The first link discusses the Islamic law called Shar’ia or Shari’a law. The second link discusses and provides an embedded YouTube video of Governor Christie’s comments to the press about the appointment of a Muslim to a judge in his state of New Jersey. To summarize the second link: Governor Christie has taken a lot of criticism for appointing a Muslim lawyer who defended early cases of terrorism after September 11, 2001. Some conservatives, extremists and fundamentalist Christians, including Reverend Cain who is running for Republican nomination on the 2012 presidential election, have fired away that this lawyer will uphold Shar’ia or Shari’a law in an American courtroom and rule against the United States’ Constitution. He has called the criticism “crap” and denies that the newly sworn in judge will rule with Islamic law over American law. Sohail Mohammed was sworn in today. The people he represented, according to Christie, were wrongly accused of terrorism in the days following the terrorist attacks that felled the World Trade Center twin tower and killed over 2,000 people. He is supporting him because he is a good lawyer. He calls people accusing Mohammed “crazies” and maintains that in order to be licensed in New Jersey, a lawyer must swear to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the constitution of New Jersey. So it all begs the question, in light of Osama Bin Laden’s threat to “destroy the Beast from within”: Is Shari’a law dangerous?

The first link describes in detail what Shari’a law is. As a recovered Sufi Muslim (why yes, I am feeling better now), I have a grasp on what Shari’a law really is and can summarize it for you. Shari’a law involves scholarly interpretation of law gleaned from the Qur’an. The scholarly declarations differ from one another drastically from country to country, Sunni to Shi’ite, scholar to scholar. Most Muslims entertaining Shari’a law believe that it is the law of God (Allah) directly. Many Islamic Republics hold Shari’a law as the law of the land and there are conservative, extremist and fundamentalist interpretations (such as the ridiculousness that the Taliban imposed in Afghanistan) and there are progressive interpretations of the law. Lines are blurred typically by the conservative, extremist and fundamentalist interpretations and in some places where it dominates law, often determining how one should dress, eat, and pray; but also it defines crime, economy, politics, covered in secular laws and it defines religious laws to follow for Muslims in general. The Shari’a (which in Arabic means many things such as “the way to water”, “the way”, “the path of life”) are detailed in different definitions in the countries where it is held as sacred and secular law.

Fiqh, which means in essence “laws” is Islamic jurisprudence. It is based on the early years of the Muslim faith when many scholars (Fiqih) were forced to make decisions about governance of the law of God (Allah). These scholars formed the laws in accordance to their interpretation, there are four prominent schools of law (called madh’hab within Sunni dictates and two in the Shi’a or Shi’ite dictates. Reflective of Christianity, Imams (preachers, priests, spiritual leaders of the Mosque) can share some political power as well as the responsibilities of the Mosque. However, Shari’a law is in some ways very different than Christian laws because whole countries apply the law to all their people regardless of the will of some of the people. Primarily, the Islamic Republics and Kingdoms that follow Shari’a law enforce this law with a heavy hand, controlling the masses in accordance with scholarly interpretations. Now, let’s get to the meat of Shari’a law.

Technically there are three traditional prospective Shari’a. Sunni, which takes the Qur’an into consideration and the consensus of Mohammad’s companions along with the Islamic jurists. Salafi, which take the first three generations of Muslims as a source of their law (Wahhabi is lumped in with this group. They threatened the King of Saudi Arabia and gained some political control there). The last is Shi’a (Shi’ite) who believe that the 12 Imams were descendants of Mohammad, their ideals are more clearly the true Islamic way and lace the Qur’anic law with the law of the 12 Imams and add that logic and intellect dictates laws best from the Qur’an and Surrah. The laws somewhat differ, but there is a basic gist to them that is relatively clear and well defined. The Shari’a is the will of God for mankind. All behavior fits into five categories. Obligatory behaviors are required of all Muslims and includes prayer, fasting, obligatory charity, faith articles, and the Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca. The pillars of Islam are born of the obligatory behaviors. Recommended behaviors cover marriage, family life and funerals, while this covers most civil law as defined in the west, one who is not practicing the recommended behaviors can be taken before a judge. Neutral behaviors are all behavior which is neither discouraged nor recommended, neither forbidden nor required. Discouraged behavior, while not sinful all on it’s own is exactly what it says it is. These laws can hold someone criminally liable for actions. Forbidden behavior determine dietary laws and modesty dress (Hijab) and all forbidden behaviors are sinful and criminal. All behaviors are drawn from the accounts of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad.

