Thursday, December 15, 2011
By Barry Rubin
The Washington Post has an article by Michael Gerson attacking Newt Gingrich’s warning that the imposition of Sharia law is a tremendous danger to U.S. interests. I’m only interested here in how the article reveals an element of Gerson’s worldview. (Don't miss the really cool observation at the end of this article.)
“Gingrich joins Iranian clerics, Taliban leaders and Salafists of various stripes in believing that the most authentic expression of sharia law is fundamentalism and despotism.”
So who is going to determine the “authentic expression” of Sharia law? Gerson? The Washington Post? The clerics most liked by Washington Post writers regardless of the size of their following? You can't create some ideal Sharia law and then say that there's nothing to worry about.
For all practical purposes, though, Islam and Sharia are going to be defined not by theories, debates by non-Muslims over theology, comparative readings of original texts, or your preferences. You, especially a non-Muslim, cannot "figure out" what Islam "really" is. All of that is irrelevant. Islam (and Sharia) will be defined by who has power as the actual political and religious leaders of Muslims. If moderates were running things--and it makes no difference whether you think Islam is a "religion of peace" or an inevitably aggressive ideology--then Islam would be moderate. And if revolutionary Islamists are running the countries, providing the most influential imams, and controlling the mosques, Islam will be radical.
The ideas that being critical of Islam as actually practiced is "Islamophobia" or that the West should understand that Islam is just great are equally fallacious. The idea that Islam "must" be radical is irrelevant.
What counts is the reality. Here's the reality: about 250 million people are going to be living in what basically are Islamist states in the Middle East, even if there are a few small compromises. Millions of people watch and listen to people like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s radical guru. How many followers do Gerson’s moderate guys who want to reform Islam have?
What's important is that any Islam defined and controlled by Hamas, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, or the Taliban is going to be radical and anyone who is really moderate will have to shut up, flee, change sides, be murdered, marginalized, or get thrown into prison.
Posted by Rubin Center at 6:39 PM