An elderly Christian woman was publicly whipped nearly 30 times in a conservative province in Indonesia for selling alcohol as the persecution of Christians continues to rise in the predominantly Muslim country.
According to a report from the South China Morning Post, the 60-year was whipped with a rattan cane before a crowd of hundreds in Aceh province along with a couple who were subjected to 100 lashes for committing adultery.
SCMP notes that Aceh is the only province in the country that applies a strict interpretation of sharia law. “Public canings for breaches of Islamic code happen on a regular basis and often attract huge crowds,” reads the report. “Those caught engaging in adultery, same-sex relationships, drinking and even associating with unmarried members of the opposite sex can end up facing the cane.”
Previously, the law, which was implemented back in 2001, only applied to Muslims, but a bylaw that took effect late last year allowed the regulations to be applied to non-Muslims as well.
“This is the first case of a non-Muslim being punished under Islamic criminal bylaw,” Lili Suparli, a senior official at the Central Aceh prosecutor’s office told AFP regarding the flogging of the Christian woman.
Indonesia ranks #43 on Open Door USA’s World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, and has the largest Islamic population in the world, according to the Pew Research Center.
• Documentary filmmakers in Denmark conducted an undercover investigation, with hidden cameras, into claims that imams are working towards keeping parallel societies for Muslims within Denmark.
• Abu Bilal, imam of the Grimhøj mosque, told Fatma that her husband is entitled to take another wife. Fatma is not allowed to deny her husband his “sexual rights,” even when he is violent.
• The imam of the Hamad Bin Khalifa mosque gave Fatma the same answers she had received in all the other mosques: She must not take a job without her husband’s permission, and even if her husband continues to beat her, she must not contact the police.
• Umm Abdullah told Fatma that she should only meet with Danish people in order to tell them about Islam. This is necessary, she said, to save the Danes from hell, and the only reason Muslims should interact with Danes.
The issue of parallel Muslim societies has sparked renewed debate in Denmark after a three-part television documentary, “The Mosques Behind the Veil” was aired at the beginning of March on Danish TV2.
The documentary consists of an undercover investigation into claims that Muslim imams are working towards keeping parallel societies for Muslims within Denmark.
The filmmakers had two young Muslims — brought from outside Denmark — go undercover in Gellerupparken, an area best described as a predominantly Muslim ghetto in Aarhus, Denmark’s second city. For three months, the two lived as a fictitious couple, Fatma and Muhammed, while visiting eight different mosques in Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen — the three largest cities in Denmark — with hidden cameras. The goal was to hear what imams say behind closed doors about Danish law and authorities, gender equality and general contact with Danish society, such as Muslim women participating in the Danish job market. There are approximately 140 mosques in all of Denmark.
The film is similar in concept to the British BBC Panorama documentary, “Secrets of Britain’s Sharia Councils,” which aired in April 2013. The BBC went undercover to document the discrimination practiced in British sharia councils against Muslim women. (The existence of British sharia councils were no secret to the British; the Danish film, it turned out, documented a Danish sharia council for the first time).
For the purpose of the documentary, Fatma was given a personal cover story — based on real-life dilemmas — for which she would seek advice from the different imams: Her husband is violent, and she does not wish to have sex with him. She cannot get pregnant and his family has found a second wife for him. She consulted with a Danish girlfriend about the violence, which has left her bruised, and the girlfriend told her to go to the police.
What do the imams think she should do?
The series begins in the Grimhøj mosque.
The mosque has been in the Danish headlines for years, especially since police statistics in 2013 showed that 22 out of the 27 Muslims from Aarhus who left to fight with Islamic State in Syria had frequented it. The head of the mosque, Oussama El Saadi, has, in fact, said that he hopes the Islamic State will win and that there will be an Islamic world government. The imam of the same mosque, Abu Bilal, was sentenced last year in Germany for inciting hatred against both Jews and non-Jews, and fined €10,000.
Aarhus: Grimhøj mosque
Fatma, during her visits to the mosque, learned from imam Abu Bilal that …
married women who commit infidelity should be stoned to death, and that Muslims who leave Islam may be killed.
He makes no reservations about these teachings. She also learned that …
young children who refuse to pray should be beaten (a woman asks the imam specifically, how she should conduct those beatings)
Fatma was also informed that a …
woman may not take a job without her husband’s permission.
Abu Bilal further says that …
her husband is entitled to take another wife.
Fatma is …
not allowed to deny her husband his “sexual rights,”
even when he is violent. When she asks the imam if she should involve the police, the answer is an emphatic …
Officially, the spokesman of the Grimhøj mosque, along with spokesmen from three of the eight mosques, professes that the mosque respects Danish law. But behind closed doors — on hidden camera — he advocates polygamy and beating children. He also instructs Fatma to go back to her abusive spouse and to let him commit what amounts to rape.
Fatma attended three other mosques in Aarhus, one of which publicly claims to be “moderate.” All of the clerics gave her the same answers. Some told her that violence is not allowed, but made it clear that there is nothing she can do. The imam at the Fredens mosque added that she might be able to obtain a divorce, if necessary, from their sharia council.
Muhammed, reporting what he experienced in the mosques, told TV2 news that he had been warned in the mosques against the Danes; informed that they were kuffar (unbelievers), and that he should avoid them and their social functions, such as birthday parties. One imam told the couple that they should “not melt into Danish society,” but simply surround themselves with other Muslims.
Copenhagen: Islamisk Trossamfund mosque
In Copenhagen, Fatma consulted the leader of the female section of the Islamisk Trossamfund mosque, Umm Abdullah. The claim at Islamisk Trossamfund is that it is in contact with several thousand Muslims every week, and thus among the biggest mosques in Denmark.
Umm Abdullah tells Fatma that she must not go to birthday parties; there would be, she says, alcohol and mixed male and female company — and she should only meet with Danish people in order to tell them about Islam. This is necessary, says Umm Abdullah, to save the Danes from hell, and the only reason why Muslims should interact with Danes. When Fatma asks her about her personal problems, Umm Abdullah tells her that she must not contact the police about the violent husband. “Why should you become a laughing stock in front of the infidels?” she rhetorically asks.
Copenhagen: Hamad Bin Khalifa mosque
Fatma also went to see the imam at the Hamad Bin Khalifa mosque in Copenhagen, better known in Denmark as “Stormoskeen” [“the big mosque”]. Named after the former emir of Qatarand fully sponsored by him, it opened in 2014. The organization behind the Hamad Bin Khalifa mosque, the Danish Islamic Council, has claimed that the people who operate the mosque have chosen a moderate interpretation of Islam that is compatible with Danish society.
On camera, the spokesman from the Hamad Bin Khalifa mosque confidently assured the journalists from TV2 News that the mosque thoroughly respects Danish laws. He even assured them that women enjoy even better rights than men.
