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June 25, 2009

Guest post: Reconsidering Sharia

Shaukat Malik is a Muslim-American Certified Public Accountant from Potomac. A native of Pakistan, he arrived in the United States in 1980.

Sharia laws are being used by terrorists to violate divine human rights.

Great Britain and France, as colonial powers, must share in the blame for not encouraging or allowing democracy to take root in Muslim countries. This is one reason why Sharia features so prominently in the legal systems of Muslim countries as the only acceptable form of justice. Autocratic rule, out-dated customs and lack of education prevented the judiciary in almost every Muslim country to develop a rule of law in which no one is above the law.

Almost every Muslim country except for Turkey has some form of Sharia incorporated into the constitution. Another reason for this inclusion is the legacy of a natural alliance between the clergy and a dictatorship. Both need each other for legitimacy. Even the Burmese military dictatorship had an understanding with the monks.

Through this alliance a dictatorship can suppress rights and freedoms taken for granted in democratic countries. A suffocating environment that stifles human development takes root, which is avoided by all prospective investors and visitors — unless they have no choice – leading to severe economic decline. Sharia is being enforced in Somalia today and the results are not very good.

Enforcers and supporters of Sharia say that things are economically bad because we are not following Sharia and God is angry. It is interesting to recall that some mullahs blamed the 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan on cable television.

Because of cultural and historic reasons and the absence of any women’s movement like the suffrage movement in Europe and America, the male-dominated societies in Muslim countries have used Sharia to target women’s rights in particular. A woman is a source of evil and must be controlled. Interpretations of Sharia and Hadees (some sayings of the prophet were written almost 100 years after his death) are used by men with a vested interest in controlling women.

Most Muslim countries, including Iran, have adopted an interpretation of Sharia involving restrictions on women movements, multiple marriages, beheading for murder, beatings for adultery and drinking. Even today a woman cannot drive in Saudi Arabia or wander alone outside her house. There is an extraordinary focus on moral issues involving the female population. Any deviation from standards, as determined by the religious police, is immediately punished.

The Taliban and mullahs are a modern version of the priests of the Inquisition.

Sharia is used to scare the average citizen into submission. This is done through publicly staged floggings, stoning and executions of men and women for committing adultery or other sexual acts. There are public be-headings in Saudi Arabia every Friday after afternoon prayers.

Sharia, like the Ten Commandments, is God’s word given to Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. Sharia covers all aspects of life including marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody, status of women, number of witnesses in rape, etc. It is God’s word in the context of the environment of people living at the time the revelations were being made to the holy prophet. These guidelines are intended to promote a fair and just society. However, the fundamentalist Muslim argues that these laws are the word of God and are written in stone and can never be changed. Most uneducated and orthodox Muslims, including the Taliban, hold this view.

What they are forgetting is that life and circumstances of a woman in 2009 are very different from that of a woman living 1,400 years ago. They conveniently ignore the fact that the world is ever changing. A women living in Arabia when the prophet was alive had a different environment, status, social standing and abilities. Men used to bury their daughters at birth. The woman was totally reliant on the man for support and hence the nature of Sharia relating to women of that time.

Today’s women have equal education, earning power, political and voting rights and are self-reliant and independent. When applying Sharia to today’s women, God would expect us to interpret these laws and adapt them so that we are fair.

We have had great women leaders, like prime ministers Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto. How can anyone say that they should not go out alone without a male companion. A male companion for a female outside her home may have made sense in the Arabia of 632, but it does not make any sense today.

To take another example, ask any married woman how she would feel about her husband taking on another wife. I think the answer would be a clear, unequivocal, “No.”

The same logic would be applied to laws relating to a man's vote as a witness being equal to that of two women. It would not be considered fair today.

God would expect us to use our intelligence and reason to determine whether a particular Sharia law is just and fair as it applies today. Accordingly, God would expect us to make amendments, as we do to any law when it is no longer suitable or circumstances have changed.
This process is referred to as “Ijtehad,” or reasoning, abandoned by Saudi Wahabbi and Iranian Shiite fundamentalists who have since hijacked Islam.

The Prophet Mohammed was married to Khadijah for 25 years, and she was his only wife during a time when polygamy was widely practiced. It was Khadijah who proposed to the Prophet through her friend Afresh. The holy prophet was married to the same women for over 25 years and remarried only after her death.

His multiple marriages after Khadijah's death took place in the context of his political life and his mission as God’s chosen messenger in an environment where polygamy was openly practiced and accepted. A Muslim living today should follow the model of marrying only one woman. Many prophets in the old and the New Testament had more than one wife but this argument is not used by Jews and Christians to take on more than one wife. Being married to more than one wife is a crime of bigamy, and rightly so.

Muslim men are winners under Sharia law and will strongly support outdated interpretations and traditions for selfish reasons. Having multiple wives and controlling the day-to-day lives of their women is a strong incentive for selfish men to oppose any change to Sharia.

The time has come for the women of the Muslim world and educated Muslim met, who clearly outnumber religious zealots, to confront supporters of Sharia head-on and demand change.
A very simple argument is that Sharia, like the Ten Commandments, was never intended by God to violate human rights. Any interpretation that does so runs contrary to diving human rights given to us by God. Furthermore, the purpose of Sharia is to establish a just and fair society. This would not be possible in a society where women are treated as inferior human beings.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution, in addition to being extraordinary human beings, were God-fearing people. As the saying on the back of every dollar bill confirms: “IN GOD WE TRUST.” As scholars, they studied the Bible and the holy Quran while researching what rights to confer on citizens. Through a stroke of luck or divine intervention they came up with the idea that every human being is endowed with inherent rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This simple statement summarizes what the Bible, the Holy Quran and all other religions on earth are trying to teach us.

