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How would you respond to radical Muslim clerics who are calling for expansion of Islamic law across the entire federal republic of Pakistan. Should any nation be governed by religious rules or authorities?
1…..Government “by religious rules or authorities” is bad for people and worse for religion. In believing this, we Americans are more radical than the most radical Muslims. Indeed, in comparison with us, “radical Muslim clerics” are extreme conservatives.
2…..Throughout history and around the world, the OLD way of government was dual-power: the militarily successful claimed to rule by divine right (or, in the case of Confucian China, “under heaven”). Ruler-supporting priests embodied the vertical dimension of power. Occasionally, prophets (especially in Israel) challenged this (un)holy alliance, but usually to their doom.
3…..The Atlantic Ocean barrier made possible, in America, the emergence of the NEW way of government. Immigrants from Europe left behind both king and priest. Our first President rebuffed those who wanted to call him king, and our Constitution’s First Amendment separated the power institutions of “church” and “state” from each other. Result? Both prospered, to the benefit of “we the people” and of the world.
4….Yes, “the benefit of the world.” Prophets, religious and secular, were no longer victims of king + priest, but were free to criticize both establishments and to rally “we the people” for CHANGE. Historians of government agree that this “separation of church and state” as institutions is America’s contribution to the history of government. It is a gift we can best give by example, next by persuasion, almost never by coercion (Japan, 1945, being an exception).
5…..The power-triangle of government possibilities is king-rule, priest-rule, and “people-rule.” The third I have put in quotation marks, for it is the English translation of the Greek word transliterated as “democracy.” We Americans have a world-travel bag marked “democracy,” and inside it is everything we mean by the word, including the Anglo-American understanding of law, which includes more extensive citizen-freedoms than ever before known in history.
6…..The British Empire spread British law with its implicit freedoms far and wide. Pakistan’s constitution and long democratic traditions enshrined that British heritage. But in 1999, by military coup, General Musharraf declared himself president; in 2007 he suspended the constitution, sacked chief justice Chaudhry, and ruled by decree until, under threat of impeachment, he resigned in 2008. This year, parliament yielded to Taliban pressure and recognized Muslim law (sharia) as replacement for Pakistani law in the Taliban-dominated Swat region. Widespread protest has invigorated the forces of Pakistani law and returned Chaudhry to the office of chief justice. To resist the “expansion of Islamic law across…Pakistan,” pressure is increasing to rejuvenate the civil judicial system so that it can compete with sharia’s speedy and effective (though, in Western eyes, barbarous) jurisprudence.
7…..Of all the world’s legal systems, Islam’s sharia is the most change-resistant and the greatest threat to personal freedoms. As one who taught Islam in an American university, I am sad to have to say that sharia is the world’s greatest threat to the spread of America’s political gift to the world, the separation of church and state. “Sharia” means “pathway,” and there is no human activity it does not cover in its minute defining of what pleases Allah: no freedoms, only “submission” (an English translation of the Arabic word, “islam”). President Obama is correct that America is not an enemy of Islam, but our laws and sharia are inescapably enemies.
8…..What is most ominous, in Islam’s confrontation with the non-Islamic world, is Islam-sharia’s teaching that only sharia-governed Muslim countries are “dar es Islam,”
countries at peace. All other countries – even Muslim countries, including Pakistan – are war-territory (“dar es harb”). America is war-territory, and 9/11 was an act of war in the eyes not just of jihadists, Islamists, al-Qaida, “Muslim extremists,” but of what has been essential Islam. My wording, “has been,” expresses my prayerful hope for the emergence of an Islam moderated by the realities of world changes in the past thousand years.