When Fatma spoke to the imam of the Hamad Bin Khalifa mosque, however, and filmed it with a hidden camera, she was given the same answers she had received in all the other mosques: She must not take a job without her husband’s permission, and even if her husband continues to beat her, she must not contact the police. This most “moderate” of all the Danish mosques also advocated polygamy, and the right of the husband to his wife’s body, even when she might prefer to refuse him.
One of the questions Danes are asking themselves after viewing the documentary, is whether Danish Muslims actually listen to the imams and do what they say. According to a poll conducted in October 2015, 40% of all Danish Muslims believe that the law in Denmark should be based solely on the words of the Quran and 77% believe that the Quran should be followed to the word. Ten years ago, the figure was 62%. The poll showed that 50% of all Danish Muslims pray five times a day; ten years ago, the figure was 37%.
While the working assumption has been that with time, Muslims would become less, not more, religious, these numbers fly in the face of the wish that Muslims might be comfortably assimilated into Danish culture.
Aarhus: Sharia council (Fredens mosque).
At the end of the documentary, Fatma and Mohammed visit the sharia council — which, since the documentary aired, has been dismantled, but others are believed to exist — at the Fredens mosque in Aarhus.
Here, Fatma pleads over ten times for a divorce from her violent husband, but the council refuses, telling her to go back home and try again.
These were exactly the same responses as those given by the imams of the British sharia councils in the BBC Panorama documentary from 2013.
Genuinely abused women pleaded in vain for divorce, and sometimes had to wait for ten years to obtain it. The answers they received from the imam were identical with the answers that Fatma heard from the eight different imams in Denmark: Go back to your violent spouse and try to work it out.
TV2 presented the secret recordings to all the mosques that had been investigated, but the mosques refused to comment on them.
Instead, 31 Danish mosques and Islamic organizations decided to react to the exposure of their goings-on by collectively condemning the way that TV2 had portrayed the Islamic organizations in the documentary.
The organizations held the TV station responsible for the “way that it was destroying the integration that the organizations had worked on for the past 30 years in Denmark” and claimed that “Danish Muslims are an integral part of Danish society and play a positive role in integrating Muslims into Danish society.” They also reaffirmed that “Muslims have a right to seek advice about Islam, Islamic rules and Islamic sharia in Denmark.”
The ongoing public debate that has followed the broadcast, shows — unsurprisingly — that neither politicians, opinion makers nor so-called “experts” have any workable plans for how to deal with what the TV documentary revealed.
Some have suggested that imams get a special university education or go through a licensing process.
Others have suggested closing the Grimhøj mosque — an act that would doubtless be regarded as provocation, and one that would not solve anything in other, similar, mosques.
Still other observers have suggested looking more closely at possibilities in the Danish constitution for dealing with the problem.
One thing is clear: Denmark is as far away from solving this problem as the rest of Europe — and it is not going to get any easier.
• Here is the fulcrum around which so much of the problem turns: the belief that Islamic law has every right to be put into practice in non-Muslim countries, and the insistence that a parallel, if unequal, legal system can function alongside civil and criminal law codes adhered to by a majority of a country’s citizens.
• Salafism is a form of Islam that insists on the application of whatever was said or done by Muhammad or his companions, brooking no adaptation to changing times, no recognition of democracy or man-made laws.
• The greatest expression of this failure to integrate, indeed a determined refusal to do so, may be found in the roughly 750 Muslim-dominated no-go zones in France, which the police, fire brigades, and other representatives of the social order dare not visit for fear of sparking off riots and attacks. Similar zones now exist in other European countries, notably Sweden and Germany. According to the 2011 British census there are over 100 Muslim enclaves in the country.
As millions of Muslims flow into Europe, some from Syria, others from as far away as Afghanistan or sub-Saharan Africa, several countries are already experiencing high levels of social breakdown. Several articles have chronicled the challenges posed in countries such as Sweden and Germany. Such challenges are socio-economic in nature: how to accommodate such a large influx of migrants; the rising costs of providing then with housing, food, and benefits, and the expenses incurred by increased levels of policing in the face of growing lawlessness in some areas. If migrants continue to enter European Union countries at the current rate, these costs are likely to rise steeply; some countries, such as Hungary, have already seen how greatly counterproductive and self-destructive Europe’s reception of almost anyone who reaches its borders has been.
The immediate impact, however, of these new arrivals is not likely to be a simple challenge, something that may be remedied by increasing restrictions on numbers, deportations of illegal migrants, or building fences. During the past several decades, some European countries – notably Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark — have received large numbers of Muslim immigrants, most of them through legal channels. According to a Pew report in 2010, there were over 44 million Muslims in Europe overall, a figure expected to rise to over 58 million by 2030.
The migration wave from Muslims countries that began in 2015 is likely to increase these figures by a large margin. In France, citizens of former French colonies in Morocco, Algeria, and some sub-Saharan states, together with migrants from several other Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia, form a population estimated at several million, but reckoned to be the largest Muslim population in Europe. France is closely followed by Germany – a country now taking in very large numbers of immigrants. There are currently some 5.8 million Muslims in Germany, but this figure is widely expected to rise exponentially over the next five years or more.
The United Kingdom, at around 3 million, has the third largest Muslim population in Europe. Islam today is the second-largest religion in the country. The majority of British Muslims originally came from rural areas in Pakistan (such as Mirpur and Bangladesh’s Sylhet), starting in the 1950s. Over time, many British Muslims have integrated well into the wider population. But in general, integration has proven a serious problem, especially in cities such as Bradford, or parts of London such as Tower Hamlets; and there are signs that, as time passes, assimilation is becoming harder, not easier. A 2007 report by British think tank Policy Exchange, Living Apart Together, revealed that members of the younger generation were more radical and orthodox than their fathers and grandfathers – a reversal almost certainly unprecedented within an immigrant population over three or more generations. The same pattern may be found across Europe and the United States. A visible sign of this desire to stand out from mainstream society is the steady growth in the numbers of young Muslim women wearing niqabs, burqas, and hijabs – formerly merely a tradition, but now apparently seen as an obligatory assertion of Muslim identity.
In Germany, the number of Salafists rose by 25% in the first half of 2015, according to a report from The Clarion Project. Salafism is a form of Islam that insists on the application of whatever was said or done by Muhammad or his companions, brooking no adaptation to changing times, no recognition of democracy or man-made laws. This refusal to adapt has been very well expressed by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini:
“Islam is not constrained by time or space, for it is eternal… what Muhammad permitted is permissible until the Day of Resurrection; what he forbade is forbidden until the Day of Resurrection. It is not permissible that his ordinances be superseded, or that his teachings fall into disuse, or that the punishments [he set] be abandoned, or that the taxes he levied be discontinued, or that the defense of Muslims and their lands cease.“
The greatest expression of this failure to integrate, indeed a determined refusal to do so, may be found in the roughly 750 zones urbaines sensibles in France, Muslim-dominated no-go zones, which the police, fire brigades, and other representatives of the social order dare not visit for fear of sparking off riots and attacks. Similar zones now exist in other European countries, notably Sweden and Germany.