By confirming divine human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the Constitution is in fact embracing Sharia. Today’s world demands that a country establish a system of law that is just and fair and is welcoming to people from different religions and cultures.

In India Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and communists can live together because of rights afforded to them by the Indian Constitution. The framers of the Indian Constitution borrowed extensively from the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution can be used as a model by any aspiring democracy.

Democracy has its faults but it is the only system that allows you to get rid of bad rulers through elections and reflects the will of the majority for a pre-determined term.

Democratic forces demanding accountability or civil rights are helpless under Sharia laws.

Muslim countries, whether they are presently democratic or not, must review their constitutions and make amendments to remove any rules that violate divine human rights. This is a prerequisite for joining the world body of civilized nations.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:00 AM | | Comments (26)
        

Comments

I take exception to some of the things you have said. Colonial powers must
take blame for not allowing democracy to take root in Muslim countries--this should be reasoned out. Unless they wanted to shoot themselves in the foot the former colonial powers couldn't support democracies in Islamic countries. The so called nascent democracies, in Muslim countries, except in the case of Lebanon which cannot legitimately be called Islamic anyway, have been pretty scary to the West. Why? Mainly because these democracies are shams. They are autocracies that masquerade as democracies and acquire power through elections. Precisely the way Hitler came to power.

If an election could result in Hezbollah or Hamas coming to power, if an election will put a fellow like Saddam Hussein in power, should the West support that? The very nature of factional fighting in Muslim countries favors the rise of dictators--Sunni versus Shias, Pashtuns versus the Baluchis and the Punjabis, Kurds versus the Sunnis--no one wants to fight at the ballot box--more fun to fight with guns and bombs.

Take my word for it, when the Americans leave, in the name of security and peace, Maliki of Iraq will oppress the minorities and become a Shia strong man. He will have his own revolutionary guards like Saddam, the Sunnis will drive him to it with lots of blood shed and Iraq will travel a full circle to where it started before Bush intervened with his gooey eyed farce about spreading democracy in the Middle East.

Greedy for oil, I admit, the West has been an opportunist, helping to keep dictators in power in the Middle East, to avoid disruption to the flow of
black gold.

But what happened in Pakistan where there is no oil? With or without the interference of the West, Pakistan has enshrined its military above other institutions. The ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, has been meddling in the government since the beginning of Pakistan as a state. Military dictators have repeatedly ruled Pakistan and tried to attain legitimacy through elections.

Here I postulate that Muslims have a proclivity for dictatorship with or without the interference of the West. This is a vestige from submitting to the Prophet blindly. They need strong men, even bullies, to tell them what to do. You will object that people march in Iran for freedom and I am prejudiced in my assessment of Muslims, that they too yearn for democracy, that this is the normal human construct, Muslims being no exception. I disagree.

The West is all excited, stupidly if I may add, by the Twitter Revolution. But the beautiful and passionate Iranian youngsters revolt to have Ahmadinejad out to put Mousavi in. Who is this Mousavi? A 76 years old guy, a child of Khomeini's revolution, a man who is afraid to outright condemn Khameini the fossilized cleric, a man who repeats the mantra that the Revolutionary Guards are the brothers of the Iranian youth. This is a replacement for Ahmadinejad? Give me a break.

In Muslim countries the choice of leaders goes thus: plutocrats in the guise of military leaders, oligarchs in the guise of clerics, tyrants in the guise of democrats, terrorists in the guise of freedom fighters, adulterers, rapists and drug pushers in the guise of moral cops. Some of these masqueraders are found among Western politicians too but summing up these choices the West is not presented a wonderful slate of opportunities here for it to jump in the fray and encourage democracy in Islamic countries.

You talk about India. The Indian legal system has chafed under the demands of the Islamic clerics of India who want a separate Sharia code of laws for their own purposes. Ditto in Britain. The clerics there have been clamoring for Sharia too and some British politicians are weakening for political reasons.

Why are the Muslim clerics not shutting up about Sharia in modern democracies? Do you think they speak without the support of other Muslims? Of course they have support among other Muslims. Now you will tell me that the Muslims who support these clerics are ignorant and uneducated or otherwise you will say they feel alienated and marginalized in India and in Britain, you will claim systemic anti-Muslim sentiments in these democracies has driven Muslims more toward archaic beliefs, so they can find comfort in numbers and old customs-- or you will say that Muslims are simply claiming their separate identities in these democracies as all groups are likely to do.

I say these are only partial explanations. Muslims themselves fear assimilation. Except in Turkey, where in an example of another extreme, Ataturk systematically destroyed all marks of Islam by autocratic secularization, many Muslims are ambivalent about their place in democracies in the West or elsewhere; they are racked by guilt when they doubt the anachronisms of the Prophet; they fear that their kids will be swallowed by depravity if Islam is not used as a moderating force and they submit to Islam, educated and uneducated alike, not only from faith but also from fear. The clerics play on this fear like it were a fiddle. Why not? This is natural and human.

Look at yourself. You have written an erudite piece on the surface. Even an enlightened one as some would put it. But you don't break radically from the past. You still try to frame all your answers within the framework of the Prophet and how he lived.

I understand partially why you do this. As a moderate voice you don't want to indulge in an altercation with the literalists who would argue the virtues of the Sharia based on what the Prophet intended. But by doing this you have already fallen into the trap of the literalists.

