The Ideology Problem in Timbuktu Is Not al-Qaeda’s Making — It Is Classical Islam
Andrew’s post describing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Mali is essential, if excruciating, reading. Beyond the monstrously cruel but all too usual punishments being imposed, I’m struck by two things, which really show how willful blindness leads inexorably to spring fever: The Guardian attributes the atrocious penalties to the “menace of al-Qaida”; it also notes, however, that the “ban [on music] comes in the context of a horrifically literal and gratuitous application of Sharia law in all aspects of daily life.”
Much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, al Qaeda did not make up sharia law. Islam did. And in the West, it is a key tenet of due process that law is imposed literally — ambiguous laws violate the principle that people of ordinary intelligence must be on fair notice of what is prohibited. There’s nothing “gratuitous” about applying as it is written.
We can keep our heads tucked snug in the sand, or we can recognize the source of the problem. As I detail in Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, the literalist construction of sharia that al Qaeda’s local franchise is enforcing in Mali is “literal” because it comes from Islamic scripture, not from some purportedly “extremist” fabrication of Islam. Moreover, while it seems only militant jihadists proudly urge this construction in practice, it is enthusiastically endorsed in principle by two of the most influential institutions in the Islamic Middle East: al Azhar University and the Muslim Brotherhood.
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