In the UK, matters have not reached the pitch where the police and others dare not enter. But in some Muslim-dominated areas, non-Muslims may not be made welcome, especially women dressed “inappropriately.” According to the 2011 British census there are over 100 Muslim enclaves in the country. “The Muslim population exceeds 85% in some parts of Blackburn,” notes the scholar Soeren Kern, “and 70% in a half-dozen wards in Birmingham and Bradford.” There are similarly high figures for many other British cities.
Maajid Nawaz of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation has spoken of the growing trend for some radical young Muslims to patrol their streets to impose a strict application of Islamic sharia law on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, in direct breach of British legal standards.
In Britain “Muslims Against the Crusaders” have recently declared an Islamic Emirates Project, in which they are seeking to enforce their brand of sharia in 12 British cities. They have named two London boroughs, Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets, among their targets. Little surprise then that in these two boroughs hooded “Muslim patrols” have taken to the streets and begun enforcing a strict view of sharia over unsuspecting locals. The “Muslim Patrols” warn that alcohol, “immodest” dress and homosexuality are now banned. To add to these threats, all this is filmed and uploaded onto the internet. Now, in East London, some shops no longer feel free to employ uncovered women or sell alcohol without fear of violent payback.
Nawaz goes on to write: “[T]he Muslim patrols could become a lot more dangerous and, perhaps willing to maim or kill if they are joined by battle-hardened jihadis.” Muslims have been beaten up for smoking during Ramadan; non-Muslims have been forced to leave for carrying alcohol on British streets.
A recent report by Raheem Kassam cites British police officers who admit that they often have to ask permission from Muslim leaders to enter certain areas, and that they are instructed not to travel to work or go into certain places wearing their uniforms.
Here is the fulcrum around which so much of the problem turns: the belief that Islamic law has every right to be put into practice in non-Muslim countries, and the insistence that a parallel, if unequal, legal system can function alongside civil and criminal law codes adhered to by a majority of a country’s citizens. More than one non-Muslim has been ordered to leave “Islamic territory,” and some radicals have attempted to set up “Shariah Controlled Zones,” where only Islamic rules are enforced. Stickers placed on lampposts and other structures declare: “You are entering a Shariah Controlled Zone,” where there can be no alcohol, no gambling, no drugs or smoking, no porn or prostitution, and even no music or concerts.
A Muslim group in the United Kingdom has launched a campaign to turn twelve British cities – including what it calls “Londonistan” – into independent Islamic states. The so-called Islamic Emirates would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law and operate entirely outside British jurisprudence.
The Islamic Emirates Project, launched by the Muslims Against the Crusades group, names the British cities of Birmingham, Bradford, Derby, Dewsbury, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Sheffield, as well as Waltham Forest in northeast London and Tower Hamlets in East London as territories to be targeted for blanket Sharia rule.
All of this is, of course, illegal. The illegality could not be clearer. Here we see self-appointed disaffected Muslim entities, who take action to exercise the power of imposing law on the streets of European cities, and in practice the writ of Islamic law runs in many towns and cities. Not long ago, considerable numbers of Muslims from Paris and the surrounding region would enter the city and take over entire streets in order to perform the noon Friday prayer. Traffic was blocked, residents could neither enter or leave their homes, businesses had to close because customers could not reach them; and all the while, the police stood by, watching but not interfering, knowing that, if they acted to preserve the law a riot would ensue. Videos of these incidents are available online. In places where gangs of radicals operate as if they are a mafia, crimes such as honor killings, female genital mutilation (FGM), expulsion or worse of individuals considered apostates, and more, are known to take place. More commonly, many Western states are powerless to prevent forced and underage marriages, compulsory veiling,polygamy, and more.
The police, afraid of charges of racism and “Islamophobia,” are reluctant to take action: In 2014 and 2015, the police and social workers turned a blind eye for years to Muslim gangs grooming, prostituting, and raping young white British teenagers in cities such as Oxford,Birmingham, Rochdale and Rotherham. Professor Alexis Jay’s report on the situation in Rotherham alone showed serious failings on the part of several bodies from the police to social services. The offenses in these cases were, of course, a breach of sharia law, not an enforcement of it.1)See Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Umdat al-salik, trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller as Reliance of the Traveller, Beltsville MD, 1991 and 1994, p. 595, o7.3: “As for when an aggressor is raping someone whom it is illegal for him to have sexual intercourse with, it is permissible to kill him forthwith,” based on a statement from Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, the famous Shafi’i jurist [972-1058]. Yet there seems to have been an attitude, too, that Muslims are entitled to behave as they wish, and that British law enforcement is irrelevant. In the trial of nine men in Rochdale, Judge Gerald Clifton states in his sentencing that “All of you treated the victims as though they were worthless and beyond any respect – they were not part of your community or religion.” This statement alone seems to illustrate the heart of this problem.
But the clash between Islamic law and national law in several European countries has focussed more than anything on the establishment of sharia councils or sharia courts. These have provoked a wider debate than even Islamic finance, now well situated within the international banking system even though it is as if Germany under the Third Reich had its own banking system in which all transactions would go exclusively to strengthening the Third Reich. In the UK this year, it has been revealed that, in order to finance extensive repairs to the House of Lords and the House of Commons, a deal has been done to use Islamic bonds. One result of this is that peers and MPs will not be allowed to have bars or to consume alcohol on their own premises.
The Sharia court debate has been particularly intense in the United Kingdom, where attempts (some successful) to introduce sharia within the legal system have been made since 2008. Speaking to the London Muslim Council in July of that year, Britain’s leading judge, Lord Chief Justice Phillips, declared that he believed the introduction of sharia into the UK would be beneficial to society, provided it did not breach British law. It is that stipulation which has not been adhered to. Not many months earlier, in February, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Britain’s leading churchman — also, as Phillips, with a seat in the House of Lords — expressed the view that it would be appropriate for British Muslims to use sharia. He argued that “giving Islamic law official status in the UK would help achieve social cohesion because some Muslims did not relate to the British legal system.” He went on to say,
“It’s not as if we’re bringing in an alien and rival system; we already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land … There is a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some kinds of aspects of other religious law.”
That is where the debate began. Williams’s call for the introduction of sharia was rejected at once by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and by the Conservative peer and shadow minister for community cohesion and social action, Sayeeda Warsi. Warsi, herself a Muslim, argued as follows:
“The archbishop’s comments are unhelpful and may add to the confusion that already exists in our communities … We must ensure that people of all backgrounds and religions are treated equally before the law. Freedom under the law allows respect for some religious practices. But let’s be absolutely clear: all British citizens must be subject to British laws developed through parliament and the courts.”
