Reprinted from libertiesalliance.org.

The Islamic Sharia is a system of law. It is a collection of prohibitions, admonitions and commands about human behavior. The Sharia is not an internal matter that only concerns Islam and Muslims. The Sharia includes a large number of provisions about people who are not Muslims. These rules are usually prohibitions that carry severe penalties if violated. These provisions of the Sharia make life unsafe and uncertain for someone who lives under Sharia law and who is not a Muslim.

Under Sharia law, someone who is not a Muslim possesses no inalienable rights. If I am wrong here, I will be relieved, and happy to stand corrected and receive your e-mails pointing out why I am wrong. But if I am right, a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay possesses more rights than a Jew or a Christian who lives under Sharia law.

Unlike the legal systems of most modern nation states, Sharia law is not subject to democratic supervision. Like international law and rabbinic law, Sharia law is an academic affair: experts discuss and debate the rules until they reach an agreement. Sharia law does not know a parliament or a government that acts as legislator, but the rules of the Sharia come into being by being agreed upon by the experts, that is, the Islamic religious leaders, the professional Muslims, the Ulama, Ayatollahs, or whatever these dignitaries are called.

Like me, most of you will be only superficially familiar with international law. The pretensions of international law have never been put to the test of a free and democratic vote. It was, to say the least, interesting to note how often the accusers of Geert Wilders in 2010 and 2011 appealed to what they regarded as generally accepted international law in order to silence Geert Wilders. As international law demonstrates, communities of academic specialists, in their isolation, have a tendency to develop a degree of pedantry that an elected lawgiver could never afford. Up to a point, this is exactly what has happened to the Sharia.

Religions are not democratic even if they sometimes may preach or tolerate democracy. Hence, the way in which the rules of Islamic law come into being is undemocratic. This implies that allowing the Sharia, or a part of it, to be the law of the land in a Western nation will diminish the democratic character of that nation. It means giving away legislative power to unelected self-appointed men, who are unknown and anonymous, who operate from far-away mosques in Pakistan or Afghanistan. In a democracy, this is not the ideal arrangement. One may have legitimate religious reasons to nevertheless prefer such an arrangement, but it entails something worse than taxation without representation; it entails legislation without representation.

Western policymakers do not take Sharia law too seriously because it is an academic and religious affair, a system of law that springs not from the power of a state but from the minds of religious scholars. In the Muslim world, to the contrary, the authority of the Sharia is overwhelming. The colossal prestige of the Sharia in the world of Islam is easy to explain: Islamic theology identifies Sharia law with the will of God; and Sharia specialists are the religious leaders of the Islamic community. No government in the Muslim world can afford to alienate these specialists of religious law if it wants to remain in power.

Each and every Islamic country nurtures its own equilibrium between its government and its religious specialists. This ever-changing equilibrium is the stuff of PhD-dissertations. Nevertheless, most Islamic countries possess legal systems that are influenced by, but not identical with, traditional Sharia law. To the leaders of the radical Islamic movements this non-identity of national law and Sharia law is a permanent source of anger. The smallest discrepancy between Sharia law and the law of the land is permanent fuel to the fire of their propaganda machines since such a difference supplies proof that a human lawgiver wanted to take God’s place, and attempted to improve on Go’ds work, which is blasphemy since God must remain the only law-giver.

Sharia law is not a practical system of law developed in courts. It is the product of the deliberations of scholars, and it does not spring from the practical concerns of judges, barristers, prosecutors or defenders. Consequently, Sharia law is poor on procedure. It is a theoretical, abstract system of law thought out in academies. This explains most of its weaknesses.

Nevertheless, Muslim theology claims that Sharia law is divine. If unfamiliar new questions arise for which the Sharia has to provide an answer, Sharia specialists, at least in theory, put forward a solution that is based upon the four principles or ‘roots’, of the Sharia. These four principles will reemerge again and again in all discussions concerning the Sharia. They are Koran, Hadith, Analogy and Agreement.

The fourth root, Agreement or Consensus, is for all practical purposes the most important criterion. Once a consensus has emerged it becomes unnecessary to consult the other sources. Theory and theology, however, attach the greatest value to the authority of the first of these four roots, to the Koran, but in practice the wording of the Koran may have to be supplemented or interpreted by the other sources, or by another passage from the Koran itself.

