Can the West Live with Sharia Law?

APRIL 26, 2007

Can the West Live with Sharia Law?


Jay B. Gaskill


Western-style democracy is a relatively recent innovation in human history, and one – in spite of its obvious utility and value to liberals (in this usage American conservatives are also liberals) – it is a fragile institution, especially in Western Europe. If liberal democracy actually fails, we will be plunged into another dark age.

For these and other reasons that I’ll outline in this and subsequent posts, we in the West need to take two things very seriously:

(1) The task of developing, teaching and supporting a much more visceral, “fire-in-the-belly” defense of our democratic models of governance;

(2) The challenge posed by the non-democratic Islamists who are seeking to overthrow or destroy all the secular (and insufficiently Islamist) regimes in their part of the world. [Because weapons technology is quickly spread everywhere that money beckons, but Western democratic norms travel much more slowly, we are presented with a timing issue of life-death import. Unless we are very careful, we’ll face the prospect of several nuclear armed states controlled by religious fanatics for whom martyrdom is not out of the question if that is what it takes to impose Sharia Law on the infidels.

As I quote from a “CFR” briefing paper below, “The traditional punishment for Islamic apostasy–leaving Islam for another religion or otherwise abandoning the Islamic faith–is death.”

The question of the day is not whether Western-style democracy is compatible with Sharia Law. I am convinced that the answer, in a word, is no. Why this is the case and what, if anything, we in the secular West can do about it, is the question of the day.


Excerpts from “Islam: Governing Under Sharia” by Sharon Otterman

March 14, 2005

“Sharia, or Islamic law, influences the legal code in most Islamic countries, but the extent of its impact varies widely. Avowedly secular Turkey is at one extreme. It doesn’t base its laws on the Quran, and some government-imposed rules–such as a ban on women’s veils–are contrary to practices often understood as Islamic. At the devout end of the spectrum are the Islamic Republic of Iran, where mullahs are the ultimate authority, and Saudi Arabia, a monarchy where the Quran is considered the constitution. In 1959, Iraq modified its sharia-based family law system and became one of the Middle East’s least religious states. Whether sharia should be more strictly applied in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq is one of the most divisive issues facing the transitional government.”

“[Sharia] means God’s law. the body of commands that, if followed, will provide the path to salvation. According to Islamic teaching, sharia is revealed in divine signs that must be interpreted by humans.”

“… Sharia governs all aspects of life, from relations between men and women to ethics in business and banking. … Entirely secular law is not an option under a classical interpretation of Islam…”

“Five major schools of sharia developed after the death of the Prophet Mohammed and during the Middle Ages–four in the Sunni tradition and one in the Shiite tradition”.

“They are broadly similar, because they are derived from the same sacred sources, experts say. However, some schools take a more literal approach to the texts; others allow for looser interpretations.”

“Sharia has been also incorporated into Islamic national legal codes by decree or legislation. Depending on the country, sharia courts that oversee marriage and other personal law matters are headed either by a secular judge or by an Islamic judge called a qadi. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, supreme religious councils dictate how Islamic law is applied and, to a large extent, have veto power over legislation. In mixed religious-secular systems, such as in Egypt, sharia personal law courts are integrated into a Western-based legal system, and a secular supreme court has the final say…”

“Five crimes known as the Hadd offenses… are mentioned in the Quran, [AND] committing them is considered an affront to God. They are: Wine-drinking and, by extension, alcohol-drinking, punishable by flogging; Unlawful sexual intercourse, punishable by flogging for unmarried offenders and stoning to death for adulterers; False accusation of unlawful sexual intercourse, punishable by flogging; Theft, punishable by the amputation of a hand; Highway robbery, punishable by amputation, or execution if the crime results in a homicide.

“Adopting hadd punishments is considered a symbol of a country’s Islamic identity, even if they are rarely carried out…”

“The traditional punishment for Islamic apostasy–leaving Islam for another religion or otherwise abandoning the Islamic faith–is death.” [my emphasis – JBG]

“’Many modern Islamic nations say they guarantee freedom of religion. But this does not necessarily include the right to speak openly against Islam and act on those ideas.’” Conversions from Islam to other religions are generally not permitted in Muslim countries.”

