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06 August 2011


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Byron Raum

About the cutting off of hands...We are not very far from a time when it would be possible to grow back a severed limb. Even today, it's possible to have mechanically attached devices that are surprisingly versatile. How would Islamic jurisprudence adjust to changing times?



Why is it bad symbolic law? Don't we have the same restrictions - written or unwritten - against Christianity and its intrusion on public life? How does it turn around and become truly bad law?

And you did not address the second part of my question. Just as Sharia doesn't pose a threat to the US now, the real problems of Muslims in the US don't reside in Sharia either. The problems are in various sorts of discrimination and scrutiny they are subject to by virtue of being Muslims. Isn't the political debate over Sharia a means of obscuring this?

Re: Qutb. You gave an anecdote, I replied with an anecdote. I don't hold Qutb to be an exemplar of anything, though he is certainly more known and more influential than the anonymous person of your anecdote.

Since we are talking of exemplars, Pakistan holds itself to be a bastion of Islam. When I argue that Pakistan is nowhere close to that - I've used exactly the lines that your anecdote did, probably long before your anecdote - that by the spirit of Islam, USA is dar-ul-Islam - I'm called a hate-monger by Pakistanis. My stand is that Pakistan is Islamic until advised by competent authority otherwise. And that is the root of all my concerns.



I believe a more appropriate comparison is what does one do after having cut off a convicts hand when it is discovered afterwards that that individual was innocent? There are many examples in this society of wrongful convictions.


The kind of thing that concerns me:



I do not think that "Islam" is a threat to the US.

However, I find it difficult to accept statements like "Islam is not inherently at odds with democracy". I think quite the reverse. "Talaq, Talaq, Talaq", springs to mind. Not to mention the fact that a woman's testimony is given half the weight of that of a man's. How many women are on Sharia Councils? And this is just scratching the surface.

I am no expert, but based on my experience I would submit that Islam would need to mutate beyond anything recognizable to its founder, pbuh, before it could be considered compatible with democracy.

The notion of "restorative" justice is all well and good, but can also lead to the wealthy and powerful buying their way out of criminal behavior, if not combined with notions of protecting society and deterring future misconduct. It seems to me we have a pretty darn good balance in the US. The civil system most certainly picks up any slack from the criminal system. Wrongful death, anyone?

The Eighth Amendment would unlikely tolerate amputation and disfigurement. That is a medieval way of dealing with crime, and belongs stuck in the middle ages.

An armed robbery, regardless of whether physical harm is done, causes damage and psychological harm in the form of immediate fear of great bodily harm and any subsequent trauma. There is a reason assault is a crime.

Just my two cents.


Babak Makkinejad


Which on would you chose; 15-years in a Federal prison or having lost a limb - even if proven innocent?

Or take the case of Rodney King - why not have Rodney King administer the same number of beatings to the officers involved and call it quits? Rather then firing the officers and ruining their lives for a one-time mistake? Or take the example of vandalism by young men: why not cane them?

[I realize that would require the introduction of the Office of the Executioner again.]


It is your opinion that a 15-year mandatory sentence is Just. Why not, for the same reasons, make rape a federal crime with the same punishment?

About Eight Amendment: there is well-known case of a former fellon who violated Illinois gun laws and now he is rotting in jail for illegal posession of hand-gun. You think that is not cruel and unusual?



I will agree that our society needs to reform it's penal system, however this society chose a different path many generations ago and the methods you've proposed would not be accepted here.

Regarding the problems America faces with respect to crime and punishment, especially in the last few years, one should look at the money in the prison industrial complex, not ideas of 'justice'. What do you think the income stream is on a 15 year incarceration? How many such inmates do you need to make a profit on your 'for profit' prison? How much are you willing to spend to get one or more states or even the nation's laws changed to enable that?

The Nation just published a recent article about just that - as well as the corporate sponsored American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) role in helping write the underlying laws.

Hopefully they will do a follow up on the number of judges attending ALEC 'educational' seminars at luxury resorts - at taxpayer expense. Nothing beats co-opting two branches of government.


Babak Makkinejad


Thank you for your response; especially the profit angle which had never occurred to me, as well as the link.

Of course, US has a different tradition. But I also wanted to point out that Shria is not some sort of monstrosity which is beyond pale.

Note that Sharia, at least, recognizes victims' rights. I find that superior to Western conceptions in that regard.


Raymond Davis, who shot two Pakistanis, got off by paying blood-money (diyya). Certainly turned out to be a superior form of justice for him.




Pakistanis keep insisting that kidnapping Hindu and Christian girls, forcibly converting them to Islam and marrying them is as per the Shariat. How is that not a monstrosity?



Wiki tells us Saudi Arabia has enacted qisas.

"In Saudi Arabia, when a person has been killed or caused to die by another, the prescribed blood money rates are as follows[8]:

* 100,000 riyals if the victim is a Muslim man
* 50,000 riyals if a Muslim woman
* 50,000 riyals if a Christian or Jewish man
* 25,000 riyals if a Christian or Jewish woman
* 6,666 riyals if a man of any other religion
* 3,333 riyals if a woman of any other religion"

Babak, I ask you - is that in accordance with the Sharia?


This is the rule in Iran as per Wiki:

In Iran, a further refinement on the hierarchy of rates has been devised: variations are also based on the month of the Islamic calendar that the crime is committed in. The Iraninan Judiciary system announces a table of the prescribed amounts each year.[citation needed] During the four haram months, when wars and killings were traditionally discouraged in the Arabian peninsula and later in the larger Islamic world, the blood money rates stand doubled.[citation needed] The rates for female victims is half that for male victims in murder cases, but equal in cases of insurance and accidental death.[citation needed]

As in Saudi Arabia, the rates for bloody crimes committed against Iranian non-muslims used to be half the rate prescribed for Muslim victims, but this was changed by "equitable", progressive-minded legislation in early 2004.[citation needed] This legislation was initially rejected by the Guardian Council but was later approved by the Expediency Discernment Council.[citation needed]

Members of the Baha'i Faith are excluded from the provisions of the equalization legislation, as their blood is considered Mobah, and as such no blood money is payable to families of Baha'is who are murdered.

Sharia may not be a monstrosity in the abstract, but why is every implementation of it so monstrous?

Simple - the underlying premise of the Shariah is that the Muslim is the pinnacle of God's creation, and everyone else is a lesser being. It doesn't quite fit in with the democratic spirit of the modern US of A.

Perhaps Adam Silverman should go and find out what people actually think.


Changing the subject, this was written by an alumnus of Rutgers University:

"The consensus globally, well into the middle of the 19th century, about the experiment that was the US was that its separation from the mother country was a terrible mistake. While the US continued to be plagued with wars and ultimately the civil war and was largely impoverished when compared to its European cousins, Great Britain saw a phenomenal rise cementing its colonies worldwide, becoming the premier trading and commercial power of the world. At the time, I imagine, many Americans would have questioned the wisdom of separating from the British Empire, which was socially, culturally and economically far ahead of the US."

What works would I consult to see if there is any truth to the above assertions?



Who do you think is writing the Wiki 'excursions' into Islam and Sharia? One sees their bibliography and cites, but who/whom do you think inputs the information, and who makes the decisions to input' what particular info? I have found Wiki to be a pick and choose kind of source. And I have found my self puzzled and scratching my head on occasions with some of their 'inputs'.

Who do you think is making their input decisions and what to input in particular?

Babak Makkinejad


The kidnapping of women by Pakistanis, as you allege, is not endorsed by Sharia. Therefore, I respectfully decline to comment further on it.

There is, you may know, widespread kidnapping of women in China (and from Vietnam, Laos, etc. to China). I do not believe that the governments of the states involved or their legal codes endorse such activities.

In regards to Saudi legal codes dealing with blood money; if I understand your point of view, you are calling them a monstrosity because they are discriminatory based on confessions. I think I would just state that they are discriminatory and leave them at that.

I would like to observe that since there are almost no Saudi Citizens that are either Jews or Christians, these legal codes are also mostly irrelevant to the day-to-day administration of the Law in that country.

The piece that you quoted about blood money in Iran is accurate. And clearly the Shari and its Shia practitioners in Iran can demonstrate flexibility and indeed promulgate changes to the legal codes that had not been altered for 1000 years. So to me, the equalization of blood money in 2004 in Shia Iran was a step forward. I do not understand why anyone would call it a monstrosity.

[There is more to this, in fact. A father who has raped and killed her own daughter could not be executed due to blood money. So the head of Iranian Judiciary branch at the time, Ayatollah Shahroudi, authorized the payment of the blood money from state funds so that the execution order could be carried out.
No doubt, in US and EU, they would just lock up the fellow for a few years and then let him go; a monstrosity as far as I am concerned.]

Islamic Law does not recognize the Ba’hai, the Sikh, the Hindus, the Jains, the Druze, the Yazidis, the Ahamdis, the Buddhist, the Animists (Idol Worshippers – really), the Adherents of Confucius etc. are not recognized as True Religions.

I do not know how the law in various Muslim countries deals with the issue of blood money for such people and I think that is a more interesting subject to investigate since both in Afghanistan and Iran there are Sikh communities and I would be curious to know their experiences in this regard.


Andrew Sullivan on "Flog them, don't jail them"


Byron Raum


All of them? "Pakistanis keep insisting that kidnapping Hindu and Christian girls, forcibly converting them to Islam and marrying them is as per the Shariat. How is that not a monstrosity?"

Please allow me to offer you a view of another monstrosity: ascribing the views of a few to an entire nation. I know a few Pakistanis, as, most likely does everyone on this board. They are not monsters.

Bill H.


"If Muslims have learned, whatever the ultimate origin, that attacking civilians is never acceptable"

My point is that I'm not certain that they have. Perhaps I did not express myself as clearly as I should have.