Here we meet with an important principle from both Sharia law and Koran interpretation. This principle, ‘abrogation’, naskh in Arabic, is often misunderstood. ‘Abrogation’ means that a verse from the Koran that was revealed early might be repealed, or ‘abrogated’, by a verse that came down at a later point in time. Sometimes even an element from one of the other three sources can abrogate the contents of a verse from the Koran. Muslim scholars analyze all possible cases in depth.

The most famous example of abrogation is of concern to anyone who is not a Muslim: the abrogation of Sura 109, a Sura from the Mecca period that preaches religious tolerance. This Sura is abrogated by later verses from Medina that command the Muslims to fight and kill the unbelievers wherever they find them.

Whatever problem Sharia scholars are confronted with, in a few generations they will work out an agreement; and then Muhammad’s directive applies that ‘God will not permit [his] people to agree on an error.’

This important directive plays a central role in the Sharia system. Its application has a number of unforeseen consequences. Abolishing a Sharia regulation on which agreement had been reached, implies that Muhammad’s umma did go wrong. But according to Islam’s Prophet, it did not. Hence, it is out of the question to go back on regulations once they are agreed upon. Examples of cases where this creates difficulties and embarrassment are numerous: just think of the Sharia punishments for apostasy, adultery or theft.

A famous example of abrogation is the prohibition of wine. In early verses, the Koran speaks well of wine; later verses forbid wine. But how do we know which verse comes first? This we can only know from the Muslim Sharia experts. How do they know? Well, since wine is forbidden, the verse that forbids wine must be later than the verse that praises wine. Outsiders will suspect circularity, but to traditional Muslims this all enjoys the support of the Most High, and reconfirms that they would be at loss without the scholarship and learning of the experts who embody religious authority in Islam.

The friends of Islam see the alleged flexibility of Islamic law as an indication of its humane and liberal character. This, however, is a mistake. Flexible laws are not humane but dangerous, since citizens do not know for what they can be arrested and executed. Islamic law, flexible as it is reported to be, is unanimous on a large number of points. Agreement, consensus, that is what the system is build upon. No important disagreements exist on the points of law that are important to whoever is not a Muslim, whatever the friends of Islam may say. Not respecting the majesty of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, is generally seen as a capital crime. If the courts or the governments do not execute the offender, spontaneous informal volunteers may feel justified to take this task upon their shoulders, whatever the cost to them personally.

Modern Western scholars have called into doubt the origins of the Sharia. They believe that the Sharia is the continuation of Roman provincial law as it was in force in the Roman Empire in the Middle East on the eve of the Arab conquests. A number of 20th century scholars wrote about the relationship between Roman and Islamic law. It is easy to see that the figure of the mufti is a continuation of the scholar of jurisprudence well known from Roman law, and other examples abound.

Strong influence from Talmudic rabbinic law on the Sharia is undeniable, and no miracle, since the Talmud and the Sharia both came into being in Iraq, in roughly the same period, 7th till 9th century AD. Fatwa’s are, of course, the exact functional equivalent of the rabbinic teshuvot, and the responsa from Roman law.

Muslims believe that their religious specialists derived the rules of the Sharia from its four sources: Koran, Hadith, Analogy and Consensus. However, modern Western scholars have come to believe that the rules of the Sharia were not derived from the four ‘roots’, but that the rules and provisions were anchored in these four ‘roots’ only in retrospect. This is again the stuff of PhD-dissertations. These academic questions, however, should not detain us here, we have a more important duty: to explain why we should concentrate on the Sharia, and not on the Koran or Muhammad, when we want to defend ourselves against the onslaught of Islam.

Modern Western scholarship on the Koran and the life of Muhammad has made great progress since the turn of the century. Consequently the traditional positions concerning Muhammad and the Koran have shown themselves to be untenable.

Whether Muhammad really existed, is more uncertain than ever. Two centuries of patient scholarship have created serious doubts about the historicity of the prophet of Islam. These doubts will not go away, no matter how small and insignificant the number of academics that works in this field may be.