You think you can poke a hole in their ignorance by pointing out the inconsistencies in their support for Sharia as it was originally spelled out by Gabriel. Hence you argue that the Prophet stayed married to the same woman for years until her death, when he married many. That's a joke. You think the Sharia proponents are going to run for cover with that argument? Did the Prophet marry many women or not? Yes, you agree he did. Then why not polygamy for the men of today?

You say the Prophet practiced polygamy because he was a man of his times. At that time marrying many women was the norm. Not so now. Therefore Sharia must change. OK, but then how is the Prophet a revolutionary? He was supposed to be a leader and set an example to others, instead he followed the others and married many women when his wife dies? Then you will say the Prophet was after all human, take the good-- the monogamy for twenty five years and leave out the bad-- the polygamy for the rest of his life. You'll rile up the extremists for sure with this rationale. They will have your head for insulting the Prophet for being less than perfect.

As long as you keep framing your arguments based on things that may or may not have happened years back, you are as valid or as ignorant as the clerics. The clerics are NOT WRONG to validate polygamy based on the later actions of the Prophet and you are NOT WRONG to invalidate polygamy based on what the Prophet did in his early life or VICE VERSA, both you and the clerics ARE WRONG based on either argument and we are back to square one.

This is the problem with arguments based on the Koran. They cannot be verified because the Prophet no longer lives to explain himself and much of what he said, he himself may argue, is irrelevant now.

Sharia is God's word given to Mohammed. You accept that. Therein lies your own intellectual defeat. Then you go on to say that Angel Gabriel only handed down this law to befit the times in which Mohammed lived. Now that is a stretch. The extremists would ask you how you have come to this conclusion. After all God is omniscient, they would say, and to argue that this omniscient being COULD NOT come up with a set of laws to befit all times but instead handed a set to befit only the times in which Mohammed lived, they would say, insults God. You would then argue that God is so wise He is capable of adjusting His thinking to the times. They would say, "Phooey!" and they would be right the way you guide your own arguments.

Unless you become a second Prophet, claim that you have had visions of God, the angel Gabriel appeared to you and handed you a new set of reformed Sharia laws, you don't have a chance with the extremists. Even then your chance is only 0.000001 percent. They would call you a false prophet and stone you to death before you open your mouth to utter the first reform as dictated to you by Gabriel.

I don't buy your reasoning that Sharia was appropriate for the times or can be justified as relevant when women relied on men for succor. Sharia was an OUTRAGE THEN as it is NOW and your argument holds no water.

"Today's women have equal education, earning power, have political and voting rights and are self reliant" you say. What planet do you inhabit? Where in the Muslim world is this true for a majority of Muslim women or for that matter men --not even in India where many Muslim women are over protected and kept away from education to cook and clean for the family-- not in Bangladesh or in Pakistan.

In the West, yes, some Muslim women are erudite and educated, they sparkle as writers and speakers, as scientists and educators. In Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Iran SOME Muslim women show their mettle in myriad areas and could easily win over any man in an intellectual match. But SOME--deplorably few-- women. And these women often come from well to do families.

Saudi Arabia, of course, is an exception to every rule--here women are never allowed to become independently wealthy and they suffer systemic abuse whether they are married to wealthy men or poor men.

A majority of Muslim women wear the cloak of poverty and oppression. Some seem to embrace oppression willingly, subjecting their own to clitoral mutilation, wearing the burka as a symbol of their culture and humility, supporting their men in terrorist ventures, nodding their heads to every foolish interpretation of the Koran, dying from cervical, breast cancer and other treatable conditions because their modesty forbids exposure of certain areas of the body.

And their husbands too are uneducated or undereducated willing oppressors of women and children. The biggest problem with the Muslim masses is whether they CAN change or even if they WANT to change.

Change can be frightening and bad habits have deep roots. The ruling class in Muslim countries knows this and takes advantage of ignorance and old habits for money and power. It doesn't want to empower the masses, men or women, for fear of being deposed by the proletariat. The West has nothing to do with this dynamic. Age old problem this one, even now playing out in Russia, in China and in many parts of the enlightened West- with its constitutions and other charades- but nasty to the extreme in Muslim countries.

Sharia is the perfect diversion for the masses. It provides the only entertainment in poor hovels and boring and isolated mountain habitats. That is why the public be headings in Saudi Arabia. The Sheikhs have forbidden public screening of movies and playing of music. What else is left? Gladiatorial games are a bit extreme, even by their standards. But public be headings serve the purpose-- a deterrent to potential criminals and a spectator sport for the others who say to themselves, "Won't happen to me because I am law abiding," or, "He deserved this because he did something terrible."

In conclusion--you make a big mistake not taking into account all these political ramifications in the imposition of the Sharia. You wrap up your entire argument in religion, the Prophet did this or that, meant this or that and you lose.

You also say times have changed for Muslim women and Sharia should be amended. Sharia may have to be amended, but times have not changed for most Muslim women. And even if times have not changed, even if indeed, the plight of Muslim women today, is not one iota different from their plight during the time of the Prophet, Sharia should not be practiced against them or against men. It has no place in modern societies and with its many cruelties had no place in ancient societies. ( I am surprised no one defied the Prophet on the validity or the sense of any of this when he lived. Probably because the person would have been be headed or may be some or many did defy the Prophet but were buried alive and wiped off the annals of history. Notice how only the cruel and the cunning, decorate the pages of history with their maniacal exploits. The wise usually lie underground, their voices silenced by the history makers.)

Hoisted by their own petard Muslim leaders and clerics, stand at the cross roads today with more than a billion other Muslims. Neither your arguments on deeper examination nor that of the clerics and the political power players in the Muslim world, about the Sharia or other social evils that beset Muslims, can make complete sense to rational human beings.

I think we can say the same for many of the cristian based laws here in the United States. Should the church and the religious radicals be allowed to enforce their personal religious beliefs via laws that affect everyone ? Should same-sex marriage be outlawed because the church thinks it's a sin ? Should these religious beliefs be used to press for changes to abortion laws, or to the profession ethics that apply to doctors and pharmacists tasked with giving care to non-christians ?

It's not just Muslim religious laws that cause problems, it's religious based laws and religious politics in general that we need to be rid of. Nobody is restricting the believers from practicing their religion, they should show the same respect and not meddle in the lives of people who don't follow their beliefs.

Bravo Dave T. Well put. But there is a vast difference between Sharia in Islamic countries and Christian meddling in the US legal system. In countries where Sharia is an integral part of the legal system it cannot be questioned because it is God's word. In the US there is vocal opposition to religious interference in the legal system from several people like you. Opponents to Sharia in the Middle East could be executed if they persist in their criticisms, whereas nobody in the US could abrogate your right to excoriate the religious right for its repeated attempts to influence our laws. Besides our laws are being rewritten all the time. Reforms have come in the form of amendments to our constitution and in the form of Supreme Court and other court decisions. Shaukat Malik in his article is asking for these reforms for the Sharia. Can you reform God's direct words from Angel Gabriel to the Prophet? The answer is a resounding "NO" from the practitioners of Sharia. That is why although you are unhappy with the situation in the US you may have much to actually be thankful for when it comes to our own legal system.

@Anonymous

My worry is that there are people now who believe very strongly that the US legal system should become more like countries that incorporate Sharia, albeit in their own Christian form.

You're right regarding the appeal to god that some politicians choose to make. How do you argue that birth control such as "Plan B" should be legal when the "Word of God" says otherwise ? The people who hold those beliefs can't be swayed (lest they not be considered "good Christians"), and the legal system, in trying to reflect the "values" of the community, will give into religious pressure... the rest of the people are left to suffer the consequences.

There's another aspect - the US gov't is actively supporting certain religions through funding, or special tax breaks, or through support for certain charitable programs. Bush changed the rules so that even organizations that actively and openly discriminate can receive public funds... of course, not all of them equally, only the ones deemed worthy by the govt (Christian orgs)

Yes, the US is lucky not to have outright Sharia style laws, but we are suffering from a move *towards* that model while other parts of the world are moving away from it (Turkey).

These people Dave T cannot be swayed "lest they not be considered good Christians" is hardly true. They cannot be swayed because they are lousy politicians who think they will get the Christian vote if they keep harping on Christian taboos--that too only in public, in private they commit the sins that are taboo-in fact it is more fun to commit the very sins they condemn-there is perverse pleasure in embracing the taboos. You are very right that Christians too are at our legal system with Biblical edicts. They want million commandments according to the Bible to be in our legal system. They will tell you, as though they are shamans in touch with the ghosts of the Founding Fathers that this is what the "Christian" Founding fathers intended. They will war whoop we are a Judeo-Christian nation and "One nation Under God" and the wordings of the Declaration of Independence are incontrovertible proof that the Founding Fathers were devoutly in favor of the Bible.

These same people bolster their homophobia with their Bibles. Many of them, I don't believe, have even read that book completely, because when it comes to the death penalty they want to put people to death pronto for violent crimes. Mercy is not one of their strong suits, neither is rational thought. They want to prevent stem cell research because they want to save embryos that would be flushed anyway, they say they love all homosexuals but they abhor homosexual sex when heterosexuals too indulge in "that type of sex" and they can hardly stand outside heterosexual bedrooms as moral cops to regulate this, they preach abstinence to girls in Third World countries (and here) who sorely needed contraceptives and sex education, they want to save every fetus while ignoring the simple fact the world overflows with unwanted and abused babies--and under Bush they mushroomed into a nuclear cloud of unadulterated religious mumbo jumbo that rained on all of us the Sharia version of the Jesus story.

But they are hiding now. They are recuperating and looking around to exert their power once more. There are not too many takers. Dobson their soldier has grown weary and conceded defeat. He is going to dedicate himself to the Lord and is butting out of politics because religion and politics do not mix. I call that delayed arrival of wisdom.

But listen, it could be worse Dave T. Have you heard any Ayatollah or Mullah concede defeat in Iran or in Saudi Arabia--they hang on for dear life, persecuting their people with what Allah intended. Obama's election has given the rational ones a little reprieve. Just enjoy the silence of the Bible thumpers and those who have the inside track to God's head. It won't last because even as you and I write, they are bowing their heads in prayer for God to intervene, change our laws and save this country from people like you and me.

Dear Anonymous:
Belief is what we are taught as children, notwithstanding which religion we are born in.
Atheists cannot understand this concept. Belief gives us hope when all else has been taken away, that there is a force greater than the most powerful human being out there somewhere, who will look out for us—read God.

We cannot attack a Muslim, Christian or a Jew for his beliefs. There are very few human beings on this planet that have been visited by the Angel Gabriel & have received God's word. Prophets mentioned in Old & New Testament & the Quran were special people. It is beyond human understanding to question God's ways.


Unfortunately we have to start somewhere. Democracy in the USA was not perfect in the eighteenth century but has been perfected through trial & error.
The British colonized many countries and thus denied them centuries of opportunity to practice democracy and improve their legal system.

