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Aug 20

Written by: Diana West
Friday, August 20, 2010 4:07 AM 

Tariq Ramadan holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva. In Cairo, Egypt he received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars. He is currently Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University while also teaching at the Faculty of Theology at Oxford. He is at the same time Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha Universoty in Japan and president of the European think tank European Muslim Network. He has called for a moratorium on the shariah-sanctioned practice of stoning.

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This week's column:

Stonings at Ground Zero -- that'll be the day, right? The concept has no manifestation beyond the cold sweat of a dark-hours nightmare. Still, there's something worth gleaning from the not-so-free association process that inspired it.

It clicked when I read a riveting investigation by Christine Brim at BigPeace.com into scrubbed website material of the Cordoba Initiative, the Internet home of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, he of the Ground Zero Mosque. In this trove of information, curiously deleted from the current Cordoba Initiative website, lie key clues to Rauf's long-term program, the Shariah Index Project, whose "goal," as stated in the "hidden" material, is to "define, interpret and implement the concept of the Islamic state in modern times."

What is Shariah? It is the body of sacred laws that regulates public and private life in Islam. How does the Shariah Index Project fit into the planned mosque complex? Very easily, argues Brim. After accounting for the 13-story building's stated uses, from its mosque to its athletic and other facilities, Brim identified six undesignated stories. That's a lot of empty office space. But with its global spread, the Shariah Index Project just might be the perfect tenant.

Since 2006, Rauf has coordinated a series of international meetings with Shariah experts ranging from Muslim Brotherhood associates to Iran's Mohammad Javad Larijani, "who," as Brim reports, "has justified torture of Iranian dissidents as legal punishments under Shariah law."

That's not all Larijani, who heads Iran's Human Rights Council (for real), has justified. He has also justified Shariah-sanctioned stoning. As Anne Bayefsky recently reported, Rauf's picture with Larijani (and former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference Sada Cumber) disappeared from the Cordoba Initiative website, too.

So much to hide -- but the Shariah is out of the bag.

What would expanding Shariah mean here? More halal-butchered livestock leading, as in Europe, to halal-only menus? More midnight football practice during Ramadan? More sex-segregated swimming pools? More incitement to jihad in "radical" mosques? More "apostates" living in fear? More self-censorship, I mean "respect," when it comes to discussing Islam?

An excellent benchmark of Shariah's remarkable and, think of it, post-9/11 progress is that none of the above manifestations of Islamic law -- all designed to sync society with Islamic practice -- are shocking to us. Indeed, marital rape, permissible in Shariah culture wherever it spreads, got a "religious" pass from a New Jersey judge last month (overturned by an appellate court). Death by stoning, however, still seems to take everybody's breath away as those who read about last weekend's Taliban stoning in Afghanistan, I hope, would agree.

In brief, a couple -- he, 25, married and with 2 kids; she, 19 -- eloped before being lured to return to their town. They were then seized by the Taliban, who, as the New York Times reported, convened a Shariah court of mullahs from surrounding villages.

Verdict? Guilty. More than 200 local villagers, including family members, proceeded to stone the couple to death. "People were very happy seeing this," a local told the paper, who described a "festive" atmosphere.

"Let me tell you that according to Shariah law, if someone commits a crime like that, we have our courts and we deal with such crimes based on Islamic law," said a Taliban spokesman. The paper noted: "Perhaps most worrisome were signs of support for the action from mainstream religious authorities in Afghanistan."

"Worrisome," indeed -- particularly to American soldiers advised to remove their protective ballistic glasses and get to know these people. (Repeat after me, as Gen. Petraeus says: "The human terrain is the decisive terrain.") Still, Kunduz Province is not Lower Manhattan. Why the bad dreams about stoning?

I promised a study in free association. Imam Rauf's efforts to advance Shariah law, which sanctions stoning, have involved Iran's "human rights" chief, a public advocate of stoning. What next sprang to mind was the polished and educated form of Tariq Ramadan, the celebrated European Muslim "moderate" and grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. Why? Infamously, Ramadan has refused to condemn stoning, calling merely for a "moratorium." Once, Ramadan's "moderate" stoning position stood out; now it fits into the nightmare -- only not for Ramadan, or Rauf or Larijami.

For them, at Ground Zero and elsewhere, the Shariah dream continues.

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