Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Middle East and the West Have the Same Problem: Liberty vs. Those Claiming a Monopoly on Truth

By Barry Rubin

A liberal member of Tunisia's parliament, discussing the writing of that country's new Constitution, brilliantly defines the entire issue of Islam and politics in one sentence. But before telling you the sentence, here’s the background.

The debate, as in Egypt and Libya, is over whether to make Islamic law, Shari’a, the fundamental basis of society. Note that this is usually written into constitutions that Sharia is "the main source of law." But if that's done it means that every detail of every aspect of life would be set by Shari’a.

An Islamist member of parliament said the Constitution must do so in order to be “responsive to the demands of the revolution.” In other words, he claims that Tunisia had an Islamist revolution. The same is being said regarding Egypt and Libya. Perhaps someday soon there will be more countries added to that list.

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In Iran and the Gaza Strip there is no such debate because those who rule are certain that their revolutions are Islamic.
Now, here’s what Nadia Chaabane of a tiny liberal party says, the most important sentence that could be uttered on this subject: “Shari’a...needs a lot of interpretation.”

She added, “Whose version will we follow? Moroccan interpretation, for instance, is not the same as Iranian….”

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If it hadn’t entangled her in apparent support for the old regime she could have added, the historic Tunisian interpretation as well.
Now actually a slightly edited the sentence to make the theme clearer. What she actually said is: “Shari’a is so vague and unclear; it needs a lot of interpretation.” Of course it often isn't so "vague and unclear." The Islamists often--perhaps I should say "usually"--have a strong argument when they talk about cutting off hands, killing converts to other religions, stoning women, suppressing Christians, hating Jews, and fighting Jihad.

Yet, as with all religions, that doesn't change the fact that interpretation is still needed and that in Morocco and pre-revolution Tunisia or pre-revolution Iran, for example, the interpretations that governed social behavior were much more liberal.

Quote of the Day: "The hearts of world leaders are with us without a doubt, but we prefer their guns, for in the fight against the likes of Assad, only guns can make a difference. We learned this lesson the hard way."
--Syrian Revolution Digest – March 7, 2012 

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