Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Arabs Spring into Sharia Winter
More democracy is bringing more political Islam in the countries of the Arab Spring.
The strong showing of Tunisia’s moderate Islamists in Sunday’s election and a promise by Libyan National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil to uphold Sharia have highlighted the bigger role Islamists will play after the fall of the autocrats who opposed them.
To talk about Sharia law and the concerns it raises, euronews spoke to Islamic affairs specialist Eric Chaumont, of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research.
Laurence Alexandrowicz, euronews: “Libya’s new authorities have declared that they are going to impose Sharia law. Can you, in a few words, explain to us what it consists of?”
Eric Chaumont: “There are a lot of misunderstandings right now, concerning this point. Sharia is literally the way, that is, the law, that God revealed in the Koran and which is binding on all Muslims. The ambiguity is that Sharia has never been implemented anywhere in the world. What is implemented are different interpretations of Sharia – what are called Muslim laws, el-Fiqh – interpretations of the law which are strict to varying degrees.”
euronews: “Should we expect a very conservative form of Sharia law, along Saudi or Sudanese lines?”
Eric Chaumont: “Certainly not. In Saudi Arabia, the law which is implemented is, by rights, what is called ‘Hanbali’. It is one of the four doctrines of Sharia law and the strictest of all. Yet Libya has a ‘Maliki’ tradition, which is a more flexible doctrine.”
euronews: “Will this Islamic law be a step backwards, notably for women’s rights?”
Eric Chaumont: “That is a certainty, based on Western criteria. Muslim law, of whichever persuasion, is not favourable to women’s position in society from the point of view of personal status, inheritance rights etc and, as a general rule, it is a law that makes women subservient to men.”
euronews: “By imposing Sharia law, is Libya making a break from the Gaddhafi regime?”
Eric Chaumont: “I don’t think the Libyan authorities said they were going to impose Sharia law. What was said was that it would be written into the constitution that Sharia will be one or THE source of law. There is a difference. That does not mean at all that Sharia law will be implemented. And I am drawing a parallel with Egypt. Even back in Sadat’s era, under pressure from political Islam, it was written into the Egyptian constitution that Sharia was one of the sources of law. Then things changed. It became the main source of law and eventually the only source of law. In reality, statutory law itself was not affected and the law implemented in Egypt today remains a law that is inspired by the French civil code, established under Napoleon.”
euronews: “Tunisia has just voted in its first post- Ben Ali elections, putting the Islamists ahead. Should an Iranian-style scenario be feared in all these countries that have set themselves free?”
Eric Chaumont: “Certainly not Iranian-style for two reasons: the Iranian revolution is no longer the stuff of dreams for anyone in the Arab-Muslim world because of its obvious failures from a social point of view. Secondly, we should not forget that Iran is a country with a Shi’ite tradition. And what separates Shi’ite Islam from Sunni Islam is essentially political so it is very unlikely that there will be an Iranian-style scenario.”
> Libya ponders Sharia law