David Horowitz’s NewRealBlog is (like FrontPageMag) a lightning rod for people who want to justify their preconceived prejudices about Islam and Muslims. Today, we find an article by Paul Cooper, a pastor, which allegedly purports to expose the reality of women under Sharia law. Of course, we’ve come to expect the usual dose of anti-Muslim bias from David Horowitz’s cash for hate scheme which regularly dehumanizes Palestinians and inspires right-wing terrorists.
Mr. Cooper exposes the “left-leaning” (what most call mainstream moderate) journalists who refuse to describe Sharia law in terms of pure evil:
Every week new articles come out from left-leaning journalists about how great Sharia law is and how we have nothing to fear. Yet we at NewsReal have written on many sad cases of how children are treated under Sharia all over the world. You don’t hear the whole story of the dangers of Islamic law unless you see how it affects women. This past week in Pakistan, for example, two women were falsely accused of blasphemy and almost beaten to death.
Cooper follows classic far right-wing tactics by using Islam as a political wedge issue; that is, to divide Americans according to their position on Islam. I’ve written before about right-wing activists using Islam as a stick to bash the Left. One wonders if his primary target is his political enemies (Democrats), not necessarily Muslims themselves.
Historically, Muslims had done away with harsh blasphemy laws in 1839 during the Reformation of the Ottoman Empire, specifically by a decree known as the Noble Edict of the Rose Chamber. For Mr. Cooper, though, a small troublesome detail like that need not prevent him from claiming that such severe laws are essential Islamic traditions practiced all over the Muslim world.
Admittedly, there are problems with Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law. But Muslims have been voicing their criticism of the Pakistani government’s heavy hand for quite some time. Yursil Kidwai, in an excellent piece for the Huffington Post, describes how so-called Sharia laws are actually tactics used by corrupt governments to distract people from their endemic corruption:
It seems more than coincidental that these ‘Sharia’ incidents occur in states that are run by atheistic/communist dictators (i.e. Saddam Hussein) or ridiculously corrupt ‘Islamo-democratic’ governments.
In Pakistan’s case, the International Crisis Group provided a report last year stating:
“Decades of mismanagement, political manipulation and corruption have rendered Pakistan’s civil service incapable of providing effective governance and basic public services. In public perceptions, the country’s 2.4 million civil servants are widely seen as unresponsive and corrupt, and bureaucratic procedures cumbersome and exploitative. Bureaucratic dysfunction and low capacity undermine governance, providing opportunities to the military to subvert the democratic transition and to extremists to destabilize the state.”
Ridiculous distractions such as modern ‘Islamic’ states opinions on blasphemy, adultery, and theft allow Islamophobes to target their favorite religion, while allowing corruption and real problems to go under the radar. These laws today serve a purpose that they never had in what was the most authentic Islamic state (now only a memory): a means to prove a government’s religiosity in a midst of lies, deceit, money and total corruption which make up most of its actual administration.
Yursil is correct that the misguided policies of unelected dictators to enforce only the most harsh Sharia laws are nothing more than superficial attempts to legitimate illegitimate governments. Islamophobes like to focus on these irregular examples as a typical day of Sharia law. However, this belies the sophisticated Ottoman legal system which, using Sharia’s own internal mechanisms (such as ijtihad and istihsan), had done away with severe punishments like stoning and blasphemy. Yursil continues:
Islamic laws which reward charity, promote honesty, promote tolerance have been forgotten in these states, while a handful of ‘Shariah’ punishments were mixed in with brand-new torturous and oppressive policies and procedures.
Interestingly enough, these selected ‘Sharia’ punishments were frowned upon under the centuries of Ottoman rule and by its end had become completely unpracticed. In Ottoman lands where Sharia was the be-all, end-all official state law, these laws were unenforced as a matter of practice. This was not through denouncing or revising Islamic Law, but by putting into practice the complete and holistic set of checks and balances built into Islamic Sharia.
Of course, most Muslim law makers are following precedents similar to the Ottoman reforms. Yet, all this history and context is simply too much information to consider before David Horowitz and company declare Sharia law a threat to all women. After recounting in detail a single anecdote from Pakistan, Cooper concludes that such events are representative of the entire Muslim world (over 1 billion people):
Sadly such stories are common in many Islamic regions. Yet news agency [sic], women’s groups, and human rights organizations continue to turn a deaf ear. Despite their indifference, some of us are listening and committed to getting the word out on the true dangers of Sharia law.
We are left to believe that women everywhere in the Muslim world, without exception, are suffering every day under Sharia law. I am curious to see how Mr. Cooper explains the fact that Pakistan, allegedly under misogynist Sharia law, has twice elected a woman Prime Minister. But what do you expect from someone who links his article to Nonie Darwish, among others, as his “resource” for Sharia?
Mr. Cooper, perhaps those “news agencies, women’s groups, and human rights organizations continue to turn a deaf ear” because they don’t pay attention to exaggerated politically self-serving claims about women and Sharia law from non-experts like yourself.