both Sharia scholars and adherents, and neither terrorists.
All right. Let’s look at them. The Ayatollah Sistani’s website contains this helpful classification, placing unbelievers (kafir) on par with blood, urine, feces, etc.:
The following ten things are essentially najis [unclean]:
4. Dead body
8. Kafir [unbeliever — i.e., non-Muslims]
9. Alcoholic liquors
10. The sweat of an animal who persistently eats najasat [unclean things].
Is this Sharia? Yes, for Shi’ites in particular, who base the idea that unbelievers are unclean on Qur’an 9:28. Is this idea “militant” or “terrorist”? No, but it is supremacist, and unbelievers who believe in equality of rights for all are not wrong to be suspicious of the spread of such ideas Westward. And Montazeri held the same views, such that an Iranian Christian complained that his views of non-Muslims were “rubbing salt into our wounds.”
I’m going to stand against such things, and for human rights.
“The Bill O’Reilly Fallacy,” by Reuel Marc Gerecht in The New Republic, October 16 (thanks to Benedict):
After recent conversations with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and others who are of a more conservative bent, I started to reflect on Western scholarship and American conservative commentary on Islam. Western historiography of Islam provides a treasure-trove of sympathetic and hostile criticism of the Middle East’s last-born, earth-shaking faith. A huge body of modern Western scholarship has sought, more often from curious sympathy than malice, to answer the quintessentially liberal question about Islam: “What went wrong?”
And things going astray is a good way to look at some prominent conservative commentary. Although liberals have been quick and careless in hurling accusations of Islamophobia at opponents of the Ground Zero/Park 51 cultural center, there is something historically and philosophically amiss in some conservative ruminations about the Islamic faith. It really shouldn’t be so hard to oppose Islamic militancy, push back forcefully against those who downplay the threat of Al Qaeda as well as a nuclear Iran, and, at the same time, not suggest that all Muslims are, basically, nuts. […]
But all of these serious Islamic problems aside (and any Westerner aware of the quantity of blood that Westerners themselves spilled making the world modern really ought to exercise a bit of charity when it comes to Islam’s travails), we still ought to be concerned when prominent American conservatives–and here I’m thinking first and foremost of Newt Gingrich–blur the line between militant Muslims and the everyday faithful. When Gingrich, whom I’ve long admired and had the pleasure of working with, gave a much-noted speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which he stated, “I believe Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it. … I think it’s that straightforward and that real,” I could only say in response, “String Theory is dangerous”: Gingrich was looking for an explanation for the Islamic terrorist threat, but, like many on the right, looking in the wrong places. Neatly tying it all together, Gingrich and others have alighted upon the Muslim Holy Law, the Sharia, as the source of all that bedevils the Middle East, and us.
This is hardly the place for a disquisition on Sharia, or how it’s evolved over the centuries. Suffice to say, even some Muslim theologians have seen the strain of despotism in Islamic history as being connected to the static and authoritarian nature of Islamic legal practice. Still, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with Shiite and Sunni clerics who were teaching Sharia and opining about daily life, and such schooling didn’t strike me then, and still doesn’t, as a good laboratory for terrorists, which is why, I suspect, so few terrorists have had any proper clerical training. A rigorous Islamic education may make you a killjoy, but it doesn’t make you a terrorist. If the empirical record tells us anything, it’s that a skimpy Islamic education combined with a mediocre–even a decent–Western education seems much more likely to produce an explosive mix.
When Westerners, however well-intentioned, start suggesting that Muslim law supplies the foundation for Islamic terrorism, it immediately conveys to Muslims, even secularized Muslims, that Westerners think all Muslims are disordered, that the only route to salvation runs through a renunciation of their faith (that is, they ought to become the mirror-image of Westerners who go to church every so often. Whatever vestigial pride Muslims may have in their religious law (most Muslims aren’t particularly fastidious or knowledgeable about the Sharia, but nevertheless have an understandable historic affection for it), gets crudely pummeled by such commentators.
The blanket demonization of the Holy Law can lead one to view Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most revered Shiite thinker in the world, and one who tried desperately and selflessly to keep his country from descending into internecine savagery, as a bigot and a terrorist engine. The same would be true for the late Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, the spiritual father of Iran’s Green Movement and the nemesis of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ruler, himself a very mediocre student of the Sharia….