“Islamic marriage is a contract between a man and a woman. In the broadest of terms, the husband pledges to support his wife in exchange for her obedience…”

“Under sharia, the husband has the unilateral right to divorce his wife without cause….”

Published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Author -Sharon Otterman, associate director. More at .

The French Awakening

[These are excerpts from three of my postings in November, 2005.]


liberté, égalité, flambé

The flames of a new intifada began on October 27th 2005 in France when incendiary mobs of unassimilated Moslem Arab and African “youths” rampaged in several Paris suburbs, overcoming police forces and burning cars block by block, a vehicle conflagration without precedent.

At this writing, the mobs threaten the great city itself. As of November 8th, Clichy-sous-Bois, St-Maurice, Stains, Colombes, Aubervillers and Grigny were in ongoing turmoil, and the rioting had crossed the French-Belgium border. Virtually every one of France’s 25 urban areas is experiencing mob violence.

The fiction that this was merely “youth unrest” driven by economic factors has worn too thin, even for the politically correct press: Islamic extremist voices surface in press accounts as the primal scream of the intifada: “Riot for Islam!” and “[W]e are a single nation and if a single nation is touched, then all the others will erupt like a burning volcano!”.

… [A] utopian construct spawned suicidal immigration and welfare policies in France, opening the gates to a massive subsidized Islamic migration. A hard core of culturally and religiously alienated underemployed males, a tinderbox of resentment, became embedded in communities that were alien to France, yet fully within its borders. These young men are, for the most part, not the heads of families; their only stake in the larger world, it seems, is in the success of Islam itself as an uber-religion.

There are now cities and communities in France in which unassimilated Moslem populations are in effective political control of the local power structure. Though France’s immigrant population has been estimated at about 15%, the Islamist plurality within that group has remained stubbornly non-assimilated. They may well have achieved critical mass. Only the next few years will tell.

The concentration of this subpopulation in key areas has created a crisis of control. Roughly five million Muslims live in France, with large aggregations in urban centers. They far outnumber the French Jewish population; incidents of violent anti-Semitism are all too common.

This summer, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a new member of the old school, successfully sponsored legislation outlawing polygamy and forced marriage among other Islamist customs.

… Like their fellow Europeans, the French are not reproducing rapidly enough to replace themselves. Having lost confidence in their own brand of civilization, it becomes less and less plausible that they will assimilate the hordes of newcomers. They are at risk of being overwhelmed.

Over the next few short years, the future of France, and by extension that of Western Europe, will be determined by how vigorously (or at all) that the remnants of traditional civilization reassert themselves.


“Violence in France fell sharply overnight, the police chief said Thursday, one day after the government toughened its stance by imposing emergency measures and ordering deportations of foreigners involved in riots that have raged for two weeks. In the past two nights, there was a notable decline in the number of car burnings _ a barometer of the intensity of the country’s worst civil unrest in nearly four decades. National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said there was a ‘very sharp drop’ in violence overnight. While youths have been battling riot police with rocks and firebombs, ‘there were practically no clashes with police,’ he said. “

Assimilation requires time and the existence of an ethos sufficiently attractive that accommodation to it will not forever be resisted. But the very first element of assimilation is adoption of the local language and the second is the absolute insistence that the rules of the civilization be followed. Both elements are required but the rules must be followed ab initio.

It appears that the French may yet learn that “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” was advice given of necessity to visitors to a robust, self confident civilization. And the baseline power of any civilization worthy of the name is the power of exclusion. Once that power is lost, the boundaries that define a civilization lose all meaning. An alien, counter-civilization, encapsulated like a tumor, cannot be tolerated when its members refuse to follow the rules.


Predictably, members of the French government are now talking about a failure to implement the “sacred” ideal of equality; the communities from which the rioters emerged are talking about discrimination; and other pundits, including our own neo-Marxist leftists, are talking about economic deprivation.