One year before, however, sharia had already entered the country. An organization called the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal had set itself up on the basis of the 1996 Arbitration Act. It allows individuals and businesses to enter into mutually agreed consultation in which a third party decides between their competing arguments. Mutual agreement is, of course, the central plank on which the legislation is based. Muslim tribunals are limited to financial and property issues. They use sharia standards for intervention, not just between Muslims, but even between non-Muslims who wish to settle disputes using sharia standards. Since 2007, the MAT has opened tribunals in Nuneaton, London, Birmingham, Bradford, and Manchester. They are all considered legal, and their rulings can be confirmed by county courts and the High Court.
Acquiescence to the regularization of sharia within UK legal processes received a major boost for a short time when, in March 2014, the Law Society issued guidance to permit high street solicitors to draw up “sharia compliant” wills, even though these might discriminate against widows, non-Muslims, female heirs, adopted children and others. When the debate grew more heated and the Law Society was severely criticized, some months later it withdrew the guidelines and apologized for having introduced them at all. It was a healthy expression of the way open debate in democratic societies achieves results.
By that time, however, there were around 85 sharia councils operating — most of them openly, some behind the scenes, across the UK. They had all been granted recognition by the establishment. These councils are often confused with the arbitration tribunals, but are, in fact, quite different. A council (sometimes termed a court) functions as a mediation service — also legal in British law. However, the decisions of these councils have no standing under British law. They are usually composed of a small number of elderly men with varying degrees of qualification in Islamic law, and they generally issue advice or fatwas [religious opinions] based on the rulings of one or another of the main schools of Muslim law.
It is these councils that are the greatest cause for concern, especially the limited range of matters on which they issue judgements: marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. In all of these areas, the concerns rest principally on the treatment of Muslim women. Among the leading critics of Sharia on these grounds is one of the most visionary members of Britain’s House of Lords, Baroness Caroline Cox.2)Baroness Cox was made a peer in 1982, and since then has made an astonishing contribution to humanitarian causes worldwide, travelling to far-flung zones of conflict and human rights abuse, even at great personal risk. The first thing she did after her elevation to the peerage was to set off in a 32-ton truck for Communist Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union, to bring medical supplies behind the Iron Curtain. She was one of the first Western politicians to take the threat of Islamism seriously, setting out her arguments in a 2003 book, The ‘West’, Islam and Islamism. Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy? .
This concern with Islamism and its incompatibility with secular democratic norms focuses especially on the application of sharia law within countries such as the UK, where all citizens are considered to be equal under the law. Speaking about sharia courts in 2011, Baroness Cox declared,
“We cannot sit here complacently in our red and green benches while women are suffering a system which is utterly incompatible with the legal principles upon which this country is founded… If we don’t do something, we are condoning it.”
In May 2012, Baroness Cox introduced her first Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill in the House of Lords. The bill had its second reading in October that year, but went no farther. It was backed, however, by a considerable body of evidence presented in a document,Equal and Free?, from the National Secular Society. In June, 2015, Cox introduced a modified version of the bill. It had its second reading in October, and in November it reached the committee stage. It still has to pass a few stages before it may possibly move to the House of Commons, one day perhaps to receive Royal Assent and become law. It received a very warm reception from members of the Lords, with only one dissenting opinion, that of Lord Sheikh, a Muslim peer who sees little or no fault in anything Muslims say or do. However, the government minister, Lord Faulks, argued that current civil legislation is all that is needed to guarantee justice for Muslim women.
Matters are far from as simple as the government would like them to be. Sharia law is not a cut -and-dried system that can be easily blended with Western values and statutes. There is no problem when imams or councils hand out advice on the regulations governing obligatory prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, alms-giving, the appropriateness or inappropriateness of following this or that spiritual tradition, or even whether men and women may sit together in a hall or meet without a chaperone. For pious Muslims, those are things they need to know, and although the advice they may receive on some rulings will differ according to the school of law or the cultural practices of their specific community, that has no bearing whatever on British law.
But much more goes on beneath the surface. One problem is that it is difficult if not impossible to reform sharia. Legal rulings are fossilized within one tradition or another and given permanency because they are deemed to derive from a combination of verses from the Qur’an, the sacred Traditions, or the standard books of fiqh or jurisprudence. It is, therefore, hard to restate laws on just about anything in order to accommodate a need to bring things up-to-date within terms of modern Western human rights values. Many Muslims today may be uncomfortable about the use of jihad as a rallying cry for terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State, but no single scholar or group of scholars is entitled to abolish the long-standing law of jihad. Innovation (bid’a) is tantamount to heresy, and heresy leads to excommunication and hellfire, as has been stated for centuries. The growing influence of Salafi Islam is based precisely on the grounds that any revival of the faith means going back to the practices and words of Muhammad and his companions, not forwards via reform.
In the sharia councils there appears to be no formal method for keeping records of what is said and decided on. There is next to no room for non-Muslims to sit in on proceedings, and, as a result, neither the government nor the legal fraternity has any regular means of monitoring proceedings. Even Machteld Zee, whose forthcoming book, Choosing Sharia? Multiculturalism, Islamic Fundamentalism and British Sharia Councils, will be the first academic analysis of what happens in the councils, only spent two afternoons at a council in Leyton and an afternoon at one in Birmingham. Unannounced spot checks by qualified government-appointed personnel are not permitted. There is nothing remotely like the government schools inspection body, Ofsted, which has periodically (albeit not always correctly) gone into Muslim schools. So there is really no way of knowing just what happens, apart from the testimonies of women who have reported abusive or illegal practices.
Magistrates’ courts, county courts, and crown courts are all entirely transparent (except for matters dealt with in camera), full records are kept, and members of the public are free to visit and observe. The risks of allowing councils to pass judgements without there being an inspectorate to observe them are obvious. And if full records of proceedings are not kept, it will always be difficult to go back to examine a case in full should legal issues arise at a later date.
Furthermore, the British legal system has no say in the appointment of sharia council panels. There appears to be no agreed mechanism for appointments, and the source and identity of candidates remain causes for concern in several ways. There is no single range of qualifications for Muslim scholars (‘ulama) or jurisprudents (fuqaha’). Most will attend some sort of madrassa [Islamic religious school], and many will sit at the feet of a particular sheikh to obtain an ijaza from him: usually this means he is given permission to teach from a book written by that sheikh. Some will finish a course of study, but there may be little coherence. Growing numbers have qualifications from UK-based madrassas, notably from the Darul-Uloom in Bury or the higher standard equivalent in Dewsbury, although there are other Darul-Ulooms in the UK. In London, the junior classes are inspected by Ofsted, others not. Bury and other madrassas belong to the radical Deobandi form of Islam (based in northern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan). The Pakistani madrassas from which the Taliban emerged were and are Deobandi in belief. Many Saudi-funded madrassas in Pakistan have been used to recruit for jihad.
