Monday, July 30, 2012 5:40 AM
Saudi religious authorities decided it was a necessity to break Islamic law to permit infidel troops to defend "the Kingdom," and we call Saudi Arabia an ally. Osama bin Laden didn't agree it was a necessity, and declared war on America. But they all thought the Islamic law against infidels was swell.
Ruthfully Yours highlights an important article by Mark Durie discussing the Islamic "Law of Necsessity." In a nutshell, this law is an escape hatch for Muslims from any Islamic law that impractically or disadvantageously conflicts with circumstances. Such circumstances are the subject of much Islamic debate. In fact, it's probably true that the single most significant internal Islamic dispute is over what specific circumstances should trigger "law of necessity" exceptions to Islamic law -- not over the morality and import of the draconian legal code itself. It is in this practical -- in no way philosophical -- dispute where the West vainly seeks "moderates" and "allies." What our blind and willfully blind leaders find are temporary friendlies driven by expediency, not innate compatibility.
Because Islam's "Law of Necessity" fully permits Muslims to find creative ways to adapt when Sharia Law conflicts with practical life, the argument that societies are obliged to make concessions to privilege all the demands of strict Sharia Law is considerably weakened.
This is an Islamic argument, of course, that the West must reject or else fully enter the Islamic orbit. What's interesting here, however, is that Islam actually provides Muslims with a legal mechanism to accept the Western way without blowing up.
Islam Is a flexible religion: religious obligations allow exceptions, subject to circumstances. Muslim religious scholars balance countervailing obligations to determine when exceptions apply. Understanding such balancing of necessities in Islam is not only important for public policy, but also for understanding how an identical set of religious beliefs can be used to justify war or peace, terrorism or peaceful coexistence.
"Flexible" is not the word that comes to mind when I think of Islam, but it should. Maybe "slippery" is a better word. Indeed, as Durie writes, the Law of Necessity is the codification of the creed, "the ends justify the means." Citing the Olympics, which are running during Ramadan, Durie notes that many teams are not fasting according to religion exemption. ( Morocco, however, for example, is fasting). Optimum atheletic performance in most cases is considered a greater Islamic good than fastng atheletes. This instantly made me think of Afghanistan, where Ramadan-fasting Afghans have repeatedly killed Americans and other mainly-Christian forces for eating or drinking during the Muslim holiday. According to Durie's argument, had the Law of Necessity been invoked by Islamic authorities, a quick religious dispensation approving of Christians and others eating during the Muslim holiday from an imam or two (for whom US troops have built mosques) could have prevented this.
But such a ruling wasn't determined to serve Islamic ends. And our leaders didn't force the issue, or even understand the issue. I'm not suggesting our generals invoke Islamic law. They should have laid down our law -- stop shooting our troops for drinking water, or else. Leave it to the Afghan elders to sort it out and preach it to the masses.
Durie notes that Muslim Brotherhood "spritual advisor" (read: jihad advisor) Yusuf al-Qaradawi "has written extensively about the jurisprudence of `balancing necessities.' He explains that interests and pros and cons of any deed must be balanced, one against each other and weighed carefully."
The results invariably deceive to the ignorant West, as, for example, when warpath-jihadists show support for a female political leader. It's not that Islam is coming around to a philospical acceptance of female equality, which is how the West will always see it. It's just a passing exception to Islam's repression of women as codified under Islamic law. Rather than reward a faux-change of heart by coddling Islam, the West should continue to press Islam to make similar exceptions, particularly where Western troops are concerned, and by Muslims living in the West itself.
The possibility of balancing necessities needs to be taken into account when organizations and governments are faced with demands that they make concessions for the sake of complying with Islamic Sharia Law. Because the Islamic "Law of Necessity" fully permits Muslims to find creative ways to adapt when Sharia law conflicts with practical life, the argument that societies are obliged to make concessions to privilege all the strict demands of Sharia Law is considerably weakened.
Non-Muslims in particular need to take balancing necessities into account.
Consider Sheikh Ahmed al-Mahlawi of Egypt who accepts that it is not a sin for Muslim religious scholars to see women in the streets with unveiled faces: the need for Muslim scholars to get around in public places outweighs the prohibition against men seeing women's unveiled faces. He boasted, all the same, that he had compelled a US consular official to wear the hijab [headscarf] when she met with him.
The Islamic rule of thumb here is if you can play 'em, play 'em. Durie notes:
If the U.S. official had been better informed, she might have asked that Sheikh al-Mahlawi take a more moderate, balanced approach.
She might have refused to submit to the hijab, pointing out that the Sheikh copes very well with looking at the unveiled faces of women whenever he goes into the street. ...
Oh, happy day. But no. We submit. Our female officials submit to hijabs -- a disgrace that speaks ill of our male officials as well -- because we do not establish conditions that make it an "necessity" for Islam to exempt its acolytes from dress codes when meeting women of Christian, Jewish and other faiths. It's a power struggle, pure and simple, and we are losing. One way to begin winning again is to announce there will be no such meetings if the precondition is to cover our female officials.
Some Muslim governments would permit Islamic law to be hold such meetings about; others would not. But what's important to realize is that it is mainly over when and where to break the law is where Muslims differ -- not over the law itself.
Consider the difference in opinion between the Saudi leaders and Usama Bin Ladin concerning the presence of American soldiers in the Kingdom after the invasion of Kuwait. Bin Ladin opposed this infidel 'occupation'. In his 1996 fatwa declaring war on America he counted the presence of US soldiers as "one of the worst catastrophes to befall the Muslims" since the death of Muhammad.
Saudia Arabia's Grand Mufti and supreme religious authority Sheikh Ibn Baz, however, allowed American troops into Saudi Arabia, although in another fatwa he had stated that Christian servants could not be employed in Arabia:
"It is not allowed to have a non-Muslim maid. It is not allowed to have a non-Muslim male or a non-Muslim female servant, or a worker who is a non-Muslim for anyone living in the Arabian peninsula. This is because the Prophet Muhammad ordered the Jews and Christians to be expelled from that land. He ordered that only Muslims should be left there. He decreed upon his death that all polytheists must be expelled from this Peninsula. (Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women, p. 36 compiled by Abdul Malik Mujahid).
Both Usama Bin Ladin and the Saudi authorities agreed on the principle that infidels could not be permitted to live in Saudi Arabia. What they disagreed on was how to balance this against other requirements, such as the need to safeguard the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This difference was enough to trigger Bin Ladin's war on America.
What distinguishes a jihadi terrorist from a more peaceful Muslim, therefore, may not be any fundamental difference in belief, but, as in the West, merely in a given instance, how the religious legal principles of his faith should be applied.
But hand-in-glove, they all work to advance Islamic law.