The Modern World in the West has a number of terrible problems that come from its wealth and ease, its licentiousness, and the profound ignorance of its people about how they came to be so rich and fortunate, as compared to almost all other people at all other times in the history of the world. We have discussed these problems in this space from time to time.
It is certainly arguable that what the West needs as a corrective to its failings, narcissism, and spiritual void is an infusion of religion. There are those even on the Left in America who argue that. However, it is hard to make the case that Islamic sharia law would be a useful corrective, based on the empirical evidence from sharia societies. In general, we observe that the closer the interpretation of sharia is to a literal reading, as with Taliban and Wahhabi Islamists, the worse things are for the men and women who live under such strictures.
We have previously argued in this space that sharia law is incompatible in important ways with the Judeo-Christian-Enlightenment tradition of law that America and the West are heir to. It is our contention that the more closely a society adheres literally to a seventh century book as the last word on law and the proper organization of society, the more dysfunctional that society will be in the Modern World. Today, we thought we’d take a moment to see what the empirical evidence seems to indicate.
In our view, sharia has a very poor track record as a legal system and means of organizing a society in the technologically oriented and globalized Modern World. Here are some categories for your consideration:
1) Poverty. Sharia societies are very poor as a consequence of their ideology. The total GDP of the Arab world, minus oil revenues, is less than that of tiny Finland. To make a side-by-side comparison, Israel’s GDP per capita is about 20x that of Egypt. China has gone from nothing to a $2 trillion economy over the last quarter century while Iran has stagnated for 25 years under revolutionary Shiism at a small fraction of China’s GDP. These are self-inflicted wounds of sharia.
2) Unemployment. Sharia socieites experience mass unemployment. Iran’s youth unemployment is 34% or more, Saudi Arabia’s unemployment is 25%, and the Palestinians have unemployment of 25-40% (Israel’s is 9%). Interestingly, these dysfunctional numbers in sharia countries carry over to Muslim populations in the West: in France and England, Muslim unemployment is 3x the national average. (We can’t help recalling the words of Khalid ibn Al-Walid on loving death over life when we read these depressing statistics.)
3) Technology and innovation. Sharia societies have a dreadful track record on innovation, the mother’s milk of keeping up in the Modern World. Saudi Arabia recently went six years without issuing a patent, Iran issued only one patent a couple of years ago, and Indonesia issued 30 patents over the last five years. By contrast, China went from issuing zero patents thirty years ago, to hundreds of thousands today. In the US, more patents were issued last year to the people of Utah than have ever been issued in the entire history of all sharia societies combined. (We recall Bernard Lewis’s oft-repeated comment that Islamic languages do not have a good equivalent for the word “curiosity.”)
4) Freedom of speech. There is little freedom of speech in sharia countries, as the Cartoon Riots all over the Islamic sharia world (and among those in the West who want sharia imposed) amply demonstrates. Freedom of speech only exists where freedom of controversial speech is tolerated and protected, and the Cartoon Riots demonstrated completely and for all time where Islamic sharia societies stand on this matter. A corollary of free speech is free expression in all the arts, and here too sharia societies have generally an awful track record.
5) Freedom of the press. Freedom of the press does not exist in sharia countries where journalists are jailed or killed for failing to toe the party line. We quote from a Somali Muslim journalist: “In the House of Islam, you cannot have a principle other than that of the community. Every thing you do is referred to Islam. The mantra is â€œthatâ€™s stupid BUTâ€¦But we cannot do this because we are Muslims.â€ One hears this expression ad nauseam. In the Islamic world you cease to be a human being. You become only a Muslim, whatever that entails. You are not allowed to be a person with vices and virtues, you cannot follow your own reasoning, and you cannot be unpopular or defend an unpopular idea. You cannot go out of the circle. To express yourself freely means to risk death. And death indeed if you change your faith. Invention itself is considered as an act of blasphemyâ€¦Censorship in the Islamic world is instilled at childhood.”
6) Freedom of religion. Sharia societies frown on or prohibit the free exercise of religion. Sharia societies like Saudi Arabia do not permit churches or synagogues on their soil. Moreover, Sharia societies put apostates to death or exact other punishments for ceasing to believe in Islam. Christian schools and churches have been attacked in Pakistan, Indonesia, Palestine and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Sharia societies celebtrate Jihad as the means to spread sharia law globally, and establish Islam as the dominant or only religion.
7) Women’s rights. Sharia societies are famous for their lack of women’s rights. In strict sharia societies women cannot drive cars, vote, or walk the streets unaccompanied. Other restrictions are even more ridiculous. The recent comment by a prominent imam that women without the hijab were “uncovered meat” who were instruments of Satan is indicative of the attitude sharia societies take towards women, and their view of the God-given natural perquisites of men. We refer you to these other discussions by Shrinkwrapped, Dr. Sanity, and neo-neocon for further reference.
9) Mental health treatment. Mental health treatment in sharia societies appears to be appalling. The West’s dominant belief is that humans are flawed, and often have issues that result from childhood experiences, internal conflicts, and unconscious impulses; these can be treated through psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, or medication. By contrast, in sharia societies, man was created with a fitrah, an inherent nature that is “pure and sinless.” The Freudian concept of the unconscious is rejected. Instead, “being crazy in the Islamic perspective mean that one is possessed by the jinn” (demons). The Islamic belief is that a “perversion cannot possibly be innate.” As a consequence, people with psychological troubles are “treated with the Koran”. In Pakistan the education minister said regarding pyschological treatment: â€œSolution to our problems lies in the teachings of Islam. We can achieve success and peace by following universal principles of our religion.â€ Good luck.
10) Educating the young. Probably the worst offense committed by sharia societies is that they condemn their children to the same blinkered and distorted worldviews that promise war and violence to this generation. Sharia societies have textbooks that say that Jews are apes and pigs, they say that “Jihad is the summit of Islam”, and that a Muslim “cannot maintain a loyal friendship” with a non-Muslim. Sharia societies have TV shows and videos of children pledging suicide-murder to kill the Jews.
There are also a number of relatively trivial items to list. Some sharia societies (and the sharia-minded) forbid football, women’s soccer, watching the world cup, cell phone ringtones, Burger King ice cream squiggles, and other things. But they all ultimately boil down to one thing — who gets to make the decisions about one’s life. The West has chosen — though poorly implemented — the concept that the Rule of Reason should govern the law-making of governments and the decision-making of men. In sharia societies, such a statement would be evidence of man’s cardinal sin in Islam, the sin of pride. To choose Reason (or any man-made construct) over submission to God is man’s central failing in Islam.
We may think that the above list is very clever and persuasive. To millions of people who live ordinary or devout lives in sharia societies, the list is evidence of our perfidy. Therein lies the problem of the world today.