I took some grief for supporting Ben Carson's statement that he could not support a Muslim president. Sunday he issued a clarification:
I would have problems with somebody who [is] not willing to reject sharia and all the portions of it that are talked about in the Quran....You have to make a specific declaration and decision to reject the portions of it.
Specifically, he said, any Muslim candidate would have to reject what sharia says about the rights of women and non-Muslims. Which ought to be uncontroversial among liberals; as Kevin Drum pointed out
, the European Court of Human Rights rejected Sharia law on the same grounds:
The Court considers that sharia, which faithfully reflects the dogmas and divine rules laid down by religion, is stable and invariable....It is difficult to declare one’s respect for democracy and human rights while at the same time supporting a regime based on sharia, which clearly diverges from Convention values, particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the legal status of women and the way it intervenes in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts. .... The Court concurs that sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy.
What I was trying to say in my previous post
is that 1) I do not accept and will never accept the confounding of religious and secular law; 2) a major school of Islamic thought, perhaps the major school, insists that sharia is at the heart of Islam, and that no state using another legal system is really Islamic; and 3) whatever the situation used to be in the past, right now sharia is much more important politically than any other system of religious law. This creates major problems for Islamic democracies, for example in Turkey. I want to keep this conundrum far away from American politics. I do understand that it is ridiculous to worry that sharia is some kind of threat to Americans, but then it is probably also farfetched to speculate about a major Muslim candidate for president.
I suppose the problem is with the ambiguity in the word Muslim. I would have no problem with a Muslim who was a Muslim in the same way that JFK was Catholic. JFK specifically and publicly stated he was not running as a Catholic, but as an American. Such a declaration should suffice. In the same way, one should not worry that a secular Jew is going to use Talmud to make their decisions as president. I'm not happy with the idea that we should put Muslims as such in a specially worrisome category, where we cannot trust a candidate's own professions of his or her basic secularism.
At first, your statement in point B: " no state using another legal system is really Islamic," made me view your concern rather pointless. No candidate running for US President would want an "Islamic" legal system.
Then I remembered: at least a few of the current GOP crop of Presidential candidates want the US legal system to be specifically "Christian" as they define Christianity.
And perhaps *my* view is that I do not want anyone who is a strongly adherent member of *any* religious belief system to be President. Period. Despite Jimmy Carter.
Yes, any Muslim who rose to any height in American politics would have to be pretty secular.
I suppose America is not really the issue. But I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about places like Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan where how and in what sense the state should be Islamic is a huge issue. When I read what Ben Carson said, I interpreted it in the light of what has happened and is happening in so many Muslim countries.
It's fine to discount Sharia law itself for its abuses - clearly the culture of Sharia law as interpreted by hardliners and extremists is antithetical to modern liberal philosophy at almost every level.
But the original post's problem was an apparent conflation of simply being a Muslim with supporting Sharia law wholesale and absolutely - a line of reasoning which is lazy and unthinking at best, and demonizing and xenophobic at worst.
We have a responsibility to properly distinguish between different parties, and to recognize important distinctions between people. We have a duty to view the reality of world as it really is, not as fear or ignorance would lead us to imagine. Being a Muslim does not automatically make one an extremist nor a terrorist, despite what detestable groups like Fox News would try to lead to people to believe.
The simple truth is that the dominance of Sharia law is somewhat overblown. Just as a country led by a military junta does not consist solely of loyal supporters of dictators, so too do countries led by Sharia extremists not consist solely of religious zealots.
There is considerable dissent within the populations of countries like Iran, where despite draconian governmental measures, despite threat of arrest and detention by vice squads and worse, the average citizen does not truly subscribe to hardline interpretations of Sharia law. Particularly there is immense resistance among women and the youth culture, who despite lacking the means to openly defy those in power, still continuously engage in civil disobedience and passive resistance where possible.
Like the Soviet Union before them, these hardline conservative governments are constantly struggling to keep out Western liberal influences, and they can only ever achieve limited success.
The same is also true here in America, where Christian extremists are actively and continually trying to arrogate control of the nation in order to forcibly impose their values on the rest of the population. And while they face stiffer resistance and do not yet enjoy a position of control, their agenda and their relationship to the will of the populatin at large directly mirrors that of Iran's current regime.
Yet the mere act of being a Christian doesn't automatically make one into an extremist, any more than the mere act of being a Muslim does. And we must always remember that fact, and make the effort to distinguish between simple religious belief and fanatical zealotry.
The other day on a news show I heard the following about a tea party member of congress who was promised anonymity: I spend all of my time in congress convincing every one I'm sane; I spend all of my time home convincing every one I'm crazy. Lovely way to live.
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