Sharia: It’s Closer Than You Think
Amina Lawal, a 30-year old woman accused of adultery, was tried in a Nigerian court and found guilty. She was a divorced mother who bore a child out of wedlock. For her crime, she was sentenced to execution by stoning, a fate that “would involve being buried up to her neck in sand and have rocks thrown at her head.”1
What type of legal system demands such punishment? Islamic Sharia law—the same system used to persecute Christians in Muslim countries and the same system now approved for Muslims in Ontario, Canada, contrary to Canadian law.
Sharia literally means “the path to the watering hole.”2 The Qur’an refers to it in 45:17 in a section on kneeling: “Then we gave you a Sharia in religion, follow it, and do not follow the lust of those who do not know.”
In Saudi Arabia, it is Sharia that leads to beheadings in the town square. Punishments also include, but are not limited to, floggings, lashings, and amputations.
The system, wrote journalist Susie Steiner, “denotes an Islamic way of life that is more than a system of criminal justice. Sharia is a religious code for living.”3
Calling the Sharia “law” can be somewhat misleading because it extends far beyond law into the private religious, political, social, and domestic lives of citizens. In most cases, it enforces the religion’s demand of total submission or death.
According to Lynn Welchman, the director of the Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, “Sharia governs the lives of people in ways which are not governed by the law.” And she said, “A lot of states in the Middle East are taking more elements of Sharia into their state laws.”4
But Sharia is making inroads far beyond the Middle East. In Canada, Homa Arjomand heads a movement to stop the use of Sharia there. According to an article titled “Ontario Sharia Tribunals Assailed” by Lynda Hurst in the May 22 issue of the Toronto Star, Homa and her husband paid smugglers $15,000 to get them and their two children out of Iran in 1989. But now Canada is allowing a group called the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice to settle Muslim marriage, family, and business disputes in Ontario using Sharia.
“Arjomand was horrified,” wrote Hurst. ‘”The last thing I expected in Canada, the last thing I want, is Sharia law,’ she says. ‘Women are not equal under it, therefore it is opposed to Canada’s laws and values. The government can’t let this happen.”‘
But, Hurst reported, “The government has no intention of stopping it.” In the United Kingdom, “a new generation of white converts [are] being recruited into British Islamic organizations with links to al Qaeda.” The militant al-Muhajiroun group packs them in on Friday nights to hear messages denouncing the West. In an article in the Observer, Burhan Wazir quotes Anjam Choudry, the group’s UK chairman:
Al-Muhajiroun has one goal. . . .We would like to see the implementation of the Sharia law in the UK Under our rule this country would be known as the Islamic Republic of Great Britain. To do that, attracting young Asians is not enough. So we are making a conscious effort to recruit large numbers of non-Muslims.5
In the United States more than 150 chapters of the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) now exist on American college campuses. Wrote Jonathan Dowd-Gailey in Middle East Quarterly,
At a meeting in Queensborough Community College in New York, in March 2003, a guest speaker named Faheed declared, “We reject the U.N, reject America, reject all law and order….The only relationship you should have with America is to topple it….Eventually there will be a Muslim in the White House dictating the laws of Shariah.6
Amina Lawal’s execution was postponed until January 2004 until she finished nursing her infant. Fortunately, Amina recently escaped her fate and was freed due to an enormous public outcry in the West, including an email crusade by popular American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. Unfortunately, the same pressure is not being applied to help Christians, also condemned by Sharia.
Nigeria, interestingly, has a “Christian” president who has made it clear the federal government will not dispute the use of Sharia. Said President Olusegun Obasanjo, “Sharia is not a new thing and it’s not a thing to be afraid of.”7
Amina and Homa Arjomand no doubt would disagree.
- Susie Steiner, “Sharia Law,” August 20, 2002 [www.guardian.co.uk/theissues/article/0,6512,777972,00.html].
- Burhan Wazir, “Essex boys sign up for ‘holy war,”‘ February 24, 2004, [http://observer.guardian.eo.uk/islam/story/0,1442,65 6221,00.html].
- Jonathan Dowd-Gailey, “lslamism’s Campus Club: The Muslim Students’ Association, Spring 2004 [www.meforum.org/article/603)]