‘Secularism can never enjoy a general acceptance in an Islamic society.” The writer was not one of those sulfurous Islamophobes decried by CAIR and the professional Left. Quite the opposite: It was Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide and a favorite of the Saudi royal family. He made this assertion in his book, How the Imported Solutions Disastrously Affected Our Ummah, an excerpt of which was published by the Saudi Gazette just a couple of months ago.
This was Qaradawi the “progressive” Muslim intellectual, much loved by Georgetown University’s burgeoning Islamic-studies programs. Like Harvard, Georgetown has been purchased into submission by tens of millions of Saudi petrodollars. In its resulting ardor to put Americans at ease about Islam, the university somehow manages to look beyond Qaradawi’s fatwas calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq and for suicide bombings in Israel. Qaradawi, they tell us, is a “moderate.” In fact, as Robert Spencer quips, if you were to say Islam and secularism cannot co-exist, John Esposito, Georgetown’s apologist-in-chief, would call you an Islamophobe; but when Qaradawi says it, no problem — according to Esposito, he’s a “reformist.”
And he’s not just any reformist. Another Qaradawi fan, Feisal Rauf, the similarly “moderate” imam behind the Ground Zero mosque project, tells us Qaradawi is also “the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today.”
Rauf is undoubtedly right about that. So it is worth letting it sink in that this most influential of Islam’s voices, this promoter of the Islamic enclaves the Brotherhood is forging throughout the West, is convinced that Islamic societies can never accept secularism. After all, secularism is nothing less than the framework by which the West defends religious freedom but denies legal and political authority to religious creeds.
It is also worth understanding why Qaradawi says Islam and secularism cannot co-exist. The excerpt from his book continues:
As Islam is a comprehensive system of worship (Ibadah) and legislation (Shari’ah), the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shari’ah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions. It is indeed a false claim that Shari’ah is not proper to the requirements of the present age. The acceptance of a legislation formulated by humans means a preference of the humans’ limited knowledge and experiences to the divine guidance: “Say! Do you know better than Allah?” (Qur’an, 2:140) For this reason, the call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam. Its acceptance as a basis for rule in place of Shari’ah is downright apostasy.
Apostasy is an explosive accusation. On another occasion, Sheikh Qaradawi explained that “Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished.” He further acknowledged that the consensus view of these jurists, including the principal schools of both Sunni and Shiite jurisprudence, is “that apostates must be executed.”
Qaradawi’s own view is more nuanced, as he explained to the Egyptian press in 2005. This, I suppose, is where his vaunted reformist streak comes in. For private apostasy, in which a Muslim makes a secret, personal decision to renounce tenets of Islam and quietly goes his separate way without causing a stir, the sheikh believes ostracism by the Islamic community is a sufficient penalty, with the understanding that Allah will condemn the apostate to eternal damnation at the time of his choosing. For public apostasy, however, Qaradawi stands with the overwhelming weight of Islamic authority: “The punishment . . . is execution.”
The sad fact, the fact no one wants to deal with but which the Ground Zero mosque debate has forced to the fore, is that Qaradawi is a moderate. So is Feisal Rauf, who endorses the Qaradawi position — the mainstream Islamic position — that sharia is a nonnegotiable requirement. Rauf wins the coveted “moderate” designation because he strains, at least when speaking for Western consumption, to paper over the incompatibility between sharia societies and Western societies.