Discrimination is another way of describing the famously French version of old-world snobbery, to be sure, but it also is an incidental side effect of the core Islamist culture, transplanted intact from its 12th century milieu, and placed in the middle of a modern, ultra-secular social order. Every pre-assimilated group in this country has felt “discrimination”, an effect that was largely overcome once the newly arrived culture became assimilated. Like certain other cultures (think of the classically Chinese communities) these Islamist ex-pats for the most part don’t want to be assimilated. But unlike the innate feelings of cultural superiority felt by many of the old Chinese families, the residuum of cultural self confidence conferred by institutional memory of a great civilization, the Islamist minds of these males are filled with a deep insecurity, the sense of a religious world view “held down” by secular oppression. This is an insecurity all too often masked by a propensity to fanaticism.

… these riots are about the psychology of dispossessed and marginalized males whose actual economic circumstances (through state subsidies) are far better than the original social and economic conditions prevalent where their parents of grandparents lived before they emigrated from Morocco, North Africa, and other predominately Muslim regions. These young men share a motivation common to the subsidized Saudi males whose “welfare” is oil revenue based and whose lifestyle, in narrowly material terms, is very wealthy indeed. These males are driven by the need for meaning and purpose, a need for earned respect that was stripped away by their “kept” circumstances and that is now sought in a “holy” struggle. This is jihad as therapy in a totally secular environment that seems to officially discount all other forms of meaning and purpose.

In sum, there is trouble ahead for the French and the rest of Western Europe.

However difficult the solutions, nothing can be accomplished until the players understand reality. Immigration has been slowed down recently. Assimilation is taking place, if at all, at a glacial pace.

The massive conversion of Europe to an Islamic state is not a pretty picture. Nor is the prospect of a low level, 20 year civil war. … Assimilation of alienated cultures will be painfully slow, as long as the rich cultural tradition of old France remains buried in trivial political correctness, and remains closely held by a cultural aristocracy. As “backward” and “shallow” as the American model might appear to some European minds, this country is still a beacon for constructive social change. …



Australian Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Prime Minister Howard, on National Television last week:

“If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you.”

“I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia: one the Australian law and another Islamic law that is false. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option”.

“Basically people who don’t want to be Australians, and who don’t want, to live by Australian values and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off”…I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.”

“I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of Australia being a multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. And as Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle.”

“This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom”

“We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society… Learn the language!”

“Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.”

“We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.”

“If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don’t like ‘A Fair Go’, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don’t care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others.

“… once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, ‘THE RIGHT TO LEAVE’…. We didn’t force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.”


The Economist

Dateline Paris, April 22, 2007

“The French took a step closer to choosing their next president by voting Nicolas Sarkozy, on the right, and Ségolène Royal, on the left, into the second-round presidential run-off. According to early estimates of the first-round vote, held on Sunday April 22nd, Mr Sarkozy topped the poll, with just over 31%, securing a fair lead over Ms Royal, on 26%.

The vote, declared Mr Sarkozy, in a speech to supporters in Paris shortly after the estimates were announced, was “a victory for democracy”. Voter turn-out, at 85%, was the highest in a presidential election for decades… The two finalists now go forward to a head-to-head run-off vote on May 6th.

As the two remaining candidates begin an intense two-week campaign, ahead of the run-off, there are two big challenges. … [Especially]… the head-on confrontation over ideas that did not take place during the first-round campaign. … the French have not had the chance to compare two competing visions of how to reform the country… Mr. Sarkozy may be feeling the more confident. Four polls taken late on Sunday tipped Mr Sarkozy for victory on May 6th, giving him between 52% and 54% of the vote.


Recall what Mr. Sarkozy accomplished in 2005:

This summer, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a new member of the old school, successfully sponsored legislation outlawing polygamy and forced marriage among other Islamist customs.

The sine qua non of democratic governance is the establishment of legal sovereignty over all the groups and subgroups within its territory. With Sarkozy, the French will have a fighting chance.

One of the ancient “fire-in-the-belly” defenses of democracy is nationalist pride. Will this prove sufficient for the West generally? There is much more to be said. Stay tuned.

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