Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sharia-phobia?

Kenyans have voted and the new constitution has been accepted.

See:
Kenyans Approve New Constitution
By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, 5 Aug 2010

New constitution for Kenya as 'No' team concedes
By Tom Odula, Associated Press, 5 Aug 2010

No need to apologise, Moi tells clerics
By BEATRICE OBWOCHA and RENSON BULUMA, The Standard, 8 Aug 2010

2010 REFERENDUM PROCESS AND OUTCOMES
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE KENYA CHRISTIAN CHURCH LEADERS
Thursday, 05 August 2010

On the entrenchment of Kahdi Courts

Before the referendum, Kenya's retired Anglican Archbishop David Gitari, head of the Christians for Yes campaign, maintained that Christian fears over the entrenchment and legitimisation of Kahdi (Islamic/Sharia) courts were misplaced. "There is a lot of sharia-phobia in the Christian church," he said.

Sharia-phobia?

International Crisis Group's July 2006 report entitled "Islamic Law and Criminal Justice in Aceh", is worth revisiting, for Aceh can serve as a model for how Sharia not only divides Muslims, but has a tendency to expand once implemented.

The ICG report notes that the Muslim Acehnese have long been divided over Sharia. During Indonesia's battle for independence Acehnese elites clearly expressed their preference for Dutch-style secular administration. Even Aceh's ulama (religious scholars) were divided between those who favoured secular administration and those who wanted an Islamic State based on Sharia Law. ICG notes that for many, the issue had more to do with power than ideology - the elites did not want a religious bureaucracy established that could expand and threaten their authority, while the Islamists were determined to establish a formal religious bureaucracy from where they could expand and advance their influence and power.

ICG notes that the leader of the Acehnese Islamists, Daud Beureueh, led the Acehnese in jihad against the "kafir" Dutch occupier specifically with the aim of achieving an Islamic state. Sukarno courted and rewarded Beureueh with assurances that Indonesia would be built on Islamic principles and Aceh would have Sharia Law. This was radical as Sharia had no historic precedent in Aceh.

After Suharto's downfall, President Habibie offered Islamic Law to Aceh as a political solution to Acehnese unrest and disaffection, which really arose out of neglect and frustration. ICG reports that Jakarta regarded Sharia law as "something the Acehnese wanted (although how much was debatable - after the Indonesian parliament granted it, one Acehnese called it an 'unwanted gift', and he was not alone)". (ICG p 4)

Since Sharia has been legitimised and implemented in Aceh it has expanded considerably, for the religious bureaucracy tasked with codifying and implementing Sharia in Aceh is committed to "its own expansion; a focus on legislating and enforcing morality; and a quiet power struggle with secular law enforcement".

According to ICG, many Acehnese worry "that extension of Shari'a has been taken on as an agenda by conservative organisations. . . Women's organisations have been particularly active in raising questions about proposed changes to the khalwat qanun [laws on relationships between men and women] but in general, the conservatives, who support more extensive Shari'a application, are more vocal than those concerned about its consequences".(ICG p7)

The religious bureaucracy constantly extends the reach of Sharia by revising legislation and increasing the number of crimes that can be dealt with by the Sharia Courts. It has already been proposed that revisions be made to the laws covering khalwat (illicit relationships between men and women) so that any woman who alleges she was raped must follow Sharia protocols and produce four male adult Muslim eye-witnesses to support her claim in order to prove it. If she cannot, she will be found guilty of making a false accusation of rape, guilty of illicit sex, and caned accordingly.

In 2004, Aceh established the highly unpopular vice and virtue patrol, the wilayatul hisbah (WH), which is responsible for monitoring compliance with Islamic law. Not only did Aceh's WH grow from 13 members to 33 in one year, its powers are constantly increasing. What's more, the very presence of the WH is fueling the rise of hard-line Islamic vigilantism.

ICG also notes that as the religious bureaucracy expands it will rely more and more on young recruits who are motivated primarily by their contacts with intolerant radical foreign elements, in particular Wahhabis, jihadists, and groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

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Secular law and Sharia law are not parallel systems. Rather, they are conflicting systems that intersect continuously. The question eventually must arise, when the laws conflict, which is supreme?

In secular, free Malaysia the solution has been to give the Sharia Courts jurisdiction over everything pertaining to Islam -- including the right to leave Islam. (Sharia prohibits apostasy, so all requests to leave Islam must be denied.)

See: The Islamisation of Malaysia
By Elizabeth Kendal, WEA RLC New & Analysis, 7 June 2007.

Bid to nullify conversion fails
Straits Times, 4 Aug 2010

In Kano, in secular, free Nigeria, the Hisbah (vice and virtue Islamic police) constantly clash with state police overconflicting issues of morality, including the sale of alcohol.

See: Nigeria: The Battle for Shari'ah Supremacy
by Elizabeth Kendal, for WEA RLC News & Analysis, 20 March 2009

Kano State’s Islamic Police Destroy 80,000 Bottles of Beer
The Nigerian Inquirer, 4 Aug 2010

Now they are entrenched in the constitution of secular, free Kenya, the kadhi Courts are destined to grow in administration and influence. They will be divisive, and a force for Islamic expansion. What will be the situation now for Christians who are apostates from Islam? If a man converts to Islam will he be permitted to take a second wife? What will be the fate of Christian children deemed Muslim by khadi courts on account of the conversion of their father?

The rod of repressive Islam might not touch the flesh of Dr David Gitari, but it will certainly strike any Kenyan Muslim who puts their faith in Jesus Christ, and any Kenyan Christian caught up in the web of Islamic family law.