United States assisted in removing Iran's democratic government under Prime Minister Mussadiq in 1952 & installed Shah of Iran making him king, and the end result is today’s mad Mullahs in Iran.
Similarly, in the Middle East all kingships were established by the British, thus taking away any chance of democracy or a legal system that could challenge outdated Sharia laws

The only country to strike democratic Gold when the British Empire folded was India, because it decided to stay away from vested interests for many years under the able leadership of Prime Minister Nehru & did not look to colonial powers for economic help.

Pakistan aligned with the USA, but unfortunately because of lack of foresight on the part of our foreign policy experts, we assisted military dictators starting with General Ayub in 1957, Zia in 1977 & Musharaf in 1999.

Today's Taliban is a descendent of our war against the Soviet infidel. That is how Osama got to Afghanistan and established his base to attack us on 9/11.


Why does President Bush walk hand in hand with the Saudi King at his ranch or Obama lovingly engages the King in Saudi Arabia when he is fully aware of the fact that women cannot drive, or go out without a male companion? Facts are brutal, but we have to start somewhere, & at least President Obama has made a start.

We can only change what we have. What we have today is Sharia law interpreted in various ways to exploit the masses and assist dictatorships/kingships in many Muslim countries.
The answer to Sharia law is to adopt the Turkish model of Islamic laws that have been amended to match laws in Europe.
The house of God in Mecca (Kabbah) Muslims pray towards was built by Abraham. The underground Water spring in in Mecca called the "Zamzam" was God's miracle when "Hagar, Abraham’s wife & her son were searching for water in Mecca.

Yet Abraham's descendents, the Jews & Christians are not allowed in Mecca.

We can only change what we have. What we have today is Sharia law interpreted in various ways to exploit the masses and assist dictatorships/kingships in many Muslim countries.


The answer to Sharia laws is "Freedom of Religion". America in addition to focusing on Iran’s mad Mullahs must also demand that Saudi Arabia change its autocratic & theocratic ways by amending its Taliban brand of Wahabbi Islam & grant freedom of religion to its citizens.


We can only change what we have. What we have today is Sharia law interpreted in various ways to exploit the masses and assist dictatorships/kingships in many Muslim countries.


We must start the process that President Obama has identified using his extraordinary insight. America as leader of the world has a responsibility to make a better world for all nationalities.

God, Anonymous are you daft? You ask why Bush or Obama walk side by side with the Saudi King? For oil, O naive one is my reply to you. You say atheists cannot understand belief. Perhaps, but they do feel plenty of disbelief that people who possess this miracle called belief, kill, plunder and pillage everything in sight in the name of Allah, Jesus and Buddha.

Nobody is attacking people for their belief, but for their insane behaviors based on this belief, yes, people are questioned by rational people without belief. You write chapter and verse about why the Muslim world is where it is today. We go back to the blame game. The British, the US, the cockroach in the corner, the birds that tweet at night--anyone or anything but the Muslim world itself, according to you, is responsible for the mess in which it finds itself.

The British hobnobbed with all sorts of Kings in India too. Indira Gandhi gave them each a send off and monarchy was finished in India.

The faith that you speak of mixes freely in the Muslim world with politics. It breeds theocracies with edicts for every area of life. It is intrusive and hijacks the role of the ballot box and the people.

You want America to do this, that and the other. Are the Muslim people incapable? Of course not. Look how they stood up in Iran. But look also what happened to them when they defied the mullahs. That's faith for you, it will find a way to dictate rules to the people and keep them in arrested development looking for the savior of all mankind.

You have to begin somewhere, I agree. But if you start with the myth of Gabriel's whispers in the ears of men so much wiser than all the others around you today and also with the Sharia, you won't get a democracy out of that. A theocracy, yes, an autocracy more likely, but a democracy, no way Jose, not from that start up.

You sound like a man (or a woman) who wants to cross a poisonous snake with a piranha and get a cooing dove out of that combo. Reform the faith and reform the Sharia and presto--here comes democracy. I say get the faith and the Sharia out completely, then may be, may be, there will be democracy.

Keep the faith, then you keep the mullahs, keep the Sharia, then you keep the mullahs and their acolytes who interpret the Sharia and argue endlessly about what Gabriel meant when He said this or that to the founding fathers of faith. We have to begin somewhere but where you want to begin, because there is no other choice as you see it, is not a beginning for democracy.

God created the Muslim nation for one reason, to punish the Jews for Abraham sending his son Ishmael, born of a bondwoman, into the desert with his mother. God said that he would make a nation of Ishmael. Of course the child of promise born to Abraham's wife, was Isaac, the father of Jacob, later named Israel by God. Are Muslim people saved for heaven? How can they be if the bible says we have to know Christ to get there? Many Muslims are turmoil creators. Thanks.

Clay you are either a vicious joke or the most polite dolt this side of the Suez. Keep it up brother. Are you saved for heaven? If you are, then I don't want to be there. I have a feeling the Muslim people- the turmoil creators-- would share my sane belief that heaven wouldn't be such a cozy place if its inhabitants all resembled you. On the other hand the turmoil creators may still pick heaven because of the virgins promised and what would you do then? You of course will go looking for another heaven--a Christian heaven--because a Muslim heaven with the children of Ishmael won't suit your fancy. I wonder if there is a special heaven for the children of Abraham with Sarah--a Jewish heaven? If Zamzam is transplanted from Earth to heaven would it be located in the Christian heaven with you Clay frolicking in it, or would it be in the heaven of the children of Abraham with Sarah or in the heaven of the turmoil creators, children of Abraham with Hagar? By the way Clay the so called bondwoman had a name--it was Hagar.

