Are we complicit in imposing Islamic law?

A 23-year-old Afghan journalist wrote an article jocularly wondering why, if men are allowed four wives under Islam, women aren’t allowed four husbands. For writing these words, he was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to death.

Diana West points out that the journalist was convicted by a government and under a constitution that the United States put into place. Afghanistan’s constitution provides for Western-style freedoms, including the freedom of speech and of the press, but goes on to say that the Shari’a law of the Koran trumps all, as the ultimate law of the land. This is also what the U.S.-imposed constitution of Iraq says. So, in the course of our wars against jihadist terrorism and despite our constitution’s religious neutrality, are we responsible for imposing Islamic law?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fw

    exactly.

    The rule of law is fundamental. sharia law is fundamentally bad.

    McCain is saying we will be in iraq for years like we have been in germany and korea.

    If we have learned anything at all, we should know that iraq is not germany or korea for exactly this reason.

    We are worried about porkbarrell and big government while Iraq bankrupts us. What is missing from conservative thinking to get this?

  • fw

    exactly.

    The rule of law is fundamental. sharia law is fundamentally bad.

    McCain is saying we will be in iraq for years like we have been in germany and korea.

    If we have learned anything at all, we should know that iraq is not germany or korea for exactly this reason.

    We are worried about porkbarrell and big government while Iraq bankrupts us. What is missing from conservative thinking to get this?

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    There ARE rational muslims out there. But part of the problem with our foreign policy vis a vis Islamic nations in the past fifty years has been to assume we are dealing with rational, linear thinkers en masse. In fact we’ve dealt with the Shah of Iran, and similar leaders who have been sufficiently Westernized to understand the systems we tend to put into place. And we are seeing how THAT goes.
    In the big picture, we still don’t have a clue how to put into place a republican system that will work in islamic culture. And so it shouldn’t be surprising that in Afghanistan and elsewhere this sort of thing continues to happen. It is the Shah all over again.
    Is there a balancing act between these two cultures? I would like to believe there is. The option to finding it is building lots of long, tall walls.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    There ARE rational muslims out there. But part of the problem with our foreign policy vis a vis Islamic nations in the past fifty years has been to assume we are dealing with rational, linear thinkers en masse. In fact we’ve dealt with the Shah of Iran, and similar leaders who have been sufficiently Westernized to understand the systems we tend to put into place. And we are seeing how THAT goes.
    In the big picture, we still don’t have a clue how to put into place a republican system that will work in islamic culture. And so it shouldn’t be surprising that in Afghanistan and elsewhere this sort of thing continues to happen. It is the Shah all over again.
    Is there a balancing act between these two cultures? I would like to believe there is. The option to finding it is building lots of long, tall walls.

  • S Bauer

    We aren’t imposing anything that wasn’t already there. The only thing our going in did was lend legitimacy or American reputation to such a system. As I see it, lives and money totally wasted.

  • S Bauer

    We aren’t imposing anything that wasn’t already there. The only thing our going in did was lend legitimacy or American reputation to such a system. As I see it, lives and money totally wasted.

  • CRB

    Please see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mFoE0PYDpI

    Well worth watching! Dr. Hanson is a brilliant military
    historian who knows what the West is facing and is trying to instruct people who are willing to listen.

  • CRB

    Please see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mFoE0PYDpI

    Well worth watching! Dr. Hanson is a brilliant military
    historian who knows what the West is facing and is trying to instruct people who are willing to listen.

  • Paul

    I think the initial motives and plans were right, but mistakes made a huge impact; and now a refusal to admit those mistakes (out of misguided loyalty) is making only more mistakes.

    From people on-the-ground and in-the-know, I’ve been told that our military believed the Iraqi military had chemical and biological weapons because the Iraqi military believed they had chemical and biological weapons because Saddam believed (he’d been lied to) that he had sufficient chemical and biological weapons to fight the U.S. When this came to light shortly after the invasion, it should have changed things.

    Also from Commanders on the ground, I’ve heard that the orders “from above” were changed from “disarm” to “occupy” without the sufficient resources to do so. When it became apparent that we could not occupy Iraq with the forces we had committed, this too should have changed things.

    An unwillingness to admit these mistakes has gotten us circumstance we are now in with an inability to successfully get out. I, for one, agree that the current “mission” in Iraq is one we cannot achieve and we should start the long withdrawl.

