The first line of the Huffington Post article: Whose Sharia is it? says it all: ‘It has been a lousy month for Islamic law’. Between the horrific abduction of Nigerian girls, and new laws in Brunei which are thinly veiled anti-gay laws, the religion of Islam is taking a beating in the Western Press. In fact, both these events have been condoned both those who support it because of a claim of Islamic faith, as if that covers the abhorrent nature of it. In both cases the lines between religion/faith and law have been blurred to the point where one is no longer distinguishable from the other. As the author points out, ‘The pretense that these laws are straightforward implementations of God’s will not only serves to justify these otherwise unjustifiable rules but also feeds the demonization and dehumanization of Muslims.’
As if the first two stories were not enough, another story came to light regarding a woman in Sudan being beaten and condemned for marrying a Christian man. The irony? She is Christian, but since her father (who abandoned her as a baby) is Muslim, she is Muslim and therefore subject to the archaic rules of apostasy and sexual relations. Again, religion is used as law in a way that perverts justice.
So what is the common thread through all this? The author of this article comes to this conclusion, ‘My “what’s the use?” phase shifted into the simmering anger phase once I began to think about why exactly this version of Islamic law holds sway. It’s patriarchy straight down the line.’ She goes on to write, ‘At the moment, though, I am less interested in insisting on the nuance and variability of traditional Islamic law and more on critiquing its powerful patriarchal presuppositions…Islamic law is only part of the picture. And yet it is a key piece of the picture. Rethinking Islamic law without questioning its basic presumptions about male dominance will not take us nearly far enough. Whose sharia is this? It is certainly not mine. I cannot believe that it is God’s.’
Muslim theologian Jerusha Lamptey, states in his article linked to this one, ‘It is similar with shariah and Islamic law. The majority of Islamic laws do not derive directly from the Qur’an, which primarily contains generalized ethical content. Most Islamic laws instead come from the work of Islamic jurists over the past 1,400 years. These jurists, in the past and today, have debated, upheld, modified, and introduced diverse laws. They have tried—with varying degrees of success—to align those laws with the principles of shariah. What they have never done is agree upon a fixed set of specific laws.’
How do we prevent the lines between religion and law from being blurred? In the USA, the rhetoric claims that church and state are separate. However, anyone critically looking at the situation can see foreshadowing of similar blurred lines. How much should religion inform law? Or law inform religion? We can learn much from what is happening around the world in religion. But the real question is can we avoid falling into the same traps?