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Reader comment on item: Resisting Islamic Law
in response to reader comment: in diverse Toronto towards TO_stan ?

Submitted by P R Goodfellow (United Kingdom), Feb 29, 2008 at 08:14

In the recent furore over Archbishop of Canterbury's assertions on Sharia law, some Bradford Muslims were questioned by members of the press. These Muslims were either members of various Islamic organisations or on their way to Friday prayers. According to what the BBC website published, there was a general confusion over the need and impact of Sharia laws.

Some cited that as there are multiples schools of law within Islam (madhabs), which school could we implement. Some of the Muslims also argued that British law already carries a sense of justice in many facets, that had already been stressed by Islam. So why bother with Sharia laws codified within the British justice system? It would be fair to assume that the above is not a general response that would be coming from each and every quarter of the Islamic population.

There are aspects of Sharia law that is noted as barbaric by many Muslims. The reason for this is that most of these Muslims understand that the schools of laws were only interpretations of laws based on the cultural and historical context of 9th and 10th century NearEast. The Islamic laws would have been an enviably more codified a system compared to what was available in the rest of the world to its contemporaries.

However, the world has changed much over the last 12 hundred years and it would be irrational to assume that the same interpretations could be valid in todays world. Just because your colleagues don't condem Sharia law does not imply an open hostility to all things and institutions that are represented by the West.

After all, they are in the west earning their living and paying their taxes. Perhaps, they might even be observant Muslims in the sense that they pray five times a day, pronouce the shahada daily (renewal of faith) but this doesn't mean that they are particuarly interested in the history of Islam or the doctrinal history. If intelligent Muslims were to look deeply into the ethos of Islam, there would be many aspects that would reaffirm their faith, and many that they would be able to identify as culturally incompatible in the contemporary world.

However, not all of the so called intelligent Muslims are scholars or have the time to engage on such philosophising. Of course there are ignorant Muslims. Of course there are wrongful interpreters. However, I personally like to brand them as thoughtless interpreters of Islam. Perhaps Muslims in the West have been insensitive to the culture they are living in. The idea of drinking till one drops, women baring their flesh on most weekends in clublands are not what these immigrants had been used to in their own social spheres back home. For the second generation Muslims born abroad, there is also the cultural backlash.

One the one side stands the far right that is constantly villifying Islam and the other side are the parental religions with its tribal or village oriented customs. When pushed by either party, the young Muslim could end up taking either side. There are thoughtless folks that practise most religions under the planet. There are also good people who care about their society and community. The latter are the inclusivists and would definitely stand up against any crime carried out against what is considered right.

The problem is that we as a society are so aware of the terrorism related aspects of Islam that we seem to blame every Muslim for what happened in the twin towers. Because they are seen as coreligionists, we automatically assume that the core beliefs and interpretations are essentially the same. Moderation is the only way forward. The Arabisation of Islam that had taken place from the earliest times and even the later revivalist philosophies have tried to make out that Islam is something that is destined to be centred on Arabia and the Arabs being the spiritual leaders of Islam. Some of the greatest scientic discoveries carried out by Muslims in the classical age and modern times have been non-Arabs. Every single salafi or wahabi tend to assume that learning arabic and reading the original texts of islam in the language that they were written in would form the basis of islamic revival.

Unfortunately, such an approach often ignores the cultural significance of other geographic regions that have played major roles in the propagation of Islam. Much of the early writings in Arabic tends to be hagiographical in nature and as such should not be taken at face value. However, how many of the young or old Muslims actually take this into account when interpreting Islam? Ultimately, Islam is a mode of peaceful dwelling for the individual. If later interpretations or interpretors get in the way of the peace, they are following a brand of Islam that could not possibly be any good to humanity. Whether they surround their lives with rituals or not, whether they pray in Arabic or whichever language, there are moderate Muslims all over the world who do not feel the need to wear Islam on their sleeves. Islam is deep within them and ultimately, it is personal faith. It is just that you see a little less of them as they are not so visible as the hijab wearing kind!


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