This is the way it was and the way it is and the way it is going to stay. Any heaven is composed of those who know Christ and only those who do. That is the way God chose to do it, after sending His Son here for us. Muslims would have a better name for themselves if they would stop saying that the holocaust never happened and that Israel should be wiped off the map. Being oil producers is enough without being a turmoil producer. Thanks.

I love you Clay--I wouldn't want to inhabit the same heaven as you, no, that would be hell, but I don't mind inhabiting this blog with you. Don't you realize turmoil and oil are one and the same thing? Where there is oil there is turmoil Clay, mostly because the oil is being gobbled up by automobiles created by earnest people in Christian nations. By extrapolation Christians are worse turmoil creators than Muslims. I guess the Christians can always ask Christ to forgive them for all their sins--repeatedly sin and repeatedly ask for forgiveness--that is the endearing Christian way, but alas the Muslims have to be content with sins that stay with them until their dying day.

The bible tells us not to repeatedly sin knowing that we are going to ask for forgiveness. As far as the cars go, I read recently where some high school students invented a hydrogen fuel cell car that gets 1300 miles to a gallon. I would buy one, given that they are safe. Of course oil producers dont have to be turmoil producers do they? And what should jealous Ishmael do? Climb on board with you know Who. God bless.

Our comments are moving away from the dangers posed by Sharia laws to the civilized populations in Muslim countries & especially to women and minorities.

Heaven is not reserved for just Muslims. The opening verse of the Quran refers to all people and that God is forgiving & merciful. All people include just that. Hindus, Atheists, Muslims, Jews, Christians and other faiths. He is the master of the Day of Judgment and one's final destination in terms of hell or heaven will be determined by their acts. Essentially those that live a life that is in harmony with their environment and support a just & fair society. God determines one’s religion or belief and he alone will decide one's fate.

Religion/faith is necessary for hope to exist. Even in the Quran God says "We as humans are responsible for changing our future through our own actions.
None of the holy books prescribe violence.

Sharia laws must be challenged in terms of their applicability to today's modern world. There must be freedom of religion. Laws like Blasphemy are today being exploited in countries that have adopted Sharia/Hadood laws to prosecute and expropriate wealth from minorities. On July 31, 2009 70 houses owned by Christians were destroyed by a fascist clerics & thugs on the grounds that a few pages of the Quran have been burned.

I do not think God is more offended by Muslims destroying property in his name than Quranic verses written on paper. We must repeal Blasphemy laws along with other sharia-based laws so that anyone notwithstanding his religion has equal legal standing & rights.

Pakistan must repeal all relgious laws and replace them with common law given to Pakistan by the British. There must be separation of Church & State. Religion should be left to the Individual to decide. Individual non-compliance with religion should not be a crime against the state but between the Individual & God and the Individual & his immediate family. Unless we do this there will be new Taliban born everyday.

For selfish reasons or out of fear of backlash from orthodox religious voters the governments in Pakistan & Afghanistan are sitting on the Theocracy fence built by laws based on Sharia as practiced in Saudi Arabia. By not repealing these laws, & allowing these ridiculous laws to stand, they leave themselves open to an attack by religious zealots like the Taliban promising to enforce these laws and return both countries to the type of Taliban Inquisition we witnessed in Kabul in the 90’s and Swat this year.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the Muslim religion and its relationship with other faiths. This has been created by biased translations of the Quran funded by Saudi –backed Wahabbi clerics.

I would like to share with you how strongly the Quran promotes tolerance and condemns these abhorrent actions. Defying the spirit and law of the Quran and using verses out of context to justify unforgivable actions against fellow humans is the ultimate disrespect to Quran. And I Quote:

The Quran is very explicit when it says, “there is no compulsion in religion,” (Quran 2: 256). The Quran also encourages Jews to live by the laws revealed to them in the Torah. In fact, the Quran expresses surprise that some Jews sought the arbitration of the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) rather than their own legal tradition (Quran 5:43). Again, in the same chapter, the Quran also recommends that the Christians live by their faith; “So let the people of the Gospel judge by that which Allah has revealed therein, for he who judges not by that which Allah has revealed is a sinner,” (Quran 5:47).

The Quran instructs Muslims to deal with the ignorant in the following manner, “The worshippers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!” (Quran 25:63).

The Quran also instructs Muslims, “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” (Quran 5:32).

The Quran stresses tolerance and justice: “O ye who believe! Remain steadfast for Allah, bearing witness to justice. Do not allow your hatred for others make you swerve to wrongdoing and turn you away from justice. Be just; that is closer to true piety. (Quran 5:8)

The Quran highlights the position of Christians in our faith “ . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.” (Quran 5:82) .

Allah gives an unequivocal message in the Quran to the believers, emphasizing that they must stand up and fight to protect the rights of Jews and Christians, thereby allowing them to pray to God in their way.

“Permission (to fight) is given to those who are being attacked, because they have been wronged. And surely God measures out help for them. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, - (for no cause) except that they say, “Our Lord is Allah. Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will). (Quran 22:39-40)

The references above should leave no doubt that Islam practiced by an Individual bears no resemblance to the Taliban brand of Islam. However, religion must be kept separate from our legal system.

The government of Pakistan & Afghanistan must promote & encourage secular states. They must repeal all laws based on Sharia that violate divine human rights.

The police force must be re-trained to be more receptive to women and not dismiss them out of hand. Judiciary must be reformed to provide speedy justice and Shariat courts established by a military dictator abolished in Pakistan and absorbed into the regular court system.

