By Stephen Edwards
American involvement in the Middle East has put Islam, once a subject of far-off religious study, onto the public stage. The press of the last decade was abuzz with one jihad tragedy after another, beginning with September 11 and continuing with intermittent suicide bombings in Israel and elsewhere.
Though we recognize that our enemies in the Middle East are adherents of some form of Islam, our democratic sense of tolerance restrains us from demonizing the entire faith
After all, just about every religion has its abusers, those who twist scriptures into justification for their own iniquitous agendas. In the case of Islam, however, very little interpretive creativity is required to find divine basis for murder of nonbelievers, total subjugation of women, and establishment of worldwide theocracy, among other things
Indeed, more than basis for such injustices is found; Islamic texts demand all of these things of its followers. These commandments are organized into a political structure that is the duty of Muslims to install across the globe: Sharia law.
While the scriptures explicitly outline the requirements of Sharia governance, contemporary debate wrestles with the possibility of an Islam separate from scriptural dictates that are incompatible with civilized, liberal society.
A review of the scriptures legitimizing what most Westerners would consider barbarism is primary reading for any discussion of Sharia Law. Islam contains an almost imperial code of ethics that compels its adherents to dominate the world, purging it of nonbelievers: "Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth (Islam)." (Qur'an, 9:29) , and more explicitly, "slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them" (Qur'an, 9:5).
Muslim texts venerate death while opposing the enemies of Allah as the highest service to God: "Those who believe strive and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are all good things, they will prosper" (Qur'an, 9:88).
From this, it would seem that the jihad attacks so often reported in the news are not only permitted by Muslim teachings, but blessed with Allah's special favour.
A woman's place under Sharia law is one totally ancillary to man's that approaches slavery when she is married. Again, the Qur'an rules unequivocally: "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the man to excel the woman" (Qur'an 4:34).
In Sharia societies, a woman is either a dutiful wife or a licentious temptress, the former a privilege granted by man and the latter sanctioned by scripture: "I stood at the gate of the Fire and saw that the majority of those who entered it were women" (Sahih al-Bukhari, 62:124).
Incredibly, modern Islamic societies like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia pin their women to an existence more exclusively domestic than anything found in the history of American housewives, a history of which we are freshly contemptuous.
While the scriptures may be an affront to our democratic sensibilities, it would be dogmatic to typecast all Muslims, or even a majority of them, as followers of a barbaric creed. Ancient religious texts tend to contain vestiges of ancient ways of life, dictates written to govern people of different eras; the Bible, Qur'an, the Vedas, etc. are all the same in this regard.
Selective readings that produce doctrines digestible to modern audiences seem downright reasonable: The world is in flux; our religions should be similarly mutable, no? Such an approach is reasonable if the teachings you are tinkering with are not the words of God.
If a religious text comes from on high, it would seem that God is its arbiter, and will amend it when he sees fit. In terms of Sharia, if God had intended his law to establish a modern Republic, he would have written it that way in the first place.
Thus, if Muslims are to practice the religion handed down to them by Allah and his apostles, they will be unable to separate their faith from Sharia law. This same call for consistency has been applied to Christianity time and time again, regularly in Furman classrooms: "What about the barbarism of the Old Testament? Who are you to declare some portions of the Bible more legitimate than others?"
As students steeped in the liberal arts tradition of impartial observation, of appreciation of all disciplines with the same critical eye, we cannot accept writings as "divine" if they fully assume the character of human designs. Viewed dispassionately, then, Islam is a religion that is not only incompatible with individualistic, Western society, but one that seeks political dominion over all of those apart from its banner.