The general picture which the Koran and the Islamic tradition offer of the setting in which Muhammad worked, first as a prophet, then as both a prophet and a statesman, the general picture of Mecca and Medina in the beginning of the 7th century AD, is not confirmed by the results of archeological research and inscriptions as far as these are available. This, of course, may change when research progresses but it is not a good sign, especially since what has been found, at first sight appears to contradict the traditional views.

The literary tradition about Muhammad’s biography does look like an unsystematic collection of mutually contradicting sermons that nevertheless all want to convince the audience that a certain Muhammad was the Messenger of God. The literary material that has been preserved does not look like an historical record at all. This is not necessarily fatal, but it is not a good sign. Numismatics does not confirm Islam’s version of the early history of Islam. This by itself is not conclusive, but it is not a good sign. There are discrepancies between what we know about the ancient Arab calendar and the reported stories about Muhammad. This needs not be fatal, but it comes close to being so.

True Muslims, however, do not share these doubts about their beloved prophet. The guild of Muslim religious leaders, on the other hand, will go further than simply not sharing these doubts; they will be infuriated when modern Western scholars unmask the Muslim version of the early history of Islam as a narrative created by theological necessities, as sermons that are disguised as history. It goes without saying that many Muslims will be ready to put on heavy armor to defend their religion against such attacks.

These Five Men Volunteered to Let a Nuke Explode Over Them Sixty five years ago today, the Department of Defense launched a nuclear missile test in Nevada, as they would hundreds of times again. But this time, five guys and a cameraman were placed right underneath the massive atomic explosion. Why?

The DoD, NPR explains, wanted to show that nuclear warfare was safe, and that an atomic detonation was no more hazardous than watching a sunset or puppy pile. So these poor saps were rounded up to play public propaganda guinea pigs, subjects to an experiment of consequences far above their pay grade.

The footage above shows that test, and is perhaps the most absolutely surreal moment of the Atomic Age. The five men huddle together like college freshmen being hazed with a water hose, shielding their eyes from the sun. One of them tried wearing sunglasses. Meanwhile, a DoD narrator, frothing with nuclear ecstasy, sounds positively orgasmic as he watches the warhead drop from the silvery F-89 and float through the air. Then that air is burned into red mush and hellfire, as the narrator gushes, near orgasm: “It’s directly above our heads! Ah Ha Ha! Good, good! There is a huge fireball!” His glee surpasses the ominousness of the actual nuclear bomb. The men then shake hands and agree that the whole show was “such a thrill.”

So did they all die of cancer? It’s hard to say, but NPR did some archival sleuthing:

Col. Sidney C. Bruce – died in 2005 (age 86)
Lt. Col. Frank P. Ball – died in 2003 (age 83)
Maj. John Hughes – very common name, but I’m guessing he is Maj. John W. Hughes II (born 1919, same as the above) – died in 1990 (age 71)
Maj. Norman Bodinger – unclear (not listed in the database), he may still be alive?
Don Lutrel – I think this is a misspelling of “Luttrell.” There is a Donald D. Luttrell in the DVA database, US Army CPL, born 1924, died 1987 (age 63). Seems like a possibility.

It was a low yield warhead, and very high up, and of course the Pentagon wouldn’t be rushing to go out an admit these men died from radioactive exposure that they were placed into by the Pentagon—but the record of such atomic test bystanders croaking from fallout is strong and storied. It’s possible these men died from what they saw 65 years ago, and it’s possible they didn’t. It’s certain, however, that the government handed out hundreds of millions of dollars in the 20th century to victims of its nuclear testing program. This video just happens to show five men and five men only.

America stopped testing atomic bombs in 1992, but we can only hope the perverted schoolboy enthusiasm for nukes died sooner—and stays that way. [NPR]

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Useful Idiots Posted by Caroline Glick Bio ↓ Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

You have to hand it to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. They know how to play power politics. They know how to acquire power. And they know how to use power. Last Friday, the day before voters by most accounts elected the Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsy to serve as Egypt’s next president, The Wall Street Journal published a riveting account by Charles Levinson and Matt Bradley of how the Brotherhood outmaneuvered the secular revolutionaries to take control of the country’s political space.

