Pro-Shariah Nonsense from The New Statesman

Good Lord. Now the New Statesman comes out with a position piece advocating shariah law.

As is sadly so often the case, the nuances in the lecture Rowan Williams delivered at the Royal Courts of Justice in February 2008 failed to have any impact on those whose closed minds alit on the word “sharia” and decided he was talking nonsense yet again. In fact, Dr Williams addressed this point very early on when he quoted Tariq Ramadan’s chapter on sharia in his book Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. “In the West,” writes Ramadan, currently Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford, “the idea of Sharia calls up all the darkest images of Islam…It has reached the extent that many Muslim intellectuals do not dare even to refer to the concept for fear of frightening people or arousing suspicion of all their work by the mere mention of the word”.

The example of Saudi Arabia undoubtedly has much to do with this. But it is important to stress that to look at that country and then to assume that its version of sharia is the only one, or the one to which Muslims all secretly aspire, would be akin to holding up a vision of Torquemada’s Inquisition and concluding that this was what real Christianity was. It is unrepresentative and, many would argue, a perversion. Equally important is the fact that the punishments that cause the greatest outcry – flogging, stoning etc – come under the hudud laws, which are implemented in Saudi Arabia and were introduced by General Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan in 1979, but are the exception, not the rule, in most Muslim countries.

Okay, so I understand that Sholto Byrnes, the author, is not advocating hudud laws. Fine, but he begins this piece by begging the question regarding hudud laws, and produces an advocacy piece in support of shariah because, as he says, most Muslim countries, with the exception of the KSA and Pakistan, do not implement hudud. Seems like an odd reason for supporting shariah, when most Muslim countries which formally implement constitutional shariah (and Malaysis is not one of them, sorry) only do so solely to implement the specific punishment laws of hudud.

The author spends a lot of space and time in this article on what sharia isn’t but almost nothing on what sharia should entail. The only real-world example he cites to support his thesis is one story from the Times about an incident involving a British journalist’s experience with a sharia court in Malaysia. But this minor anecdotal evidence is too meager to be representative of the life experiences of people who have to live under shariah. How many muslim countries implement shariah because they think its inheritance laws are good laws fit for today’s world? Absolutely none of them.

But as the author develops his argument and follows up his promise of more detailed explanations for championing shariah law in subsequent articles, I hope he can provide justification for two particular non-hudud shariah principles:

1) Muslim daughters must inherit only half of that due to a son, as prescribed by this Quranic verse:

“Allah commands you regarding your children. For the male a share equivalent to that of two females. ” [Quran 4:11]

2) The witness of a woman is equal half that of a man.

Since neither of these legal principles fall under hudud, I presume Sholto Byrnes regards them beneficial and even worthy of support. Oh but how I want to hear him justify laws which have been the basis of cultural patriarchy in muslim societies.

Starting a series of articles in defence of shariah based on one logically absurd position seems to be a very silly thing to do indeed.

I look forward to reading the New Statesman’s reasons why inheritance laws, and laws undermining the rights of muslim women need the support of unprincipled western, middle-class, left-liberal blokes, who champion religious laws that they will never need to live with or be affected by.

This entry was posted in Moral relativism, Sharia. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. qidniz
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 4:06 AM | Permalink

    Does the NS have any readership left? I mean, who is Sholto Byrnes and why is he worth even a nanosecond of anyone’s time?

  2. abed
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 10:06 AM | Permalink

    Let’s face it, shall we? Most of these “Fabian” socialists don’t give a fuck about Muslims or hudud or “shariah principles”.

    They simply support “Muslim rights” as a fig leaf for their fierce, pathological Jew-hatred. And Muslim issues are simply a stalking horse for their prejudice.

    Meanwhile, we Muslms play along with it like mugs, because nasty sectarians like Mehdi Hasan are placed in positions of senority on the New Statesman editorial team, to placate us. Not them.

    It’s a vicious ruse.

  3. Posted June 10, 2010 at 11:30 AM | Permalink

    Wave goodbye to the New Statesman as it disappears up its own God-shaped hole.

  4. Posted June 10, 2010 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

    I can’t wait to see “Rethinking Islamism III.”

  5. Posted June 10, 2010 at 4:10 PM | Permalink

    No, nor can I. No one does moronic moral relativism like they do at The new New Statesman.

  6. Mirax
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 9:58 AM | Permalink

    Hi Faisal. What do you mean by saying that malaysia does not ‘constitutionally’ incorporate sharia?

  7. Posted June 11, 2010 at 11:25 AM | Permalink

    Mirax, my understanding of sharia implementation in Malaysia is that although it plays a part in the dual legal system, it hasn’t been formally integrated into the constitution, which is based on common law.

    Even though sharia-enthusiasts (such as the New Statesman) point to Malaysia as a successful model of how the sharia can be successfully integrated into the constition, this isn’t exactly the case.