Shari’a law is divided into five main branches: ritual worship, transactions and contracts, morals and manners, beliefs, and punishments. Some break it down into 11 branches and they are called “Reliance of the Traveler”. Either way Shari’a is broken down, it boils down to the exact same core and ingredients. Divorce can be initiated by a man or a woman or annulled by a special judge. Polygamy is allowed as long as the man can support all his wives equally, but women are not allowed more than one husband. A child will stay with it’s mother until she is done breastfeeding, but he or she can make her own choice whom to live with at 7 orb 8 years old. In cases of intended or unintended battery, intentional murder or kind of intentional murder, the family of the victim (in the case of murder) or the victim decides the punishment. These crimes can be punished with a various degree of methods considered cruel and unusual punishment in United States law. Rape, pedophilia, sodomy, adultery, sodomy, lesbianism, sodomy rape, waging war against the faithful, armed robbery, terrorism, blasphemy, intoxication (alcohol is forbidden in Islam and so are any drug that intoxicates the user), and theft are tried by a judge. Sexual crimes must have four witnesses. Other crimes require two. Circumstantial evidence is not considered. Sexual crimes can result in execution, so can terrorism, armed robbery and violent crime. Sometimes, judges (who are scholars and trusted by the community) can order a woman who committed adultery to be stoned to death. The crimes and punishments in the last section are meant to serve as an example to others who might be thinking of committing a crime. Jail time punishments are not irregular, neither is paying “blood money” to a victim’s family which might closely imitate civil “wrongful death” cases where restitution is paid to the family. Tazir crime, which is pretty much everything else not mentioned in other dictated laws, are punishable by the state in some countries while in others they are the ones most often prosecuted. There are a variety of punishments from community service to death. There are no prosecutors, defendants or plaintiffs. There is no jury. There is just the judge. The Taliban, who managed to convict people to the death penalty just because it seemed they could, ignored the Islamic law of “forgiveness”. If a victim or victim’s family forgives the guilty party before execution, that person will be pardoned. Slander and gossip is a sin. Women, except in secular countries, do not have many rights underneath Shari’a law, though they are still allowed to divorce an abusive husband with the proper amount of witnesses, which is two if violent and four if sexual. The rights of women vary between very conservative, extremist and fundamentalist countries in comparison to progressive countries. To give you a bit of a clue, Jordan is considered progressive while Iran is considered conservative. The Taliban, who made women wear the burqa, were ultra extremists and fundamentalists. The judges and some scholars that do not practice law but are familiar with it often poked fun of the Taliban, wondering “which Sura will they desecrate next”.

5hari’a law, when compared against the law of the United States, varies very deeply and does not afford people rights as defined in the Constitution. So that begs the question: Is this Muslim lawyer turned Judge going to uphold Shari’a law? First, the only thing attributed to him being a fundamentalist Muslim is drummed up by hype hungry and sensationalistic Christian conservative sites. There is no substance to these accusations, yet they point at his defending the terrorists in the wake of September 11th is kind of erroneous. While I will be the first person to denounce the Qur’an and Shari’a law right along with Christian conservative morality, I hold serious doubts that this new judge would actually be stupid enough to do that. Being appointed to the supreme court of New Jersey is a big accomplishment for any lawyer, I do observe that Islamaphobia is running rampant in this circumstance. Until Judge Mohammed fails to uphold the laws he has sworn to uphold and protect, I reserve judgment that he is a secret Jihadi looking to manipulate western culture under the leadership of Bin Laden, especially since he is dead and buried in the ocean. I cannot say that I am particularly happy about any person of strong faith no matter what that faith is being in control of any lawmaking, amendment adding, position in the United States mainly because they will gauge things according to their faith if they are conservative, extremist, and fundamentalist before they gauge things in accordance with the law. There are a brave few who are people of faith that do uphold the laws of the land regardless of their faith. Again, we shall see what we shall see when he makes rulings in his new position.

The practice of the extremist’s view of the Shari’a is very dangerous to women’s rights, cruel and unusual punishment, fair trial by a jury of one’s peers, equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the very same way Christian extremist’s views are. The Constitution of the United States is wholly incompatible with Shari’a law no matter how one can draw parallels between the two. To both sides of the conservative, extremist, fundamentalist viewpoint: I am not, under any circumstances, going to wear your “burqa”.