Sharia in Germany

The execution of the young woman in Afghanistan is deeply disturbing at many levels and it seems to be disturbing to nearly everyone.  I have not read one commentary of support for the shooting  That is uncommon, for in most incidents that are purported to be of a religious nature there are always two polar opposite sets of opinions; those that agree and say that whatever the act was, was mandated by god.  Their opponents claim the direct opposite, god does not allow for such behavior.  The problem is being frame as an Islamic problem in much of the press.  In that view, the young men were acting out a Muslim religious law, executing not a young woman, but executing the will of god upon an adulterer.

However, within the international Muslim community the problem is not framed as an Islamic problem.  It is framed as a criminal one; true there are those that believe that Islam does condemn adultery in very, very severe terms and calls for the death of the adulterous woman.  But those Muslims are not the majority of Muslims, probably not even in Afghanistan, except in villages like that one.  Religion and religious law is confusing for me, confusing because regardless of which religion you examine you will find conflicts of opinion; and those conflicts have often led to individual violence and even war.  No religion has been free of such conflicts – one set of believers killing another set of believers over a principle of doctrine.  One might even argue that much of the fighting in Afghanistan has had a religious basis – the Muslims fighting off the communists and the Christians – and then the more radical believing Taliban fighting to impose their version of Islam on their fellow Afghans.

The conflict over religion gets even more confusing when a country has one major, dominate national religion, but also has large numbers of believers from other religions.  Egypt and Lebanon both have significant Christian populations, India and Pakistan each have Muslims and Hindus in large numbers and increasingly most western countries have significant Muslim populations, as well as Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.

In Europe the existence of Muslims in large numbers has created a great deal of stress particularly in this century.  Both Germany and France of had major crises over it – Austria, oddly enough, passed a law one hundred years ago legalizing Islam.  The conflicts arise from belief; “We the Germans (and we the French) believe in one set of values and behaviors, derived from our Christianity and encoded into our laws, while you, the Muslims believe in something quite different – headscarves for example.”  :We cannot support your beliefs, they endanger our culture and our society.”  This week the issue is circumcision; recently a German court ruled that circumcision was mutilation – the person performing it was committing a crime under German law.  Not only is the procedure mutilation, but the person being mutilated is normally underage.  Therefore that person is legally unable to agree to the procedure.  Now the parents are violating the law too.   Before we get too indignant, remember the way we think about female circumcision.

German law is Christian law, the Germans don’t think so, but it is; just as our law in Christian law – meaning that both have at their foundation the Christian religion and its code of behavior.   We find Islamic law, sharia to be threatening and undemocratic.  We are offended when Islamic parties rise up in Egypt, Libya, Syria or Afghanistan.  But we have the equivalent in our laws and in our political parties.  We religious right or fundamentalists that insist our laws and our social structure should be based on Christianity – you know like our marriage laws.  By law we treat Sunday differently from other days, just Islamic countries treat Friday differently.   In the west all constitutions have western religious values encoded, in the Arab world and Israel they have Islamic and Jewish values encoded.  No court in a Jewish or Muslim state would ever have reached the same conclusion on circumcision as the German court did.

A small issue one might argue.  It is getting a great deal of attention, attention from the German press of every strip, attention from the Jews of Germany and the rest of the world and attention from Muslims.  It has generated enough attention to force the head of state to take a position on the subject – yep Angela cares about circumcision.  The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, formally declared circumcision to be legal.   Really, Chancellor you have the authority to overrule the court?  Sounds like Egypt to me.  I wonder how the courts and the army are going to react?


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July 2012
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