  8. Posted June 11, 2010 at 11:38 AM | Permalink

    The readers comments to Sholto Byrne’s article on the NS are very, very encouraging. Here is a comment left by someone called Rob which is spot on:

    The only sensible response to this article – in what’s meant to be a left leaning, progressive magazine – is to see it as an urgent wake up call. Influential parts of the Left have become cultural relativists of the worst sort. They fail to see that Islam and especially Islamism are incompatible with democracy, freedom of speech, artistic creativity and sexual equality. Epecially sexual equality.

    These red lines are totally non negotiable with religious fascists – and that is what Islamism represents. Shame on the New Statesman and it’s idiot writer here for being so intellectually corrupt that theycan’t understand that they are defending fascists.

  9. Abu Faris
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 3:48 PM | Permalink

    From wikipedia (of course!):

    The Malaysian constitution guarantees religious freedom. Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah [The Malay spelling of Shari'a - "Sy" in Malay is pronounced like "Sh" in English - AF] courts when it comes to matters concerning their religion. The Islamic judges are expected to follow the Shafi`i legal school of Islam, which is the main madh’hab of Malaysia. The jurisdiction of Shariah court is limited only to Muslims over matters such as marriage, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offences are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts. Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts (including the Federal Court) in principle cannot overrule any decision made by the Syariah Courts as heavy-handedly ratified by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the late 1980′s.

  10. Mirax
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 5:45 PM | Permalink

    That would be article 121 of the constitution that was amended by Mahathir in 1988, Abu Faris. The same fiendish Mahathir whom Byrnes quotes so approvingly in his article for the Staggers blog. Mahathir’s primary motivation for amending the constitution was to castrate the then judiciary of its independence, a job which he carried out with immaculate perfection.

    The material part of clause (1) of Article 121 used to say: “… the judicial power of the Federation shall be vested in” the High Court. After 1988, Article 121(1) said that the High Court “shall have such jurisdiction and powers as may be conferred by or under federal law”.

    Thus, before 1988 the courts derived their powers from the Constitution. Now, the courts are only meant to have those powers which Parliament decides to give them. The Judiciary was in this way made subservient to Parliament (and hence to the ruling government of the day).

    The second significant amendment in 1988 was the inclusion of a new clause (1A) into Article 121 that stated: “The courts referred to in Clause (1) shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the syariah courts.”

    Syariah courts are the courts created by State Assemblies to administer certain Islamic laws. The Constitution says syariah courts can only have jurisdiction “over persons professing the religion of Islam” and in respect only of certain specific matters of Islamic law, listed in the Constitution.

    If two Muslims have a problem involving their personal law (for example, a divorce between a Muslim couple), then this is a “matter within the jurisdiction of the syariah courts”. The civil courts should not interfere if one party comes to the civil court after losing a case in the syariah courts.

    This was all that was intended with the inclusion of Article 121(1A). Nothing in the Constitution says that the syariah courts are of equal standing to the civil courts, nor does it say that the civil courts cannot maintain their traditional supervisory role over the syariah courts when they act outside their boundaries.

    Problems now occur because the powers and jurisdiction of the syariah courts have been inexorablyexpanded beyond the limits permitted by the Constitution.

    Syariah courts began to give orders dissolving non-Muslim marriages registered under civil law when only one spouse converted to Islam, and converted infant children to Islam without the knowledge of the non-Muslim parent.

    Syariah courts now order the exhumation of a corpse buried in a Hindu burial ground — something only a magistrate is empowered to do under the provisions of the Local Government Act. Syariah courts routinely direct government officers and the police to assist in the enforcement of its orders against non-Muslims.

    Matters such as the determination of whether or not a person was a “Muslim” and questions of apostasy from Islam began to be considered matters “within” the jurisdiction of the syariah courts.

    In fact, the Constitution does not use the word “Muslim” but uses the phrase “person professing the religion of Islam”. The correct question therefore is whether someone is “a person professing the religion of Islam” at the material time i.e. what does or did that person say was his or her religion when he or she was asked.

    Whether or not that person is a “Muslim” under Islamic law is not the relevant question, and should not be an issue at all. Hence, this is a matter clearly for the civil courts.

    When the syariah courts overstep their boundaries, the civil courts should stop them but unfortunately the latter now feel they cannot because of the way Article 121(1A) is currently being interpreted.

    The constitutional safeguard affirming the civil courts as the repository of the Federation’s judicial power has effectively been superceded.

    If there are mixed questions of civil law or matters involving non-Muslims, the syariah courts now usurp jurisdiction. Those caught in this quandary have no access to a court which can properly hear and determine their grievances. The civil courts dare not gainsay the sharia courts.

    If you had any knowledge of Malaysian legal history, you’d realise just what damage Mahathir did to the judiciary and the pernicious effects the amendment now has on nonmuslim minority rights.

  11. Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:03 PM | Permalink

    Well I think Abu Faris was making exactly the same point as you Mirax, which is to say that Malaysian “syariah” law is constitutionally mandated as opposed to a parallel legal system applied in special courts in conjunction to common law, which was my thinking.

    And on further investigation, there seems to be a national debate in Malaysia which is tending towards adoption of hudud laws.

    I wonder what Sholto Byrnes will now make of this, since his article held Malaysia aloft as a “progressive” Muslim nation which showed how sharia can be implemented without hudud. Well, as I said, any country which adopts shariah constitutionally sooner or later gravitates towards full hudud adoption, whether from the beginning or progressively. This certainly discredits Byrne’s entire thesis which was built on the absurd premise that shariah without hudud is a good thing.

    As long he doesn’t have to live under it, of course.

  12. Mirax
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    Malaysian human rights activists who are against Article 121′s amendments have been attacked and their meetings disrupted and even the malaysian bar council’s forum on this matter (august 2008) has been disrupted by malaymuslim protest groups.

    In malaysia , life as we once knew it is spiralling downwards alarmingly due to the expanded role of sharia and yet the NS and Sholto fucking Byrnes can put out a pro-sharia spin job.

  13. Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

    Well hey, Sholto has published a third entry to his marvellously erudite Shariah series, and it is just as disingenuous as the one that we have been commenting on here.

    Secondly, the majority of commenters prove my point by focusing on the most extreme forms of sharia – which as I have said, many Muslims feel to be perversions – and concluding that that’s all it is. They don’t seem to be remotely open to the possibility that it could vary in any way.

    That’s exactly what we haven’t been doing on here, but I knew he would hang on to this excuse for dear life. What about the anti-women slant of shariah laws which are non-Hudud, Sholto? When are you posting a justification of them, rather than begging the question on hudud?

  14. Mirax
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:15 PM | Permalink

    There’s no national ‘debate’ about hudud. The islamists , who used to be the PAS, the muslim opposition party wanted it and in fact instituted it in two states which led to Mahathir who was PM then throwing over hissy fit and muttering darkly about constitutional conflict with federal law. Then Umno, Dr M’s party went on to outislamise the islamists, who recently having tasted success in opposition politics have become selfprofessed ‘erdoganites’ and now preach moderation while deftly sidestepping the hudud question. We live in confusing times.

  15. Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:32 PM | Permalink
  16. Abu Faris
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:33 PM | Permalink

    “If you had any knowledge of Malaysian legal history, you’d realise just what damage Mahathir did to the judiciary and the pernicious effects the amendment now has on nonmuslim minority rights.”

    I never mentioned Mahathir, let alone suggested or implied I supported him. I have absolutely no knowledge of Malaysian legal history.

    What exactly is your problem?

  17. Mirax
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:52 PM | Permalink

    I am really sorry but beyond the first sentence(which agreed with you earlier observation) none of my other comments were aimed at you. The you was a generic you. I apologise for my clumsy phrasing.

  18. Mirax
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 6:52 PM | Permalink

    Oh the above is for abu faris.

  19. Posted June 11, 2010 at 7:37 PM | Permalink

    Unbelievable, isn’t it, Faisal?

    I can’t keep a civil tongue in my head. That guy makes me feel violent. Not least because I’ve been hearing about the downward spiral in Malaysia from mirax for a long time!

  20. qidniz
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 4:36 AM | Permalink

    The Malaysian constitution guarantees religious freedom.

    Please someone tell Lina Joy.

  21. Abu Faris
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 11:48 AM | Permalink

    You are welcome, Mirax.

  22. qidniz
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

    The Malaysian constitution guarantees religious freedom.

    Twice I’ve tried to add a comment on this, and each time the comment vanished into a black hole. Is there a list available of the words and phrases being filtered?

  23. Posted June 12, 2010 at 2:37 PM | Permalink

    No list of words apply. If you post a link for the first time, the system thinks you’re spamming and the spam filter traps the comment. If your comment is marked as non-spam, as yours has now been, you can carry on posting comments and links.

  24. qidniz
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

    No list of words apply. If you post a link for the first time, the system thinks you’re spamming and the spam filter traps the comment.

    Thanks for un-spamming my comment. :-)

    The odd part is that the second time, I removed the link – suspecting that it might be the problem – and got black-holed anyway. [And this second time was actually the third time, or the second second time, so to speak: the first second time, which still had the link, got rejected as a duplicate comment!]

    My cynical prediction for Lina Joy is that the Syariah Courts will eventually allow her apostasy/conversion. In a few years time; say, within this decade.

    Once she is safely past menopause.

    But that very human aspect of the affair will be buried under the hoopla of the PR coup the Syariah Courts will be allowed to score for their, um, humanity and compassion and whatnot.

  25. Abu Faris
    Posted June 13, 2010 at 12:22 AM | Permalink

    Any chance of spamming the comments linking to sites that themselves link to far-Right, Nazi sites over on the Bill B thread that seems to have become infested with BNP types?

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