The Wahhabi-influenced Deobandis control a majority of mosques in Britain, but they are far from the only group with mosques and other institutions.4)Other Muslims of Pakistani origin have a Sufi-influenced Barelwi orientation, which, although it adheres to the same Hanafi law school, is constantly in conflict with the Deobandis. There are certainly more young Muslims training in the UK, and many of these experience difficulty with courses taught in Urdu, as at Bury. There are also smaller numbers of Salafi imams and scholars, many of whom come from Saudi-funded madrassas.5)For fuller details, see Innes Bowen, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam, London, 2014.
This situation grows more complicated when one adds the larger numbers of scholars and jurisprudents emerging from colleges in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. These tend to be very conservative and still play a major role providing imams and members of Sharia councils.
In sum, these variations in training, qualifications, linguistic abilities, and so on mean that there is no level playing field for expertise, but that there is considerable latitude with regard to the interpretation of sharia law. Very often, scholars with adherence to one branch of Islam will violently disagree with others. It is generally reckoned that sharia councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals are conservative, with few advocates for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in sight.
Finally, there is a less-known feature of modern sharia theory that impacts on Europe, North America, and elsewhere in the West. In classical Islamic theory, the world is divided between the Realm of Islam (Dar al-Islam), territories ruled by Islamic governments, and the Realm of War (Dar al-Harb), regions under non-Muslim control. Strictly speaking, a Muslim who finds himself living in a non-Muslim country is obliged to leave it and return to a Muslim state, usually somewhere within a Muslim empire. Strictly speaking, it is proper, even obligatory, for Muslims to live in non-Muslim countries when those countries are under Muslim rule, regardless of the size of the two populations. All the early Islamic empires had a majority of non-Muslims. Muslim expansion and imperialism meant that Muslims controlled territories where, at first, they were not in a majority. These territories were considered as Dar al-Islam. Later, when Muslims were expelled from places such as Portugal and Spain, those countries became Dar al-Harb and in the view of many Muslims, it became necessary to fight them in order to return them to Islam, as is happening with regard to Israel today.
When, in the 19th and 20th centuries, non-Muslim forces took control of Muslim lands, compromises became necessary. However, during the late 20th century and increasingly in the current one, large numbers of Muslims came to live in Western countries. With the 2015 influx of refugees into Europe, Muslims living outside Islamic territories have been faced with dilemmas about the application of sharia, especially where it conflicts with the civil laws of their host countries.
The response of many Muslim scholars has been to develop a new form of Islamic jurisprudence, fiqh al-‘aqaliyyat, “jurisprudence of the minorities.” This began in the 1990s, mostly through the efforts of two Muslim scholars, Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani and Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Alwani is president of the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Ashburn, Virginia (now part of the Cordoba University), and is the founder and former president of the Fiqh Council of North America, an affiliate of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA itself has, of course, long been identified as a front organization for the hardline Muslim Brotherhood. That connection becomes more visible when one looks at Qatar-based Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the leading ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi’s television program, al-Sharīʿa wa al-Ḥayāh, attracts an international following of some 60 million, and his comprehensive online fatwa site, Islam Online is consulted by millions.
The principles under which the jurisprudence for minorities operates are somewhat complex. Part of the debate concerns whether non-Muslim countries with large Muslim minorities are still the “Realm of War;” the notion is generally rejected. If Western states are not in a state of war with Islam, then Muslims are not obliged to leave them to seek refuge in an Islamic country. In that event, it is necessary to interpret sharia rulings to make it possible for Muslims to live in territories to which they have migrated, or in which they find themselves for limited periods, as in staying abroad to study. However, adjustments to Western ways do not permit actual change to sharia.
In 1997, the government of Qatar provided funding to establish an institution known as the European Council for Fatwa and Research, based in Dublin, Ireland. The council, whose president is Qaradawi himself, was set up under the auspices of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, another front for the Muslim Brotherhood, with close associations to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, Hamas. The ECFR has 32 members, roughly half from European states, the rest from North America, North Africa, and the Gulf. Its fatwas do little to integrate sharia norms within European societies. One fatwa declares:
“Sharia cannot be amended to conform to changing human values and standards; rather, it is the absolute norm to which all human values and conduct must conform; it is the frame to which they must be referred; it is the scale on which they must be weighed.”
The true significance of the ECFR and its international cast of member jurists is that it is an extra-territorial body that passes judgements, provides legal solutions, and adjudicates on all aspects of Islamic law. Its impact on national sharia courts, such as the British Muslim Arbitration Tribunal and the UK Islamic Sharia Council, cannot be calculated easily, but is certain to play an important role. If one reads the fatwas of the ECFR and the many online fatwa sites, it is clear that national sharia bodies in Western countries are operating outside the confines of British, French, and other legal systems. No European or American state can exercise full control over who serves on such councils, who influences them, and which rulings inspire their judgements.
Although the ECFR is the leading fatwa body in Europe, several other national organizations — in France, Germany, and Norway, for example — issue fatwas in other languages. Everywhere, the approach is much the same. Whether through conventional jurisprudence or the jurisprudence of minorities, there seems no clear path to improved assimilation of Muslims into European societies, and no accommodation of sharia law alongside Western, man-made law.
Unless reform enters the thinking of the Muslim clergy, Salafi Islam will continue to beckon Muslims to the past. Under strict sharia, the question remains: what is to become of the growing millions of newcomers for whom Western law codes are of secondary value — for whom they are, perhaps, just an obstacle in the path towards an ultimate goal of total separation from host societies?
In Sharia Law or One Law for All, I drew attention to another level of sharia rulings that provide fatwas for numbers of British Muslims, in particular of the younger generation. These are online sites: “fatwa banks.” Individuals or couples send questions to the muftis who run the sites, and receive answers in the form of fatwas that are considered authoritative. The questions and answers are preserved in galleries of rulings, which can be browsed by anyone seeking advice. The sites are by no means consistent, differing from one scholar to another. But they do provide an insight into the kinds of rulings that may be given in the sharia councils.
