Published by Today's Zaman, 24 April 2012
As calls for the adoption of Shariah grow louder across the Middle East and North Africa, many people are frightened. Yet what is frightening is not the prospect of Shariah itself, but the political immaturity of the new actors calling for it and the possibility that they might repeat certain mistakes characteristic of previous hasty reintroductions of Islamic jurisprudence.
What we need to worry about, therefore, is not Shariah but its political utilization. We saw the detrimental outcomes of emotional Shariah politics in the 20th century that harmed Muslims and non-Muslims alike and created serious conflicts and suffering.
For the vast majority of Muslims living in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, cries for Shariah are cries for equality, justice, fairness and moral values in the face of corrupt politicians and regimes. But whenever such genuine calls were used by political elites to maintain their power by purporting to uphold Islam, or used by opposition movements to achieve power with claims of being Islam’s standard-bearers, the result was often disastrous. Few if any of the problems leading to calls for Shariah were solved and, in some cases, things became much worse.