I certainly agree with what you say about all this violence being wrong. The Muslim religion has been to much an extent and still is a good old boys network where men rule over women in an abusive manner and it needs to stop. However, will it have a better chance of stopping if Muslims continue to practice as a nation that was created by God to punish the Jews or if they accept God's Son? As Paul wrote, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 3:11 Also, from what I understand, our constitution doesnt really say that church and state has to be seperated. Our country has been going downhill ever since the Supreme Court came out against prayer in public schools. Now with this president it gets even worse. There is nothing wrong with keeping church and state together if you are following the true God. That is why America was blessed.

O Clay, I shudder to think of you, child of the only true God. Call it quits. Be done with it. Stop proselytizing or parodying the proselytizers-- what ever be your game my man, leave the Muslims alone. Let them wallow in their folly with the not so true God as the beacon of their hope and the bellwether of their ideas. The writer of this blog is screaming out for sharia reform and you assault him with the one and only true God. Cease and desist my pal.

Hello. There is nothing wrong with Sharia reform. If it stops violence, I am all for it. However, the best Sharia reform is Christianity. Christ is never an assault to anything but sin. There is nothing wrong with buying more ice cream everytime yours melts, but it makes more sense to fix the freezer. Thanks.

Hi Clay,
I hadn't noticed that you had called the Muslim religion an old boy club. Right on the button my friend, thou hast struck the hammer on its head with that one. But if I remember correctly in another blog you expostulated that men should be men and women should be women in the Christian church, meaning that the preacher's role belongs with the XY chromosome. Now if that isn't an old boy talking, what is? You think the Christian religion is so superior it is impossible for it to be an old boy network when you yourself are the creme de la creme of the old boys? By the way, as I understand it, the Church represents the bride of Jesus. If the church itself is the female gender Clay you are being foolish telling the world that the Bible wants men as preachers and women as followers. The female gender is right up there Clay, being the metaphoric bride of Jesus; therefore women are allowed all sorts of freedoms including the right to be preachers if you will, even by the Bible's archaic standards.

Muslim religion is the most misunderstood religion in the world. Our school system must teach students about the history of Islam and its connection with Judaism & Chistianity.We are all children of Abraham.


I think the Quran clearly instructs Muslims to respect other religions & live in harmony. The message in the Quran acknowledges Jews and Christians and confirms stories as told in the Old and the new testament.

In Islam there is no compulsion and the Quran requires co-existence and respect of other religions.

It is the Wahabi brand of Islam with its crazy & out of step interpretation that has presented Islam as a rigid and unwelcoming religion.

Muslims from central Asia invaded India and ruled for one thousand years. The Taj mahal and the Red Fort in New Delhi are symbols of Muslim rule and great wealth. Yet, Hindus whose religion unlike Jews & Christians shared no history with Muslims continued as the majority population living in harmony with thier Muslim rulers. There were NO forced conversions. My ancestors were Rapt Hindus and my caste is Rapt Chuan Chichi. My ancestors converted to Islam over 400 years ago because of Sufi saints spreading the message of peace & love.
Hindus and Muslims had no issues and lived in harmony.
However, when the East India Company arrived in India in 1600 they started a process of divide & rule by turning Hindus against Muslims and in the end were able to claim India as a British colony.
The British used brutality and deceit, to loot India of its vast resources.
So your comment about Muslims punishing Jews or Christians or a network of good old boys who want to abuse women is not what the Muslim faith is about.

Women do enjoy a lower rank in India & Pakistan. Partly this is due to lack of education, and partly cultural. In India and Pakistan a women is considered a burden and to marry her off you must give dowry to the groom’s family. The groom’s family is doing you a favour by marrying your daughter and relieving you of this burden. This attitude against women has been around for thousands of years.

However, today's India is on fast track to recovery of rights for its exploited women. But it is still an uphill struggle. Even today we have bride-burnings for dowry-gain.

In the Muslim countries, Sharia/Hadood laws are the culprit and must be repealed to emancipate Muslim women. Of course education is a must. The United Stated as the only superpower has the wherewithal’s to convince our friends in Saudi Arabia-the patron and financier of extreme orthodox Wahabbi Islam-- to see the light and get rid of these draconian laws. Saudi Arabia occupies a very important position in the Muslim world as the birthplace of Prophet Mohammad and the custodian of the house of God, referred to as “The Kabbah” built by Abraham the father of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
A review of Sharia laws by Saudi Arabia will go a long way towards enabling other Muslim countries to follow suit. Such a move will be a win for the civilized world and a deathblow to Taliban and extremist forces. However, to do this the many dictatorships in the Muslim world will have to give up their vice like grip on power.

To sum up Jews, Christians & Muslims are joined together by a shared history confirmed by the Old and New Testament and the Quran. Instead of criticizing and cutting each other down to size by saying that "My God or prophet is better than yours" let us all focus on the central theme of God's message which is to create a "just and fair society," in which we can all pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I am very fortunate that I live in the United States as a naturalized citizen. My adopted country guarantees freedom of religion and allows me to pursue the dream of America's founding fathers.

If God wanted women to lead the churches, He would have put it in the bible. Instead, Paul writes that men are to take the lead. That doesnt make any Christian church a boys club. Also, we may all be children of Abraham, but according to the bible we are to accept God's Son. Thanks.