People do not always answer the question which is asked, often they respond to the feeling within themselves which are evoked by the question, and those feelings may be somewhat at odds with the actual question. That is a major weakness in polling, as it can be argued that the phenomenon is quite common.

In this case my question is, are Muslims actually responding to an inner voice which says "the act is inherently wrong" or are they responding to an inner voice which says "the act is occurring to my people and I want it to stop" instead? There is a significant difference between the two responses, but they result in the same answer to the question.

Babak Makkinejad

Bill H. & Others:

Will you please be a bit more precise about which Muslims do you have in mind when using "Muslims"?

Does that include, for example, African-American Muslims?

Or do you have in mind these Muslim Bangladeshi immigrants who are ekeing out an existence in Hamtramck, Michigan?

Or when you speak of the "inner voice" of a Muslism - do you have in mind also the Israeli Arab Mulsims?



I appreciate your writing. I, like most Americans, am mostly ignorant of what actually constitutes "Sharia" law. As much as the 'founding fathers' and their views are trotted out to justify one position or another I think few even know those opinions. I recently read John Adams Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, which might have some indirect bearing on this discussion, especially as US law grew out of a Western, tradition and not that of the East or Near East (for want of better terms).

Roy G.

Bill H., your skepticism could equally be applied to US popular support for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and all the other little GWOT incursions, as well as torture and black site rendition. The big difference is that 'the act' is occurring to other, less exceptional people, halfway around the world.


Byron Raum:

What I posted is not about the kidnapping and conversion of infidel women in what is Pakistan is not an isolated instance. It has been ongoing. I'm unaware of any fatwa against such.

The underlying principle is the same as with land or with regular converts - once something has become of Islam, no matter how, freely or coerced, it cannot leave Islam legally as per the Sharia.

Kidnapping and conversion is ongoing in Sindh, where there is a residual Hindu presence. This is from May 30, 2011: ""In Karachi alone, Hindu girls are kidnapped on a routine basis," Amarnath Motumal, an activist and council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told India Today. "People are scared. The kidnappings and conversions are done by influential people of the region. The victims prefer to remain silent to save their lives.""

I will mention two more historical instances.

In 1923-24 there were Hindu-Muslim riots in Kohat. At that time Mahatma Gandhi was allied with Muslim leaders over the Khilafat movement + the non-cooperation movement with the British. Shaukat Ali and Mahatma Gandhi went to investigate the riots; they could not come to agreement. Shaukat Ali maintained that the riots were over some Hindu writing disrespectful to the Prophet. The facts, which Mahatma Gandhi found, is that Muslims had been doing the usual kidnapping and conversion, and this time the Hindus had brought cases to the British law. It was devastating to Mahatma Gandhi that Shaukat Ali could not bring himself to even condemn such kidnappings and conversions.

For the second one, as brief as possible (before you read it, you should know that Khan Shahib referred to below was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, and that the British were upholding law&order).

"A case that was to gain considerable notoriety was the forcible conversion to Islam of a pregnant Sikh girl who was also coerced into marrying one of the gang members reponsible for the murder of her husband. As a result, the Sikh evacuees threatened not to return to their homes, a move that was bound to slow down any reversion to normal conditions.... To silence the critics, she was produced before the district magistrate where she swore she wanted to rejoin her faith. To squash wild rumors that this was false and that she was being coerced, the premier had invited Abdul Qaiyum and other League leaders to hear her testimony. Even though persuaded of the truth, they refused to yield the political high ground they now occupied. Khan Sahib, they charged, was not behaving as a true Muslim. Having allowed his own daughter to marry a non-Muslim (her husband, Jaswant Singh, who was a pilot in the Royal Indian Air Force, was actually an Indian Christian, not a Hindu, as the League charged) he was now privy to a Muslim girl reverting to her Sikh faith!" (Parshotam Mehra, The NWFP drama 1945-47).

You'll say "where is the Sharia in this?" It is in the understanding that reversing the coerced conversion is against Islam; and in the failure of any non-secular Muslim authority to condemn this.

This is also not confined to Pakistan. In Malaysia where there is a Hindu presence, there have been these kind of coerced conversions. The courts there have ruled that the conversion is not reversible.



Bryon Raum,

Show me any other than a secular leader of Pakistan (like Muhammad Ali Jinnah) who has condemned the kidnapping and forcible conversion of infidel women.




You have not answered the question as to why every implementation of Sharia that has existed has discrimination against non-Muslims and women built into it.


Babak wrote: "I would like to observe that since there are almost no Saudi Citizens that are either Jews or Christians, these legal codes are also mostly irrelevant to the day-to-day administration of the Law in that country."

The qisas laws apply to non-citizens as well. Saudi Arabia's population as of the April 2010 Census was 27,136,977: 18,707,576 Saudi nationals and 8,429,401 non-nationals.

A good number of the non-nationals are Christians and Hindus.

What is common among all the Muslims I have met or interacted with, is making excuses for Saudi Arabia. That has become good reason for me to suspect their "liberal" credentials.

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