The recent decision by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine to compare Catholic teachings to that of Sharia (Islamic law) is yet another example in the unfortunate tendency over the years for American politicians -on both the left and right- to use sharia in an attempt to ridicule opponents, denounce ideologies with which they disagree, and even to criticize other religious doctrines.
The problems that arise from this practice is that very few politicians are actually knowledgeable about sharia—the religious-political-legal-social doctrine of Islam.
The latest example of this unfortunate practice comes to us from Virginia’s U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who compared Catholic teachings to sharia.
These bogus comparisons reflect poorly our elected leaders’ understanding about sharia. As the threat doctrine of jihadists like Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban and others, it is the duty of every member of Congress have at least some understanding of sharia. A threat doctrine is the system or set of beliefs which inform how and why enemies fight and used to analyze how such enemies might behave.
While literal volumes have been filled on the subject of sharia, and it is unreasonable to expect legislators to master the intricacies of a foreign legal system, there are some key aspects that one ought to be familiar with.
To quote from Shariah In American Courts: The Expanding Incursion of Islamic Law in the U.S. Legal System:
“Shariah doctrine includes personal, pietistic religious observances that are not in conflict with U.S. laws. But institutionalized, authoritative Shariah is comprehensive and by definition without limit in its ambitions and scope, and it also includes legally mandated, recommended, permitted, discouraged and prohibited practices that are strongly biased and discriminatory against women, homosexuals and non-Muslims. Shariah provides a legal framework for violence up to and including legalized murder against apostates (people who have left Islam), homosexuals, blasphemers and especially women accused of various crimes. All too regularly under Pakistan’s Shariah legal system, and as documented in 2011, both apostates and blasphemers have been imprisoned and faced execution. Shariah criminal punishments are extreme, including amputations and lashings for numerous crimes.”
Sharia is unique among religious legal doctrines in that is understood by practitioners to apply both to believing Muslims as well as imposing restrictions on people of other faiths. Whereas canon law applies to Christians and Rabbinical law applies to Jews, sharia imposes legal limitations upon -and threatens punishments against- non-believers.
Whereas canon law and rabbinical law deal primarily with ecclesiastical matters and religious practice, sharia has far broader cultural, legal, political, economic, and military aspects. In short, sharia is described by its scholars as “the path on which we walk.” Sharia is the prescription for all aspects of life.
From a military point of view, sharia mandates that its followers either wage jihad physically, financially, or morally—and defines jihad -to quote one popular manual of Sharia- as “warfare against non-Muslims to establish the religion.”
Kaine’s ignorant view -particularly on the military aspects- of sharia is concerning given that as a U.S. Senator he has served on the Armed Services Committee, the Committee on Foreign Relations and as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, and as such ought to have been adequately briefed regarding the nature of sharia and its role in motivating America’s jihadist opponents.
It is somewhat curious that Senator Kaine would make a statement that places sharia in a bad light, given Kaine’s longstanding ties to U.S. Muslim Brotherhood organizations. The Muslim Brotherhood is perhaps the world’s foremost promoter of sharia and it’s usually quick to criticize politicians who imply negative connotations.
Even a cursory examination of Catholic canon law reveals that there is no apt comparison to sharia. While negative statements about sharia could prompt its adherents to issue death threats, under U.S. 1st amendment law, Senator Kaine enjoys the ability to express his ignorance. But as Americans we also have the right to demand that our leaders do better.