    McNamara taught Rumsfeld nothing.

  • Paul

    I think the initial motives and plans were right, but mistakes made a huge impact; and now a refusal to admit those mistakes (out of misguided loyalty) is making only more mistakes.

    From people on-the-ground and in-the-know, I’ve been told that our military believed the Iraqi military had chemical and biological weapons because the Iraqi military believed they had chemical and biological weapons because Saddam believed (he’d been lied to) that he had sufficient chemical and biological weapons to fight the U.S. When this came to light shortly after the invasion, it should have changed things.

    Also from Commanders on the ground, I’ve heard that the orders “from above” were changed from “disarm” to “occupy” without the sufficient resources to do so. When it became apparent that we could not occupy Iraq with the forces we had committed, this too should have changed things.

    An unwillingness to admit these mistakes has gotten us circumstance we are now in with an inability to successfully get out. I, for one, agree that the current “mission” in Iraq is one we cannot achieve and we should start the long withdrawl.

    McNamara taught Rumsfeld nothing.

  • Bror Erickson

    I think this is one area where American Foriegn Policy needs to grow up. Either we actually believe the rights we have are inalienable, and therefor apply to everyone, or we don’t. Quite frankly we need to impose the First Amendment on any constitution we have our hands in making. and threaten the judges with the death penalty if they don’t uphold it. That is all, we don’t need to be tolerant of those who are not going to be tolerant of us. If there is someone out there that wants to live by Shari’a law let him live by it, He has no right whatsoever to impose that on anyone else. If he doesn’t like it he can judge himself by it, and carry out his own justice, be hard to stone yourself though.

  • Bror Erickson

    I think this is one area where American Foriegn Policy needs to grow up. Either we actually believe the rights we have are inalienable, and therefor apply to everyone, or we don’t. Quite frankly we need to impose the First Amendment on any constitution we have our hands in making. and threaten the judges with the death penalty if they don’t uphold it. That is all, we don’t need to be tolerant of those who are not going to be tolerant of us. If there is someone out there that wants to live by Shari’a law let him live by it, He has no right whatsoever to impose that on anyone else. If he doesn’t like it he can judge himself by it, and carry out his own justice, be hard to stone yourself though.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror (@6), while I personally agree with you that First Amendment rights are paramount, unfortunately your suggestion runs right over other rights that we Americans hold dear — that is, the right or freedom of self-government. That is, should a country that we’ve, um, liberated be able to decide how best to govern itself?

    Your answer seems quite simply to be: no. They should follow our rules and our beliefs. But as Americans, we also believe that they should be able to run their country according to their own customs and beliefs. So our American values are in conflict over there.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror (@6), while I personally agree with you that First Amendment rights are paramount, unfortunately your suggestion runs right over other rights that we Americans hold dear — that is, the right or freedom of self-government. That is, should a country that we’ve, um, liberated be able to decide how best to govern itself?

    Your answer seems quite simply to be: no. They should follow our rules and our beliefs. But as Americans, we also believe that they should be able to run their country according to their own customs and beliefs. So our American values are in conflict over there.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Listen, if we have um liberated the people, then we need to liberate them. Self Government? I don’t know that that has ever been up there with the first Amendment as you maintain self government to be. What I do know is we should not be letting governments we have a hand in forming (Whether or not we should be doing that at all is for another discussion) terrorize their people and strip them of their rights. I don’t care if there is a majority in the country that does agree with those laws. 51% or 99% can be an awful tyrrany. Do we believe in these rights as Americans or not? That is the one and only question to be answered here. If we do not beleive them to be worth defending in Iraq or Afghanistan, then why are they worth defending here? Because you don’t want to be silenced? Ever think that reporter wanted to have the same rights you do?

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Listen, if we have um liberated the people, then we need to liberate them. Self Government? I don’t know that that has ever been up there with the first Amendment as you maintain self government to be. What I do know is we should not be letting governments we have a hand in forming (Whether or not we should be doing that at all is for another discussion) terrorize their people and strip them of their rights. I don’t care if there is a majority in the country that does agree with those laws. 51% or 99% can be an awful tyrrany. Do we believe in these rights as Americans or not? That is the one and only question to be answered here. If we do not beleive them to be worth defending in Iraq or Afghanistan, then why are they worth defending here? Because you don’t want to be silenced? Ever think that reporter wanted to have the same rights you do?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror, just to have it out there, don’t think for a minute that I think what has happened to this journalist is fair. Or right. The point I’m trying to make is that this exercise in nation-building shows the difficulty of exporting our ideals into cultures that are rather different from ours.