• a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam (such a woman’s children will be separated from her until she marries a Muslim man)
• polygamous marriage (two to four wives) is legal
• a man may divorce his wife without telling her about it, provided he does not seek to sleep with her
• a husband has conjugal rights over his wife, and she should normally answer his summons to have sex (but she cannot summon him for that)
• a woman may not stay with her husband if he leaves Islam
• non-Muslims may be deprived of their share in an inheritance
• a divorce does not require witnesses (a man may divorce his wife and send her away even if no one else knows about it)
• re-marriage requires the wife to marry, have sex with, and be divorced by another man
• a wife has no property rights in the event of divorce (which may be initiated arbitrarily by her husband)
• sharia law must override the judgements of British courts
• rights of child custody may differ from those in UK law
• taking up residence in a non-Muslim country except for limited reasons is forbidden
• taking out insurance is prohibited, even if required by law
• there is no requirement to register a marriage according to the law of the country
• it is undesirable to rent an apartment belonging to a Christian church
• a Muslim lawyer has to act contrary to UK law where it contradicts sharia
• employment by driving a taxi is prohibited
• it is allowable to be a police officer, provided one is not called upon to do anything contrary to the sharia
• women are restricted in leaving their homes and driving cars
• an adult woman may not marry anyone she chooses
• sharia law of legitimacy contradicts the Legitimacy Act 1976
• a woman may not leave her home without her husband’s consent (a restriction that may constitute false imprisonment)
• legal adoption is forbidden
• a man may coerce his wife to have sex
• a woman may not retain custody of her child after seven (for a boy) or nine (for a girl)
• a civil marriage may be considered invalid
• sharia law takes priority over secular law (for example, a wife may not divorce her husband in a civil court)
• fighting the Americans and British is a religious duty
• recommendation of severe punishments for homosexuals
• a woman’s recourse to fertility treatment is discouraged
• a woman cannot marry without the presence and permission of a male guardian (wali)
• if a woman’s ‘idda (three months, to determine whether or not she is pregnant) has expired and she no longer has marital relations with her husband, he is excused alimony payments
• an illegitimate child may not inherit from his/her father.
Some of these fatwas advise illegal actions and others transgress human rights standards as they are applied by British courts. They show vividly just how questionable it is to permit a parallel system of law within a single national system.
See Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Umdat al-salik, trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller as Reliance of the Traveller, Beltsville MD, 1991 and 1994, p. 595, o7.3: “As for when an aggressor is raping someone whom it is illegal for him to have sexual intercourse with, it is permissible to kill him forthwith,” based on a statement from Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, the famous Shafi’i jurist [972-1058].
Baroness Cox was made a peer in 1982, and since then has made an astonishing contribution to humanitarian causes worldwide, travelling to far-flung zones of conflict and human rights abuse, even at great personal risk.
Other Muslims of Pakistani origin have a Sufi-influenced Barelwi orientation, which, although it adheres to the same Hanafi law school, is constantly in conflict with the Deobandis. There are certainly more young Muslims training in the UK, and many of these experience difficulty with courses taught in Urdu, as at Bury.
For fuller details, see Innes Bowen, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam, London, 2014.
ATTENTION has again been focused on sharia law in Australia since the flogging of a convert in Sydney for drinking alcohol.
Sharia law is fundamentally the demand of Islamic states to limit citizens’ rights.
My organisation, One Law for All, has been campaigning against sharia and religious laws in Britain and its resulting ever-shrinking secular spaces and brutal and discriminatory laws, particularly against women, for nearly three years now. The same must be done in Australia and everywhere.
While the far-Right blames, and scapegoats, Muslim immigration for the rise in sharia law in order to further its racist and inhuman agenda, it is the people living under Islamic laws, or the many, who have fled sharia and sought refuge in Australia and elsewhere who are the principal victims of Islamism, and at the forefront of the struggle against it.
Nowhere is opposition to sharia and Islamism greater than in countries ruled by Islamic laws.
Islamic groups and Islamists will often feign representation of Muslims, while in fact Muslims, or those labelled as such, are not a homogeneous group like any other. There are rights activists, freethinkers, socialists, secularists, humanists and atheists among them. Sharia law is not the culture of Muslims but Islamist culture. The claim of representation by Islamists is in fact shared by far-Right groups (which by the way have more in common with the Islamists than not); they too wrongly assert that sharia is the consequence of an increase in the Muslim population. The call by proponents for the accommodation of sharia law in Australia does a great disservice to the many that have resisted, fled, and sought refuge in Australia even if it is primarily regarding sharia’s civil code.
As one supporter of the One Law for All campaign in Britain has said: “It is supported precisely because it is limited to denying women’s rights in the family. No hands are being cut off, so there’s no problem.”
In fact, sharia family law is a pillar of women’s oppression in countries under Islamic laws. And it often exists even when the penal code no longer applies.
Under sharia law’s civil code, child custody reverts to the father at a preset age, even if the father is abusive. Women who remarry lose custody of their children even if the child has not reached the preset age and sons are entitled to inherit twice the share of daughters.
Also a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. A woman’s marriage contract is between her male guardian and her husband, and a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim. A man can have four wives and divorce his wife by simple repudiation, whereas a woman must give justifications for requesting a divorce, some of which are extremely difficult to prove.
The Islamic Sharia Council in Britain explains why this is so: With regards to women’s testimony, if one forgets, the other can remind her. It’s the difference between a man and a woman’s brain. A woman’s character is not so good for a case where testimony requires attention and concentration.
And this also applies to divorce. Women are governed by emotion; men by their minds, so he will think twice before uttering talaq (divorce). It goes on to say it is not derogatory, but the secret of women’s nature.
While there is an obvious difference between stoning a woman to death and denying her the right to divorce and child custody, the fundamentals and misogyny behind sharia’s civil and penal codes are the same, it is just a matter of degree. It is deceptive, or at best a mistake, not to see the civil aspects of sharia law as part of, and an extension of, its penal code.
Despite the discrimination, proponents of sharia law argue that adult women have a right to choose sharia courts. But the use of the terms “choice” and “rights” are highly deceptive.
Firstly, many are pressured into going to these courts. In one study in Britain, a staggering four out of 10 women attending the sharia court were party to civil injunctions issued against their husbands on the grounds of violence and threatening behaviour. They were not even meant to be in the same vicinity with them — let alone be, as they were, in a Sharia Council mediating civil matters.
In this way, these privatised legal processes were ignoring not only state law intervention and due process, but providing little protection and safety for the women in question. Further, the interviews and observation data revealed that husbands used this opportunity to negotiate reconciliation, financial settlements for divorce, and in many cases access to children.
Also, there is very little choice when living under an Islamic inquisition. Islamists don’t let you pick and choose, but will threaten or intimidate anyone who transgresses their medieval norms. They say so openly.
An Islamic sharia judge in Britain has said, “in the sharia, there is no exception; you have to accept it”. They’ve also said very clearly, “belittling (sharia law) or calling (it) out-of-date constitutes disbelief as Allah says and we know what the penalty for disbelief is”.
Using terms such as “rights” and “choice” are merely public relations ploys by Islamists and their supporters. It’s absurd when Islamists talk of choice. There is no choice when they are in power. And it’s deceptive. One can justify anything by saying it’s a choice. The hadith on stoning comes to mind. It is said that a woman begged Mohammad thrice before he reluctantly agreed to stone her to death.
These are not choices. To say it is so is to say that Muslim women are sub-human. They don’t want custody of their children; they want to remain in violent situations and face marital rape or unhappy marriages, they want their testimony to be half that of a man’s. By using the terminology of choice, proponents hope to dupe the public into ignoring the institutionalised violence and misogyny in sharia law.
