Friday, July 08, 2011

Don't rejoice over the Moroccan constitution yet

Today's Jewish Chronicle gushes that Morocco, whose new constitution - ostensibly promising rights and freedoms to women and minorities - has been resoundingly approved by the 1 July popular referendum, is a beacon to the Arab world. It echoes the enthusiasm of 'Jen' (Jennifer Rubin - normally a sceptic). However, in her blog Ruthfullyours, Ruth King injects a note of caution, pointing out that Morocco has not broken its commitment to the Cairo Declaration: this subjects all rights and freedoms to sharia law.

(..) "As the king himself makes clear, everything must happen within the framework of an Islamic country and consistent with the Moroccan nation’s immutable values – which are Islamic values. That means sharia — Islam’s all-encompassing law. The fact is that the king is not Morocco’s “highest religious authority.” Islam is not a religion; it is a comprehensive system regulating not only spiritual life but every detail of life. (My weekend column discussed this crucial distinction.) The king is the highest authority in the sense that he is ultimately responsible for the enforcement of Allah’s law, which is not religious but totalitarian.

"According to the Cairo Declaration signed by Morocco, “the Islamic Ummah, which Allah made the best nation . . . has given mankind a universal and well-balanced civilization.” The “role” of the Ummah is “to guide” humanity away from “the chronic problems” of “materialism” and “affirm [mankind's] freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah.” Everything – every right, every duty — is qualified by sharia. That is not just my interpretation. It is made clear throughout the Declaration, and it is made emphatic at the conclusion — in Articles 24 and 25, which Roger quotes in full: All rights and freedoms are subject to sharia, and when there is any doubt, sharia is the only permissible “source of reference for the explanation or clarification.”

"This is the necessary context for understanding what the Moroccan king has done. We have to grasp this or we will forever be surprised — forever, like the State Department, fawning over constitutions (like Afghanistan’s) that purport to safeguard human rights, then being shocked when some Christian convert is given a death-penalty trial for the capital “crime” of apostasy from Islam. When Islamic authorities speak of “human rights,” “equality for women,” “freedom to practice religion,” “freedom of speech,” and so on, they do not mean what you think you are hearing.

"“Human rights” are the rights that humans have under sharia law — and no others. “Equality for women” consists of the rights women are granted by sharia, which we in the West see (quite rightly, I think) as being grossly subordinate to the rights of men (in particular, Muslim men). In stark contrast, Islam considers them merely different from the rights of men — more suitable, sharia scholars will tell you, to life as Allah intended women to live it, in light of the comparative strengths and weaknesses of their natural condition. As the Cairo Declaration puts it (in Article 6): “Woman is equal to man in human dignity, and has rights to enjoy as well as duties to perform[.]” Yes, she “has her own civil entity and financial independence” — but only within the framework of what sharia permits. Indeed, Article 19 pronounces that not only women but “All individuals are equal before the law, without distinction between ruler and ruled.” But again, this notion of “equality” is not the Western notion; when the law is sharia, to be equal “before the law” is to be saddled with sharia’s very different treatment of men and women, and of Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Similarly, “freedom to practice religion” comes with the severe restrictions sharia imposes on non-Muslims. Yes, they are “free” to practice their religion in the sense that they are not compelled to convert to Islam (Article 10 makes that explicit), but there are considerable legal and financial disadvantages to being a non-Muslim in a sharia state. And “freedom of speech” does not include the freedom to utter statements that cast Islam in a poor light or that sow discord among the ummah — regardless of whether those statements are true. Observe Article 22′s weighty caveats (my italics):

Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’ah. Information is a vital necessity to Society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate the sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values, or disintegrate, corrupt or harm Society or weaken its faith.

"Is it possible, as Jen maintains, to have diversity (by which she means different groups with truly equal rights) in a Muslim country? Of course it is, but it will have to happen despite Islam, not because of Islam. It will require a ruler who will suppress sharia. Were that to happen, it would not “explode the myths” that “Islam and the secular rule of law are incompatible” and that “human rights will inevitably be sacrificed if democratic reforms expand in a Muslim country.” It would confirm that these are not myths at all. It would be an instance of a ruler suppressing sharia so that his country can thrive.

"Like Jen, I hope that Mohammed VI turns out to be such a ruler. But I’m not nearly as optimistic. Not only is the constitution filled with sharia caveats. As Roger (Kimball - ed) notes, we have neither seen nor heard anything to suggest that Morocco has renounced the Cairo Declaration. Nor am I aware of Morocco’s having separated itself from the OIC’s ongoing campaigns to criminalize criticism of Islam and to spread sharia in the West. Absent such steps, I would not celebrate the new Morocco constitution until we see how it actually operates."

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1 comment:

Sylvia said...

I have the full text of the King's statement and I am thinking of writing a longer response here based on it.
One thing I can already say is that the text calls for equality between men and women which is revolutionary.
Interpretations of sacred texts of any religions can be more and more sophisticated with time. And of course there will always be those who will absolutely want it "as it was at the time of the prophet".