Monday, February 16, 2009

God Spare Us From Religions That Make the Laws of the Land

I read with interest the report of journalist Saeed Shah in Islamabad dated February 16, 2009. The headline simply read “Pakistan Makes Deal To Enforce Islamic Law In Northwest Region”.

Let me give you the background: Pakistan, forced by Taliban militants, has agreed to officially enforce Islamic (sharia) Law in parts of its country. In exchange the militants will agree to a ceasefire there. The country’s president insists the Taliban are “trying to take over the state” and warned against the deal. Up to now, the U.S. has strongly opposed any attempt by Pakistan to negotiate with the Taliban. The area involved is not wild or remote or tribal but heavily overrun by Taliban and al-Queda.

One think-tank analyst there is calling this a surrender, arguing that “if you keep treating a community as something different from the rest of the country, it will isolate them.” A retired judge points out that now there will not be one law in the land and foresees further disintegration. “If you concede to this, you will go on conceding.”

The deal-maker for the militants is a local Islamic leader who once led hundreds of men to fight with the Taliban against the U.S.-led coalition. Pakistan freed him recently when democracy was restored, although the U.S. was against it doing so. (But hey, you’ll never hear the press drawing that to anybody’s attention as something the U.S. did right considering what’s happening now.)

The ‘signee’ for the government, the regional leader for the area, Hajji Adeel said the goal was “to speed up the justice system.” Of course, there is no proof that it will do that. Adeel’s real motive is revealed in his next statement, “If six months ago, sharia had started working…the intensity of the terror there would have been much less.” Whether or not that is true can be checked out six months from now. But the fact remains bullies and militants get their way because no one strong enough to defeat them is supported any longer. Where this may lead is anybody’s guess, but you can bet it ain’t going to be pretty. Not for the country, not for the non-Islamic inhabitants, and certainly not for the Islamic women who may end up being judged by sharia. Already in this region the Taliban have been enforcing their brutal version of Islamic Law that includes public floggings and summary execution. That’s their ultimate goal, not just “observer” status in the courtroom.

The Provincial Law Minister said, “It’s not that we are giving in to their demands, rather we are demanding of them to restore peace first.” You could have fooled many of us. Here’s the part I found most interesting. The way this will work is that Islamic “religious experts will sit in on the court alongside a regular judge to ensure that rulings are in compliance with Islam.” Wow, can you imagine that in the free world? Baptists and Pentecostals and Catholics and Jews sitting in “alongside a regular judge to ensure our rulings are in compliance with each of their faith’s belief systems.” Not a chance. Nor would the majority of us want that.

But in Pakistan and other countries where Islam has either an upper hand or a strong presence, it’s okay. Or is it? What if the so-called religious experts do not agree with the ruling? Then what? Can they overturn it? Will they just file a “dissenting report”? Will they scream and yell and bring out the militants again to get their way? No one knows, so, “no thanks”. I would rather go with rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. Let the courts of the land judge those that fall into their hands, including the Christians. But let us as Christians (and I’m sure the Jews would want to do likewise) settle our own differences within the Body.

Back in northern Pakistan, the militant deal-maker (who is not a Taliban by the way) has only managed to get a 10-day ceasefire from the Taliban during which they will consider whether or not the deal is a good one. Right. The deal-maker still has a lot of persuading to do.

The Pakistani president concedes that the future of the country is in grave danger from the Taliban, present in huge parts of the country. He said the Taliban are “trying to take over the state of Pakistan” and “we’re fighting for the survival” of Pakistan.

But of course in the West we actually debate long and hard over whether or not we should allow sharia law in various jurisdictions even without Taliban presence (at least that’s the case in parts of Canada, but I’m sure the U.S. won’t be too far behind – just think of the money that a full application of sharia law for all Muslims would save the Obama administration that could be diverted to more bailouts of wall street executives). No, in the West no one will admit that we’re “in grave danger” or that “we’re fighting for our survival”. That would be politically incorrect.

I am not against anybody’s law. I am against any religious law becoming the “law of the land.” Thank God that in North America we ‘lost’ that battle long ago.

At least that’s the way I see it. I’d welcome your comments.

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