Rights, justice, inclusion, equality and respect are for people, not for beliefs and certainly not for inhumane parallel legal systems. Sharia law contravenes human rights. In order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all those living in Australia, there must be one secular law for all and no religious courts.
Maryam Namazie is the Spokesperson of the One Lawfor All campaign: www. onelawforall.org.uk. For more information, read Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights.
August 12, 2011 | Maryam Namazie | The Australian | Source: theaustralian.com.au "Australia must fight calls for sharia law"
by Dr Ameer Ali1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ameer_Ali_(academic)
B.A. Hons (Ceylon), M. Phil (LSE), Ph.D. (Australia)
Lecturer in Economics | 2015 Murdoch University | Email: A.Ali@murdoch.edu.au | Phone: 08 9360 2558
Printed Dec 2015 The West Australian Newspaper
Letter to The West Australian Newspaper:
With respect Dr Ameer Ali, (Reform of Islam rules is the key to success, Letters, 7/12) although your explanation about the historical relevance of the Islamic religion was highly informative, the reality about how Muslims should live in Australia and other western democracies is much more simple.
Government rules and regulations come first. Religion comes second.
Once a Muslim person (or any other religious person) is accepted onto these shores he/she/they are duty bound to live within the boundaries that our Australian Government has laid down.
We Australians are for secular governance, democracy and liberty, just to begin with, and should any Muslim, or any other religious person for that matter, have a problem with that, they should be sent right back from whence they came.
There is no (Islamic) interpretation necessary for this to happen.
No religious entity gets special treatment in this country.
Religious people in this country live first by the creed of our government and after doing this favorably, are they then able to (quietly) go about their religious beliefs and practices.
It is not incumbent upon our governments to understand religions.
It is incumbent upon our government to create a peaceful and harmonious environment for all people, religious or not.
Up until now, in this country, all religions and all governments have gotten along very nicely.
We want to see it remain like that.
signed EE (name and contact details withheld by 4cminews)
4cmiNews Review of Dr Ameers comments
1.0 IT IS TOO SIMPLE TO TREAT ISLAM AS A MONOLITHIC2)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monolithic_systemENTITY THAT NEEDS REFORM OR MODERNISED ISLAM.
Scope of Control: Behaviours, relations, transactions and relations, we now enter a minefield
4.2 Complex and fraught with problems is reform of these non core items because:
i. The complexity and differences are varied and many as these are based on interpretation of Quran, Biography and Sharia text with interpretation influenced by Historical, political, geographical and cultural context.
5.0 PROPOSAL TO SEPARATE THE CORE OF ISLAM FROM THE OUTER WORKINGS of conduct in humanity need to be worked through to ENSURE THE CORE 5 PILLARS REMAIN UNCHANGED.
6.0 THE LAWS OF BROADER ISLAM IS CALLED “FIQH”3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiqhwritten by Muslims for the Muslims when Muslims were the ruling power. and this law provided
i. Clear Guidance in a Muslim state towards Non Muslims.
ii. However No Guidance in a Non Muslim state to Non Muslims is not stated
7.0 UNIVERSAL CALIPHATE4)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldwide_caliphate: for Dr. ameer this is academic and a Utopian goal to bring all muslims under one rule with only secondary status to Non Muslims and dangerous to World Peace.
i. Dr Ameer appears to support a dualistic system of Civil and Sharia with Sharia being refined to harmonise with the dominant non muslim population, especially to civic loyalty a Non Muslim State and in respect to slavery and Hudud punishments that have passed there used by dates and need to be removed completely from broader islam throughout the world.
Beginning more or less with 9/11, the expression “radical Islam” became the accepted way for the media, politicians and public to define the religious and ideological foundations of Islam-based violence when referring to what the world calls “terror.” This expression was meant to be contrasted with “moderate Islam” which presents Muslims as ordinary people who wish to live in peace with all of mankind – Christians, Jews, Buddhists, unbelievers and the rest of us. The world created the image of two Islams, one radical and impossible to live with, and one moderate and “just like us.”
This differentiation between “radical” and “moderate” Islam is what gave rise to the claim that Islam had been “hijacked” by the radicals, implying that the real and original Islam is the moderate, not the false, radical one.
This is what allows today’s Europe to relate positively to the wave of mostly-Muslim illegal immigrants washing up on its shores – they represent “moderate Islam” and all they want is to live in peace and harmony with their European neighbors.
“TWO TYPES OF ISLAM”?
Permit me to raise some doubts concerning the psychological mindset that claims the existence of two types of Islam.
In order to do this, let us clarify an important point:
Islam is a text-based framework of ideas and behaviors, covering religion, culture, strictures, politics, law and economics.
It is an all-embracing way of life.
The most basic text is the Qu’ran, followed by the Hadith (oral law) and the Sura – biography – of Muhammad.
The Sharia, Muslim law, is a system of binding laws and injunctions that Muslims are obliged to obey.
There are no two Islams, no moderate one and no radical one, there is just one Qu’ran that includes everything: verses on Jihad and all out war against unbelievers along with verses that speak of recognizing the “other” and living beside him.
There are no two types of hadith, one radical and the other moderate; there is just one body of hadith that includes everything, both violent and moderate ideas.
Muhammad does not have a moderate biography and a radical one; there is only one life story of the prophet of Islam and it has stories that express a radical, violent approach and others presenting a moderate one.
There is also just one Sharia that includes everything, from the radical cutting off of a thief’s hands to the unquestionably moderate admonition to care for the poor and indigent.
1 not 2
That being the case, there is no “moderate Islam” and no “radical Islam”, just one Islam that incorporates both terms, ranging from extreme radicalism to extreme moderation.
In practice, we see people with different cultures, some of them extremists and some moderates, all finding verses,ideas, precedents and laws that support their views on life and society in the same Qu’ran, Hadith, Sura and Sharia. The radical Muslim chooses to quote sources that support his extremist approach, while the moderate Muslim finds sources to buttress his moderate approach.
Those two Muslims, the most extreme and the most moderate, are “kosher”, because they both rely on legitimate Islamic sources, and neither can claim that the other “hijacked” Islam.
All the Muslims in the world, all one and a half billion of them, men, women and children, are to be found somewhere on the moderate-extremist continuum. They may live alone or as part of families, tribes, organizations and societies.
Islamic State is a state established and continuing its operations with the participation and cooperation of a large body of Muslims and converts to Islam who are on the extremist tip of the continuum. Al Qaeda is right there next to them, as are Hamas, Hezbollah and all the other terrorist organizations. On the other end of the continuum, the moderate one, are the members of the “Muslims for Tomorrow” organization, a totally moderate group of Muslims living in Toronto, Canada.