Come on Shaukat--repeal the sharia and the Taliban will still exist. The Taliban is a product of the great divide between the rich and poor and the lack of agrarian reform--also the corruption in Muslim countries. Clay is right about the old boy Muslim club--only he thinks of old boys versus old girls and foolishly defends the Christian religion which is as old boy as they come--but the old boys among the Muslims are the rich old boys. I can't believe that you are myopic enough to believe that repealing the sharia will change the poverty, the cause of attraction to terror in the Muslim world. Terrorists form a brotherhood--they are like the street gangs of Baltimore. You can repeal sharia at the federal level but they will keep something similar to the sharia or reinvent the sharia to fit the wheel of their lawless existence and you or other sophisticates can do nothing about the will of the underclass to live in oppression genuflecting to the authority of the Taliban. Mesood is dead now--thanks to drones. The Taliban have slaughtered each other to pick a new leader. But another demon will emerge to replace the one gone. Pakistan is a factory of these demons. And I have one more thing to say--the Arahamians can form a circle and dance. The Hindus, Buddhists, atheists agnostics and all the rest are out of this insane club that turns the world topsy turvy. And you invoke the founding fathers as just and fair my man? They are the ones who invented slavery. Go ask the African Americans or the American Indians--they will sing you a different story. Vary your theme please. We get it--you are unreservrdly and unabashedly proud of your adopted land. You want sharia laws to be abrogated and this you think will save Pakistan and the Arab world. Baloney! What next?

Hi. God allows us to have free choice. Right now, satan basically has free run of the world. If everyone had to choose to be peaceful what sort of followers would God have? Robots. That is not how He set this world up. We have this choice and when Christ returns the sheep will be seperated from the goats. As I said, that is why the Muslim nation was basically created-to be punishment for the Jews, for us to have confusion, war and hatred, no matter how much some Muslims are nice peace loving people. Of course not all Jews and Christians are nice, peace loving people either. They sin and make mistakes that keep them from heaven. When the Man comes back, and that wont be long at all, I am going to do what His book tells me to do and to accept Him. I make mistakes and sin also. But I know the right way. When He does arrive, those who know Him will rise in the sky with Him. Those left will go through hell on earth. Then He will reign for 1000 years with peace on earth, then another tribulation and then the great judgement. This is how He set it up, take it or leave it. I would strongly recommend to accept it. God bless.

Correction of two spellings in a previous post--Abrahamians and unreservedly.
And Clay after hell on Earth a thousand years of peace? Come on, you sound like an intelligent man but it seems you need to be saved from the savior. I notice in the Bible folks didn't count beyond 5000. That's the top Biblical number and you believe this book to be true? And Shaukat what's the top number in the Koran? 500? Guys it's the numerics that speak more than the the words. Visions, heaven, hell, writhing snakes, croaking crocs, immaculate conception (in the modern world this is called artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization but the Pope opposes both) and seventy virgins--insane--come into the modern world guys--gently step outside the Pandora's box that encloses you. Bring with you some mischief. Eat the apple Clay. By the way what kind of apple do you think Eve ate--I vote for a Pink Lady or a Fuji--if she got tempted by a red delicious I'd say she was a mutt--ditto for granny smith and Shaukat do enlighten me--what's the top number in the Koran?

Yes, after a short time of punishment for those left on earth then 1000 years of peace. It is in the book of Revelation. If you dont believe, you dont believe. Why argue about it? Thanks.

There is no reference in the Quran to 72 virgins. This is all speculation and lies. The prophet was illiterate and could not possibly have made up facts about Moses and the Birth of Jesus. There is a whole chapter devoted to the birth of Jesus.
The Muslims are responsible for Algebra and the number Zero. A zero allows one to add powers of ten. I think you should read the Quran as translated by Pick tall or Yousaf. Yousaf has included a summary of the circumstances for a particular verse and its significance.

Faith is essential for sustaining hope. Of course, it is hope that allows us to work hard in order to achieve a particular goal. Faith, hope and hard work must be present for a successful and fulfilling life.

Muslims must be engaged instead of being rebuked. Alas, the salvation of Muslim women lies in repeal of Sharia laws.

Come on Shaukat--the concept of zero started in Sumeria, in 3 BC. The Mayans grasped it independently in 4 AD, the Indians in 5 AD and the Muslims got the notion from India in 8 AD. The Muslims are not responsible for the number zero. As for Algebra, the Muslims contributed to that field brilliantly but you couldn't say they are responsible for it--the Greeks, the Babylonians--they also did their part for the field. You still only dodged my question about what is the largest number mentioned in the Koran. Faith is gobbledygook, it is dissension and headache, it is superstition and bellyache, it is heartburn and heartache, a man without faith is a relatively free man, he knows he comes and goes and he doesn't make up stories to describe from whence he came or to where he goes; he is not arrogant enough to think he is that important, with faith there is false hope, the kind that blinds the eye and narrows the mind, the kind that makes up 72 virgins on the spot for purpose of manipulation, the kind that keeps generating false prophets and messiahs through the generations. You are being engaged Shaukat and being rebuked. The two acts are not mutually exclusive. I must say Clay has a stronger stomach for rebuke. He counters it calmly and continues to mouth his inanities. Such is the strength of his faith that I have to interrupt my rebukes to give deferential nods to his passive aggressions

Remember, God tells us where we came from and where we go. Do you think Moses made up the story of Adam and Eve? The book of Revelation came to John in a vision, and it wasnt while he was on drugs. Michael Jackson's vision was maybe that he could do 72 concerts. Obviously that vision came from the other guy. If I am strong for rebuke, it is because I am convinced that the bible is the true word of God. I kind of look at it as common sense, although it certainly isnt. You may want to see the play at Sight and Sound called "In the Beginning." Thanks.

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About Matthew Hay Brown
Matthew Hay Brown writes and blogs about faith and values in public and private life for The Baltimore Sun. A former Washington correspondent for the newspaper, he has long written about the intersection of religion and politics. He has reported from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, traveling most recently to Syria and Jordan to write about the Iraqi refugee crisis.
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