    As to self-government, my main source of information was the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers made a huge deal about being able to determine the kind of government “to effect their Safety and Happiness” when they thought the current one had gone too far. And our leaders have certainly made noises to the same effect — we want the people to be able to govern themselves, democracy, etc.

    But I disagree that the “only question” here is “Do we believe in these rights as Americans or not?”. I think it’s also important to ask “Do they believe in these rights?” And “If not, do we believe they have the right to determine their own laws?” And “If not, then why do we believe we should have that right, but others who disagree with our beliefs should not?”

    Even if you don’t believe other countries have a right to determine their own laws and form of government, I do. I believe in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”, not “of the Americans, by the Americans and Afghanis, for the Afghanis.”

    But I also believe in freedom of speech and religion. This is the fundamental problem. It would seem that, for these people, at this time, we cannot have both.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror, just to have it out there, don’t think for a minute that I think what has happened to this journalist is fair. Or right. The point I’m trying to make is that this exercise in nation-building shows the difficulty of exporting our ideals into cultures that are rather different from ours.

    As to self-government, my main source of information was the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers made a huge deal about being able to determine the kind of government “to effect their Safety and Happiness” when they thought the current one had gone too far. And our leaders have certainly made noises to the same effect — we want the people to be able to govern themselves, democracy, etc.

    But I disagree that the “only question” here is “Do we believe in these rights as Americans or not?”. I think it’s also important to ask “Do they believe in these rights?” And “If not, do we believe they have the right to determine their own laws?” And “If not, then why do we believe we should have that right, but others who disagree with our beliefs should not?”

    Even if you don’t believe other countries have a right to determine their own laws and form of government, I do. I believe in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”, not “of the Americans, by the Americans and Afghanis, for the Afghanis.”

    But I also believe in freedom of speech and religion. This is the fundamental problem. It would seem that, for these people, at this time, we cannot have both.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Tyrrany is tyranny be it one man and his thugs, or a mob of 99%. So these people have the right to make their own laws, I could care less what side of the street they drive on. But they do not have the right to take another man’s rights away from him, even if they can actually do it, they have no right to. So if they want to practice shari’a law, they can stone themselves when they break that law. But lets stop thinking they have the right to stone women who have been raped, or hang reporters who dared to utter a reasonable thought.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Tyrrany is tyranny be it one man and his thugs, or a mob of 99%. So these people have the right to make their own laws, I could care less what side of the street they drive on. But they do not have the right to take another man’s rights away from him, even if they can actually do it, they have no right to. So if they want to practice shari’a law, they can stone themselves when they break that law. But lets stop thinking they have the right to stone women who have been raped, or hang reporters who dared to utter a reasonable thought.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror, I must admit to being confused when you say (@10), “these people have the right to make their own laws.” You clearly don’t believe that. You may believe they have the right to make some of their laws, but you reserve the right for America to dictate the more fundamental ones — and, I would assume, the inability for Afghanis to overturn those foundations.

    You said, “they do not have the right to take another man’s rights away from him,” so the question becomes, what are a man’s rights, if not defined by law? (And it is clear you believe rights are not defined by law, since you would allow Afghanis to make their own laws, but not to abrogate a man’s rights.) Where are they enumerated?

    Do you have a right to free speech? Most countries don’t think you do — at least, not fully. Why, even in America (as McCain-Feingold opponents and others will tell you), we do not have full freedom of speech! So how is this a right in any meaningful sense?

    Let me ask you this, as well: do they have the right to pass laws allowing the stoning of rapists? Can they pass laws allowing the banning of alcohol? Can they pass laws outlawing public nudity? How about public indecency (that involves a modicum of cloth)?

    I would like to know what the enumeration of inviolable rights are, and to what degree those rights are universally granted (as with the right to free speech, I’m going to guess they’re not terribly universal at all).

    All of which makes me rather glad to live in a country that does grant me such rights. And rather sad that my country is embroiled in such a ridiculous mess with another culture.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror, I must admit to being confused when you say (@10), “these people have the right to make their own laws.” You clearly don’t believe that. You may believe they have the right to make some of their laws, but you reserve the right for America to dictate the more fundamental ones — and, I would assume, the inability for Afghanis to overturn those foundations.