Along the scale connecting the endpoints of the continuum, one can find all the other Muslims in the world, each one on a point of his choosing, somewhere between radicalism and moderation. His place on the continuum is a dynamic, not a static one, and a once moderate Muslim can undergo a process of radicalization, while another, who was an extreme radical can change his views and become more moderate. Life has a way of moving people along the continuum, making it harder to predict the future of an individual or group.
Moderate Muslim migrants live in harmony with the foreign societies to which they have migrated.
They blend in nicely, work for a living, are law abiding and contribute to the economy and society that absorbs them.
More radical Muslims who migrate to new societies tend to live in the enclaves that preserve their culture and way of life, only partially blending into society and the work force and constantly attempting to influence and change for their own ends the society that let them in.
If they are on the violent side of the continuum, that violence will be turned on the society that accepted them – a fact that is most evident in today’s Europe.
November 15, 2015 | By Dr. Mordechai Kedar | Source: breakingisraelnews.com “There is No “Radical Islam” and There is Also No “Moderate Islam” “
4cmnews presents you with a
SIMPLE Moderate Radical Muslim DIAGNOSTIC TOOL
KEY SIGNATURE: ‘INTEGRATION’
Live in harmony with the foreign societies to which they have migrated. They blend in nicely, work for a living, are law abiding and contribute to the economy and society that absorbs them.
KEY SIGNATURE: ‘CONGREGATION’
Establish enclaves, preserve their culture and way of life only partially blending into society and the work force and constantly attempting to influence and change for their own ends the society that let them in.
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• Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, sentenced to be crucified, was accused of participating in banned protests and firearms offenses — despite a complete lack of evidence on the latter charge, and he was denied access to lawyers. Al-Nimr is also alleged by human rights groups to have been tortured and then forced into signing a confession while in custody.
• Not only are the Saudi authorities preparing to crucify someone — in 2015 — whom they tortured into making a confession; they are preparing to crucify someone who was a minor at the time of arrest.
• Alas not a week goes by without Saudi Arabia demonstrating to the world why they retain their reputation as one of the world’s foremost human rights sewers.
• Crucifixion is a punishment which, it would appear, is not only Sharia-compliant but also — we must assume — Geneva-compliant.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva is an organization that may be easy to critique, but it is very hard to satirize. Ordinarily, if you told anyone that there was a place in Switzerland where Sudan, Iran and others of the world’s worst dictatorships and human rights abusers have their views on human rights treated with respect and deference, you would assume the script was written by Monty Python. Idi Amin would make an appearance at some point to share his views on how to improve equal conditions for women in the workplace. Pol Pot would crop up in order to castigate those countries where living standards had not been sufficiently raised in accordance with global averages.
Everything that happens in Geneva is beyond satire. But last week provides a demonstration, outrageous even by the standards of the UN. For this week, it came out – thanks to the excellent organization UN Watch — that Saudi Arabia has been appointed as the head of a key UNHRC panel. This panel selects the top officials who shape international standards in human rights; it is intended to report on human rights violations around the world. The five-member group of ambassadors, which Saudi Arabia will now head, is known as the Consultative Group and has the power to select applicants to fill more than 77 positions worldwide that deal with human rights issues. It appears that the appointment of Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the UNHRC, Faisal Trad, was made before the summer, but that diplomats in Geneva have kept silent on the matter since then.
That this appointment had to leak out months after the event raises the possibility that the UNHRC, contrary to popular perception, actually does have some sense of shame. Otherwise, why not shout from the rooftops that Saudi Arabia has won this prestigious position? Why not distribute a press release? After all, Saudi Arabia — and by extension the UNHRC — have nothing to be ashamed of, do they?
Alas not a week goes by without Saudi Arabia demonstrating to the world why they retain their reputation as one of the world’s foremost human rights sewers.
Saudi Arabia may have beheaded more people in the last year than ISIS, but only rarely do any of these cases get more than a flicker of international attention.
Occasionally a case breaks above the waves of public opinion. One such case is that of the jailed blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced last year to 10 years in jail and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam.”
The plight of Raif Badawi, who has already been served the first 50 lashes, and is being held in prison while awaiting the rest, has garnered international attention and condemnations of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s response has been strongly to denounce “the media campaign around the case.”
But the glare of international opinion clearly disturbs the Saudi authorities — a fact well worth keeping in mind. And it is not as though they have nothing to hide. This week brings a case that should get at least as much attention as that of Raif Badawi.
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was just 17 when he was arrested by the Saudi authorities in 2012, during a crackdown on anti-government protests in the Shia province of Qatif.
He was accused of participating in banned protests and firearms offenses — despite a complete lack of evidence on the latter charge. Denied access to lawyers, al-Nimr is alleged by human rights groups to have been tortured and then forced into signing a confession while in custody.
Campaigners say that it seems he has been targeted by authorities because of his family association with Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the 53-year-old critic of the Saudi regime who is his uncle.
The Sheikh has also been convicted and sentenced to death.
After the confession and “trial,” his nephew was convicted at Saudi’s Specialized Criminal Court and sentenced to death. The trial itself failed to meet any international standards. Al-Nimr appealed against his sentence, but this week that appeal was dismissed. It now seems likely that he and his uncle will now be executed.
Because charges include crimes involving the Saudi King and the state itself, it seems likely that the method of death will be crucifixion.
Imprisoned Saudi dissidents Raif Badawi (left) and Ali Mohammed al-Nimr (right).
If this were in any way to cause a flicker of concern among other participants in the UNHRC farce going on Geneva, they have at least some consolation.
For in Saudi Arabia crucifixion is not what it used to be.
Indeed, in Saudi Arabia crucifixion begins with:
• the beheading of the victim and only then
• the mounting of the beheaded body onto a crucifix, to make it available for public viewing.
This is a punishment which it would appear is not only Sharia-compliant but also — we must assume — Geneva-compliant.
Of course, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr counts as having been a juvenile at the time of his arrest, so not only are the Saudi authorities preparing to crucify someone — in 2015
– whom they tortured into making a confession
– they are preparing to crucify someone who was a minor at the time of arrest.
Perhaps the authorities at the UNHRC in Geneva do indeed blush when they appoint Saudi officials to head their human rights panels.
But it does not seem to affect their behaviour. Just as Saudi authorities think it is “international attention” rather than flogging people to death or crucifying them after beheading that is the problem, so the UNHRC in Geneva seems to think it is public awareness of their grotesque appointments rather than the appointments themselves that are the problem.
The international attention paid to the case of Raif Badawi has not yet seen him released, but it seems to have delayed the next rounds of lashes.
Which suggests the Saudi authorities have the capacity to feel some shame.
This should in turn be a cause for some hope among everyone who cares about human rights. It should also provide a reminder to everyone to increase global attention on the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and the many others like him who suffer under a government and judicial system that should utterly shame the world outside Geneva, even if it cannot shame the UN.
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