The Brotherhood kept a very low profile in the mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 that led to the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood’s absence from Tahrir Square at that time is what enabled Westerners to fall in love with the Egyptian revolution. Those demonstrations led to the impression, widespread in the US, that Mubarak’s successors would be secular Facebook democrats. The role that Google’s young Egyptian executive Wael Gonim played in organizing the demonstrations was reported expansively. His participation in the anti-regime protests – as well as his brief incarceration – was seen as proof that the next Egyptian regime would be indistinguishable from Generation X and Y Americans and Europeans. In their report, Levinson and Bradley showed how the Brotherhood used the secularists to overthrow the regime, and to provide them with a fig leaf of moderation through March 2011, when the public voted on the sequencing of Egypt’s post-Mubarak transformation from a military dictatorship into a populist regime. The overwhelming majority of the public voted to first hold parliamentary elections and to empower the newly elected parliament to select members of the constitutional assembly that would write Egypt’s new constitution.

As Egypt’s largest social force, the Brotherhood knew it would win the majority of the seats in the new parliament. The March 2011 vote ensured its control over writing the new Egyptian constitution. In July 2011, the Brotherhood decided to celebrate its domination of the new Egypt with a mass rally at Tahrir Square. Levinson and Bradley explained how in the lead-up to that event Egypt’s secular revolutionaries were completely outmaneuvered.

According to their account, the Brotherhood decided to call the demonstration “Shari’a Friday.” Failing to understand that the game was over, the secularists tried to regain what they thought was the unity of the anti-regime ranks from earlier in the year.

“Islamists and revolutionary leaders spent three days negotiating principles they could all support at the coming Friday demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. They reached an agreement and the revolution seemed back on track.” One secularist leader, Rabab el-Mahdi, referred to the agreement as “The perfect moment. A huge achievement.” But then came the double cross.

“Hours before the demonstration, hard-line Salafi Islamists began adorning the square with black-and-white flags of jihad and banners calling for the implementation of Islamic law. Ms. Mahdi made frantic calls to Brotherhood leaders, who told her there was little they could do.” Checkmate.

THE DIFFERENCE between the Brotherhood and the secularists is a fundamental one. The Brotherhood has always had a vision of the Egypt it wants to create. It has always used all the tools at its disposal to advance the goal of creating an Islamic state in Egypt. For their part, the secularists have no ideological unity and so share no common vision of a future Egypt. They just oppose the repression of the military. Opposing repression is not a political program. It is a political act. It can destroy. It cannot rule. So when the question arose of how to transform the protests that caused the US to abandon Mubarak and sealed the fate of his regime into a new regime, the secularists had no answer. All they could do was keep protesting military repression.

The Brotherhood has been the most popular force in Egypt for decades. Its leaders recognized that to take over the country, all they needed was the power to participate in the elections and the authority to ensure that the election results mattered – that is, control over writing the constitution. And so, once the secularists fomented Mubarak’s overthrow, their goal was to ensure their ability to participate in the elections and to ensure that the parliament would control the constitution-writing process.

To achieve these goals, they were equally willing to collaborate with the secularists against the military and with the military against the secularists. To achieve their goals they were willing – as they did before Shari’a Friday last July – to negotiate in bad faith.

While instructive, the Journal’s article fell short because the reporters failed to recognize that the Brotherhood outmaneuvered the military junta in the same way that it outmaneuvered the secularists. The article starts with the premise that the military’s decision to stage an effective coup d’etat last week spelled an end to the Egyptian revolution and the country’s reversion to the military dictatorship that has ruled the state since the 1950s. Levinson and Bradley claim, “Following the rulings by the high court this week [which canceled the results of the parliamentary elections and ensured continued military control over the country regardless of the results of the presidential elections], the Brotherhood’s strategy of cooperation with the military seems failed.” About Caroline Glick

This is the version that shows what went on. For me the worst part is that the kids are the ones causing most of the problems by throwing stuff and cussing at the adults. Seems they are empowered their parents and this kind of behavior is expected… Just truly mind-blowing!

This is the long video, approx 1 hr…

Short 7min version of the altercation…