One of the major themes in GetReligion posts about Islam over the past decade has been our emphasis on the fact that there is no one monolithic Islam, no one simplistic way for journalists to approach that faith.
For millions, Islam is truly a religion of peace. For millions of others, Islam is not — when it collides with minority religions and the modern world — a religion of peace. There is no one Islam.
This theme also applies to coverage of stories linked to Islamic, or sharia, law. When Muslims say that they want to see their land governed according to sharia law, journalists really need to stop and ask them what they mean when they use that term. Journalists need to ask specific questions about specific issues, so that readers are not caught, once again, in simplistic assumptions.
Take, for example, the fascinating Washington Post story that just ran under the headline, “Among many Egyptians, a dramatic shift in favor of the military.”
The key question that everyone is asking: Many Egyptians backed the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party at the polls, then a year later took to the streets to call for the removal of President Mohamed Morsi. Why? What’s the logic? Is this really just about a bad economy?
Read this section of the story carefully:
The military has portrayed its takeover as a bold stroke to save the country from terrorism. But the public’s rejection of Morsi is rooted in the wildly high hopes that ordinary Egyptians had for the Arab Spring — and their bitterness at how democracy failed to deliver jobs or social justice.
When Egyptians revolted in 2011 against Mubarak, it reflected their disgust with his government’s corruption, police abuses and inability to provide jobs for the swelling population. In the lead-up last year to the country’s first free presidential elections, candidates offered not so much policy proposals as visions of a new country.
“Islam is the solution” was the Muslim Brotherhood’s pledge. Working-class Egyptians such as Mohammed Abdul Qadir, 43, took that to heart.
“I only wanted one thing: to be ruled under sharia,” or Islamic law, the cabdriver said. “But this didn’t happen. There was only more injustice.” By “sharia,” Abdul Qadir didn’t mean a ban on alcohol or a requirement that women wear veils. He meant the creation of a broadly just society, the kind promoted in Islamic teachings.
One can only assume that the last two sentences in that paragraph are based on paraphrased information taken from that interview with the cabbie.
So he wanted sharia law, but he was not insisting that all aspects of Islamic law, or one interpretation of Islamic law, be enforced as the law of the land.
So, is this Egyptian on the street in favor of sharia law or not?
You can sense some of the same conflict in the following material from the same Post story: