Sharia Law: Coming to a Western Nation Near You? [Excerpts]
Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMSU) [hosted] a conference on October 23 that asked the loaded question: “Is There a Role for Shari'ah in Modern States?”
The Saudi-funded ACMSU and its founding director, John Esposito, one of the foremost apologists for radical Islam in the academic field of Middle East studies, have certainly been doing their bit to make the idea more palatable.
The Saudi prince for whom ACMSU was named has been pumping millions of dollars into Middle East studies at Georgetown, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and beyond, and as the case of Esposito demonstrates, it magnifies the voices of scholars with a decidedly uncritical bent. As a result, ACMSU analysis regarding Sharia (or Islamic) law tends to focus not on its injustices (amputation, stoning, hanging, honor killing, punishment for blasphemy, execution of apostates, persecution of non-Muslims, sanctioned wife-beating, female genital mutilation, and so on), but rather on repackaging it in ways that will appeal to Western sensibilities. The concept of a more “moderate” version of Sharia law that is compatible with democracy is at the forefront of this effort.
While it’s difficult to predict exactly what will take place at the upcoming ACMSU conference, the fact that Esposito will present the opening remarks provides considerable insight into the politics of the event.
Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, a book co-authored by Esposito and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Dalia Mogahed, has been widely criticized for its blatant inaccuracies and attempts to whitewash anti-Western and extremist sentiment in the Muslim world. Accordingly, Sharia law is framed in a non-threatening fashion. As Robert Satloff put it in the Weekly Standard:
…Amazing as it sounds, according to Esposito and Mogahed, the proper term for a Muslim who hates America, wants to impose Sharia law, supports suicide bombing, and opposes equal rights for women but does not “completely” justify 9/11 is . . . “moderate.”
At the Newsweek/Washington Post “On Faith” blog earlier this year, Esposito referenced his book as a means of downplaying concerns over support for Sharia law in the Muslim world:
…for many any mention of Sharia is often equated facilely with Taliban-like laws. In fact, as the Gallup World Poll shows, majorities of mainstream Muslims (women as well as men) want some form of Sharia, religious values, as a source of law. This sentiment is not all that different from a majority of Americans who want to see the Bible as a source of legislation. (See Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think)
But comparing Sharia law under a dictatorial or clerical regime to biblical inspiration in a secular, democratic nation is like comparing apples and oranges. Yet this is precisely the kind of moral equivalency one expects from Esposito at the ACMSU conference.