The New Statesman Defends Islamism

This is a guest post by Andy Lambert

The New Statesman has, unsurprisingly, decided to print yet another hopelessly deluded and inaccurate piece about Islamism and Shariah, authored by Mr Sholto Byrnes. The piece opens with the following:

One of the first, and foremost, fears about Islamism is that its aim is the imposition of sharia law. That in itself is open to question, and I will come to that in a later post. But the very concept of sharia has been so oversimplified by scaremongers that, in the popular imagination, it is inextricably linked with the punishments of beheading, flogging and amputation for crimes such as theft and adultery, and for which Saudi Arabia has long been notorious.

No this is not open to question.

Islamists of all stripes agree that a state must implement their interpretation of Shariah law, whether the citizens of that state like it or not. And the type of Shariah that Islamists of all stripes want to see does include the hudud punishments; they don’t compromise on that issue. Theologically Saudi Wahabism is very similar to the theological outlook of Islamist groups. He goes on:

The example of Saudi Arabia undoubtedly has much to do with this. Yet it is important to stress that to look at that country and then assume that its version of sharia is the only one, or the one to which Muslims all secretly aspire, would be akin to holding up a vision of Torquemadas Inquisition and concluding that this was what real Christianity was. It is unrepresentative and, many would argue, a perversion.

All Muslims are not aspiring to any version of Shariah: its just Islamists, who the author seems rather fond of, that are. Of course there are different interpretations of Islam and Shariah – the problem is that Islamists have taken one very regressive interpretation and seek to impose it on all others via state apparatus and this is what moderate Muslims, who have been so badly let down by the liberal left, have been fighting. It gets worse:

Equally important is that the punishments which cause the greatest outcry — flogging, stoning, etc — come under the hudud laws, which are implemented in Saudi Arabia and were introduced by General Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan in 1979, but are the exception, not the rule, in most Muslim countries.

They are, in fact, an embarrassment to the many Muslims who consider them barbaric. So when Ramadan called for a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic world in 2005, some non-Muslims criticised him for not going further.

Again, Islamists of all stripes seek to introduce hudud laws. Is the author defending Muslims or Islamists? I don’t think he knows the difference.

Of course most Muslim-majority countries don’t implement hudud and are more progressive in their view of shariah and that is why Islamists are seeking to overthrow such regimes. He finishes:

There are plenty who will object to any legal system or way of life that has a religious basis, regardless of how it operates. But the one word that is, above all, associated with sharia, stressed by Ramadan in his writings, Mahathir in his interview with me, by Bernard Lewis in his latest book and by countless others, is “justice”.

I think we can agree that it is not just Islamists who are in favour of that.

Again, a total confusion between what ordinary Muslims want and what Islamists are calling for. The author began and ended his piece by defending Islamists yet all the examples he uses are of non-Islamist regimes and individuals.

This is yet another example of liberal lefties in the UK having a soft spot for clerical fascists, viewing them as noble anti-imperialist campaigners with social justice in mind. It reminds one of the Iranian regime making common cause with the BNP in the 1980s.

Mr Byrne, in future please do some very basic research before publishing articles on a topic on which you have absolutely no knowledge.