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The Ideology Problem in Timbuktu Is Not al-Qaeda’s Making -- It Is Classical Islam



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Andrew’s post describing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Mali is essential, if excruciating, reading. Beyond the monstrously cruel but all too usual punishments being imposed, I’m struck by two things, which really show how willful blindness leads inexorably to spring fever: The Guardian attributes the atrocious penalties to the “menace of al-Qaida”; it also notes, however, that the “ban [on music] comes in the context of a horrifically literal and gratuitous application of Sharia law in all aspects of daily life.”

Much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, al Qaeda did not make up sharia law. Islam did. And in the West, it is a key tenet of due process that law is imposed literally — ambiguous laws violate the principle that people of ordinary intelligence must be on fair notice of what is prohibited. There’s nothing “gratuitous” about applying as it is written.

We can keep our heads tucked snug in the sand, or we can recognize the source of the problem. As I detail in Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, the literalist construction of sharia that al Qaeda’s local franchise is enforcing in Mali is “literal” because it comes from Islamic scripture, not from some purportedly “extremist” fabrication of Islam. Moreover, while it seems only militant jihadists proudly urge this construction in practice, it is enthusiastically endorsed in principle by two of the most influential institutions in the Islamic Middle East: al Azhar University and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Don’t just take my word for it. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law is not some al Qaeda pamphlet. It is a renowned explication of sharia’s provisions and their undeniable roots in Muslim scripture. In the English translation, before you get to chapter and verse, there are formal endorsements from the International Institute of Islamic Thought — a U.S.-based Muslim Brotherhood think-tank begun in the early eighties (and to which American administrations of both parties have resorted as an exemplar of “moderation”) — and from the Islamic Research Academy at al Azhar University, the ancient seat of Sunni learning to which President Obama famously turned to co-sponsor his cloyingly deceptive 2009 speech on relations between Islam and the West (“We certify,” the famed scholars wrote, that the “translation corresponds to the Arabic original and conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community…. There is no objection to printing it and circulating it…. May Allah give you success in serving Sacred Knowledge and the religion.” There could be no more coveted stamp of scholarly approval in Islam.).

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Reliance is also endorsed by Islamic authorities in Jordan (leading influences on a largely Palestinian population that may well overthrow the pro-Western monarchy) and Syria (leading influences on the “rebels” on whose side interventionists — including both presidential candidates — would have us jump to abet the Muslim Brotherhood’s ongoing campaign to oust the minority Alawite Assad regime).

Here, as I summarize in Spring Fever – quoted verbatim and supported by citations — is what Reliance has to say about the arts: 

It is forbidden to make pictures of “animate life,” for doing so “imitates the creative act of Allah Most High”; “Whoever makes a picture, Allah shall torture him with it on the Day of Judgment until he can breathe life into it, and he will never be able to.” (Reliance w50.0 & ff.)

“Musical instruments of all types are unlawful.” Singing is generally prohibited (for “song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage), and “[o]n the Day of Resurrection Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress.” However, if unaccompanied by musical instruments, song and poetry drawn from Islamic scripture and encouraging obedience to Allah are permissible. Ironically, although music is generally forbidden, dancing is permissible “unless it is languid, like the movements of the effeminate.” (Reliance r40.0 &ff.)

Those sharia provisions are complemented by these — again, endorsed by al-Azhar, the Muslim Brotherhood, and our “moderate” “allies” in the region: 

Apostasy from Islam is “the ugliest form of unbelief” for which the penalty is death (“When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed”). (Reliance o8.0 & ff.)

Apostasy occurs not only when a Muslim renounces Islam but also, among other things, when a Muslim appears to worship an idol, when he is heard “to speak words that imply unbelief,” when he makes statements that appear to deny or revile Allah or the prophet Mohammed, when he is heard “to deny the obligatory character of something which by consensus of Muslims is part of Islam,” and when he is heard “to be sarcastic about any ruling of the Sacred Law.” (Reliance o8.7; see also p9.0 & ff.)

[Note: These latter prohibitions against denying or reviling any aspect of Islam, Allah or the prophet are the basis for imposing death for blasphemy. The call to kill apostates for such offenses obviously applies with equal or greater force to non-Muslims, who are pervasively treated worse than Muslims by sharia (see, e.g., Sura 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold forbidden which had been forbidden by Allah and his Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the people of the book [i.e., Christians and Jews], until they pay the jizya [the poll tax imposed on non-believers for the privilege of living in the Islamic state] and feel themselves subdued.”)]

“Jihad means to war against non-Muslims.” (Reliance o9.0.)

It is an annual requirement to donate a portion of one’s income to the betterment of the ummah (an obligation called zakat, which is usually, and inaccurately, translated as “charity” – zakat can only be given to Muslims and is designed strictly to fortify the Muslim community, not benefit the less fortunate generally); of this annual donation, one-eighth must be given to “those fighting for Allah, meaning people engaged in Islamic military operations for whom no salary has been allotted in the army roster…. They are given enough to suffice them for the operation even if they are affluent; of weapons, mounts, clothing and expenses.” (Reliance, h8.1-17.)

Non-Muslims are permitted to live in an Islamic state only if they follow the rules of Islam, pay the non-Muslim poll tax, and comply with various adhesive conditions designed to remind them that they have been subdued, such as wearing distinctive clothing, keeping to one side of the street, not being greeted with “Peace be with you” (“as-Salamu alaykum”), not being permitted to build as high as or higher than Muslims, and being forbidden to build new churches, recite prayers aloud, “or make public displays of their funerals or feast-days.” (Reliance o11.0 & ff.)

Offenses committed against Muslims, including murder, are more serious than offenses committed against non-Muslims. (Reliance o1.0 & ff; p2.0-1.)

The penalty for spying against Muslims is death. (Reliance p50.0 & ff; p.74.0& ff.)

The penalty for fornication is to be stoned to death, unless one is without the “capacity to remain chaste,” in which case the penalty is “being scourged one hundred stripes and banished to a distance of at least 81 km./50mi. for one year.” (Reliance o12.0 & ff.)

The penalty for homosexual activity (“sodomy and lesbianism”) is death. (Reliance p17.0 & ff.)

A Muslim woman may only marry a Muslim man; a Muslim man may marry up to four women, who may be Muslim, Christian, or Jewish (but no apostates from Islam). (Reliance m6.0 & ff. – Marriage.)

A woman is required to be obedient to her husband and is prohibited from leaving the marital home without permission; if permitted to go out, she must conceal her figure or alter it “to a form unlikely to draw looks from men or attract them.” (Reliance p42.0 & ff.)

A non-Muslim may not be awarded custody of a Muslim child. (Reliance m13.2-3.)

A woman has no right of custody of her child from a previous marriage when she remarries “because married life will occupy her with fulfilling the rights of her husband and prevent her from tending to the child.” (Reliance m13.4.)

The penalty for theft is amputation of the right hand. (Reliance o14.0.)

The penalty for drinking alcohol is “to be scourged forty stripes.” (Reliance o16.3; p.14.2.)

The penalty for accepting interest (“usurious gain”) is death (i.e., to be considered in a state of war against Allah). (Reliance p7.0 & ff.)

The testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man. (Reliance o24.7.)

If a case involves an allegation of fornication (including rape), “then it requires four male witnesses.” (Reliance o24.9.)

The establishment of a caliphate is obligatory, and the caliph must be Muslim and male. “The Prophet … said, “Men are already destroyed when they obey women.” (Reliance o25.0 & ff; see also p28.0, on Mohammed’s condemnation of “masculine women and effeminate men.”)

This is not al Qaeda doctrine. This is sharia, authoritatively explained and endorsed. It is not the construction of Islam that many Muslims in the West wish to live under. But it is the mainstream supremacist Islam of the Middle East, which Islamic leaders — including those who come to the West to preach it — would not dream of discrediting, even if they are not as enthusiastic as al Qaeda where imposing it is concerned.

The State Department and the leading foreign policy voices of both major American political parties say sharia is perfectly compatible with “democracy” and the Western conception of human rights — of liberty and equality. Sure it is. And then you wonder why the Obama administration opens a consulate in Benghazi, one of the most perilous places in the world for Americans, refuses to safeguard it despite multiple pleas for beefed up security, and then fraudulently claims a pluperfectly predictable atrocity was caused by a video no one ever saw. If you’re going to live in a dreamworld, better get used to nightmare consequences.



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