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Sharia Law in Libya: Have We Done It Again?

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But despite the Lockean tenor of much of the constitution, the inescapable clause lies right in Part 1, Article 1: “Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).” Under this constitution, in other words, Islam is law. That makes other phrases such as “there shall be no crime or penalty except by virtue of the law” and “Judges shall be independent, subject to no other authority but law and conscience” a bit more ominous.

“Democracy in the Middle East” has been our battle cry ever since George W. Bush became the stench in the left’s nostrils in Iraq.  It was his principal goal; I criticised it at the time because I felt that the style of mind prevalent in the Middle East works against a functioning representative system as we understand it.

One consistent result in any of the “democratisations” we’ve seen up to now is the enshrinement of Sharia as the principal law of the land.  We’ve seen this in the places where we’ve set our boots down (Afghanistan, Iraq) and the places we haven’t (Egypt and now Libya.)  The best long-running example of this is Iran which, in spite of what you may have been led to believe, is a representative government.  It is very much a “managed” one, however, and runs within the limits set down by the Shi’ite clerics.  (Wouldn’t the left in this country like to manage our system in that way!)

Why is this?  Societies in general and representative governments in particular are held together by, among other things, shared values among the people.  Representative systems are more dependent upon these values because the system breaks down quickly when there are serious disparities among a group of people who are focused on each other and not on an autocrat at the top.  In places where Islam is the predominant belief, it is the most commonly shared value, and especially in a tribal place like Libya, it’s just about the only one.  One would expect that this shared value would find itself enshrined in the law of the land, and we have seen (and continue to see) that this is the case.  (It should be noted that the Ottoman Empire, itself no paragon of representative government, had Sharia law at the core of its jurisprudence as well.)

Why people in this country are shocked at this repetitious development is only a testament to how naive Americans can be, even after years of expensive education and travel abroad.  But in these United States, like the Middle East, old habits die hard.


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