Last Thursday, I went to see a fellow talking about Sharia Law. He was emphasizing that it is harsh as a deterrent rather than a punishment. It was just strange to have someone talking about how much less crime we’d have if we just chopped a few hands off. I was trying to stay with him and doing ok until he said:
Here in America, you take your criminals, put them in prison and reward them with a college degree. This is not God’s way. God’s law is an eye for an eye.
I don’t really think that we could even really have a productive discussion because our views on human nature are simply too divergent. At the end I asked a couple questions:
In America, 1 of 3 black men will be in prison during their lifetime, while only 1 in 20 white men will. There are a variety of reasons for this, but a significant one is a difference in enforcement of the laws. I lived in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania for two and a half years, and if anything differential enforcement was worse there. You propose creating some severe penalties for lawbreaking. Do you believe that people are capable of exercising this level of power with fairness?
His response was that the US is the greatest country in the world, but that we’re responsible for destabilizing the Middle East and empowering dictators throughout the region. He went on for a bit about how we have to use our power for good and be a beacon of freedom. Certainly good points, but not really an answer to my question unless I am to assume he’s saying “yes, Islam will encourage the moral purity we need if things will only stabilize.”
Then the guy next to me popped up and provided the clarification I needed. He was a black Muslim and read a bit about righteousness from his Koran. The speaker then said that we will never be able to achieve God’s level of perfection. So apparently his answer was, “no, we’re gonna always be stoning innocent people to death. We should definitely go ahead with this though.”
Your ability to come and speak about your views today is made possible by the freedom of expression built into the US Constitution. The framers of the Constitution created a separation of Church and State because they believed it necessary to safeguard these freedoms. Sharia Law deals with crimes where an individual’s rights are impinged on, like theft or assault, but it also deals with strictly moral crimes like stoning someone to death for adultery. How is freedom of religion protected with those types of laws, or is it unimportant?
He said that if I am sleeping around and spreading AIDS or other diseases, it affects the entire community. It is not simply a moral matter. In some ways I liked his response to this one, not because I agreed with it, but my experience with Islam in the developing world showed that people had a much better understanding of their relationships and obligations to their community. People much much poorer than almost anyone in the States regularly invited hungry people into their homes to share their food. There just wasn’t the same depth of materialism that we’ve got here.
He went on to say though that it would take four people witness adultery before we’d stone anyone to death. Well, that’s good to know. At least it’s unlikely I’m going to get pelted with rocks until I die.
Many of the other questions were kinda argumentative. It’s really unfortunate that the average person who wants to yell at someone who says something generally controversial doesn’t think about the fact that the person you’re yelling at has probably heard your point before and is just going to respond calmly and make you look dumb.
My favorite though was an Arab girl from Turkey responding to his statement, “In Turkey in the public schools they don’t allow women to wear head scarves, how is this freedom?” She said that women in Turkey had more educational opportunities than almost any other Muslim population and that not wearing the scarves was a way to integrate into Turkish society. His response was, “Well, you have your opinion, but I want you to know that the rest of the Muslim world disagrees with you.”
It was cute seeing an American man tell a Muslim Turkish woman what Muslim Turkish women believe.