    You said, “they do not have the right to take another man’s rights away from him,” so the question becomes, what are a man’s rights, if not defined by law? (And it is clear you believe rights are not defined by law, since you would allow Afghanis to make their own laws, but not to abrogate a man’s rights.) Where are they enumerated?

    Do you have a right to free speech? Most countries don’t think you do — at least, not fully. Why, even in America (as McCain-Feingold opponents and others will tell you), we do not have full freedom of speech! So how is this a right in any meaningful sense?

    Let me ask you this, as well: do they have the right to pass laws allowing the stoning of rapists? Can they pass laws allowing the banning of alcohol? Can they pass laws outlawing public nudity? How about public indecency (that involves a modicum of cloth)?

    I would like to know what the enumeration of inviolable rights are, and to what degree those rights are universally granted (as with the right to free speech, I’m going to guess they’re not terribly universal at all).

    All of which makes me rather glad to live in a country that does grant me such rights. And rather sad that my country is embroiled in such a ridiculous mess with another culture.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Call me American but I do tend to beleive some rights are inalienable, and what would impede those rights is wrong.
    I’m sorry you believe that if enough people are mad about something you said they should have the right to pass a law allowing you to be hung.
    There is a certain contradiction in terms when one like me says we must impose these rights, but there really isn’t. It is only to say when for what ever reason we have been embroiled in the policies of their country we should as Americans stand up for this persons right to free speech.
    So I will say it again they have the right to pass laws, they do not have the right to pass laws that infringe on these rights we hold dear. I don’t give a !@## what another country says. Rights are not defined by law, they are defended by law, or encroached upon by law.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Call me American but I do tend to beleive some rights are inalienable, and what would impede those rights is wrong.
    I’m sorry you believe that if enough people are mad about something you said they should have the right to pass a law allowing you to be hung.
    There is a certain contradiction in terms when one like me says we must impose these rights, but there really isn’t. It is only to say when for what ever reason we have been embroiled in the policies of their country we should as Americans stand up for this persons right to free speech.
    So I will say it again they have the right to pass laws, they do not have the right to pass laws that infringe on these rights we hold dear. I don’t give a !@## what another country says. Rights are not defined by law, they are defended by law, or encroached upon by law.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror (@12), you said, “call me American but I do tend to believe some rights are inalienable.” First of all, I do understand that Americans believe in some rights (sort of*), but the point is that they don’t. Regardless, I’ll ask again what are those rights that Afghanis are not allowed to abrogate with their law, and where are they defined? (Such rights clearly are not inalienable in a practical sense, since many countries do in fact deny those rights, and *even we feel there is a time and place for denying life or liberty or free speech.)

    Let me ask you again: do they have the right to pass laws allowing the stoning of rapists? Can they pass laws allowing the banning of alcohol? Can they pass laws outlawing public nudity? How about public indecency (that involves a modicum of cloth)? I don’t know what rights you consider inalienable, so I don’t know what laws you think they’re allowed to pass.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror (@12), you said, “call me American but I do tend to believe some rights are inalienable.” First of all, I do understand that Americans believe in some rights (sort of*), but the point is that they don’t. Regardless, I’ll ask again what are those rights that Afghanis are not allowed to abrogate with their law, and where are they defined? (Such rights clearly are not inalienable in a practical sense, since many countries do in fact deny those rights, and *even we feel there is a time and place for denying life or liberty or free speech.)

    Let me ask you again: do they have the right to pass laws allowing the stoning of rapists? Can they pass laws allowing the banning of alcohol? Can they pass laws outlawing public nudity? How about public indecency (that involves a modicum of cloth)? I don’t know what rights you consider inalienable, so I don’t know what laws you think they’re allowed to pass.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Er, that should read “but the point is that the Afghanis don’t”.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Er, that should read “but the point is that the Afghanis don’t”.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Point is I don’t care what the Afghans believe in or not. You see we allowed them self government then 9/11 happened so no they don’t get to pass the laws you are talking about, We do, to the victor spoils. I might, might let them decide which side of the street they drive on.
    Fact is you talk about all the Afghans as if they are completely unified in what they find to be indecent. Obviously though, at least as long as this reporter is alive, you are wrong. We can not expect for a country to pull itself out of the dark ages, when they put limits on free speech, and the freedom to think. This reporter had every right to say what he did, and live. Self Government? not if it starts jeoporadizing the lives of people in a country next door, much less on the otherside of the world.

  • Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Point is I don’t care what the Afghans believe in or not. You see we allowed them self government then 9/11 happened so no they don’t get to pass the laws you are talking about, We do, to the victor spoils. I might, might let them decide which side of the street they drive on.
    Fact is you talk about all the Afghans as if they are completely unified in what they find to be indecent. Obviously though, at least as long as this reporter is alive, you are wrong. We can not expect for a country to pull itself out of the dark ages, when they put limits on free speech, and the freedom to think. This reporter had every right to say what he did, and live. Self Government? not if it starts jeoporadizing the lives of people in a country next door, much less on the otherside of the world.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror (@15), I’d still like to know what those rights are that Afghanis (or anyone?) are not allowed to abrogate with their law, and where are they defined?

    That said, I guess I’m beginning to see your position a bit more clearly. You seem to think that America “allow[s]” other countries to govern themselves until it affects us (why Saudi Arabia is still governing itself is a question you might wonder about).

    At that point, having begun a war and nominally won, we get to set up a puppet state with no truly functioning government — they merely enact the rules that we decide are best for them, no matter what they think.

    Tell me, what countries should we start a war with next? There are many that do not allow free speech (including our own, as many McCain-Feingold opponents will tell you). There are many countries that abrogate the rights you believe are universal but which I can only guess at. Obviously Iran’s on the list. And Saudi Arabia. Russia has clamped down on freedom of the press, maybe more, and has threatened its neighbors by shutting off gas supplies (wars have been started over less). China obviously hates free speech and has threatened Taiwan.

    Wow, we’ll need a lot of troops for this plan!

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Bror (@15), I’d still like to know what those rights are that Afghanis (or anyone?) are not allowed to abrogate with their law, and where are they defined?

    That said, I guess I’m beginning to see your position a bit more clearly. You seem to think that America “allow[s]” other countries to govern themselves until it affects us (why Saudi Arabia is still governing itself is a question you might wonder about).

    At that point, having begun a war and nominally won, we get to set up a puppet state with no truly functioning government — they merely enact the rules that we decide are best for them, no matter what they think.

    Tell me, what countries should we start a war with next? There are many that do not allow free speech (including our own, as many McCain-Feingold opponents will tell you). There are many countries that abrogate the rights you believe are universal but which I can only guess at. Obviously Iran’s on the list. And Saudi Arabia. Russia has clamped down on freedom of the press, maybe more, and has threatened its neighbors by shutting off gas supplies (wars have been started over less). China obviously hates free speech and has threatened Taiwan.

    Wow, we’ll need a lot of troops for this plan!

  • Bror Erickson

    And tODD,
    I’m beginning to see your position more clearly also. We should let other countries harbor terrorists and attack us, and never do anything as a result. We should let these peaceful people who just have different values then us come and impose their barbarisms on us. We as a country should just turn the other cheek and mind our own business personally if we see our neighbors wife being raped on the front lawn. After all she should just turn the other cheek now shouldn’t she.

    I seem to remember you thinking that we were right to go into Afghanistan ( I may be wrong). We have had our disagreements about Iraq. but this in anycase happened in Afghanistan. So we should go in and set up another government there but not do anything that would actually change the situation, because status quo in Afghanistan isn’t the problem at all, and innocent people there don’t need to be defended. They are a different breed they don’t deserve or need the same rights we Americans treasure.

  • Bror Erickson

    And tODD,
    I’m beginning to see your position more clearly also. We should let other countries harbor terrorists and attack us, and never do anything as a result. We should let these peaceful people who just have different values then us come and impose their barbarisms on us. We as a country should just turn the other cheek and mind our own business personally if we see our neighbors wife being raped on the front lawn. After all she should just turn the other cheek now shouldn’t she.

    I seem to remember you thinking that we were right to go into Afghanistan ( I may be wrong). We have had our disagreements about Iraq. but this in anycase happened in Afghanistan. So we should go in and set up another government there but not do anything that would actually change the situation, because status quo in Afghanistan isn’t the problem at all, and innocent people there don’t need to be defended. They are a different breed they don’t deserve or need the same rights we Americans treasure.


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