Somalia, in the news recently for its pirates, has faced chaos within its border for decades. Militia groups are fighting the government and the government is having trouble getting control. The New York Times ran a story about a recent attempt by the government to get an upper hand:
Somalia's Parliament voted unanimously on Saturday to institute Islamic law, a measure lawmakers say they hope will strengthen popular support for the government and siphon it away from the Islamist militias fighting an insurgency here.
The vote ratified a decision by the cabinet last month to adopt the legal code of Islam based on the Koran, known as Shariah.
So what, precisely, is sharia? You can't know from reading the article, or Al Jazeera's article on the move or Voice of America's article on the action. A previous Reuters news brief is also light on the details.
Everyone seems to agree that the parliament's move was a strategic maneuver to take away the militia's justification for attacking the government. But nowhere do we learn what sharia in general is or what form of sharia will be implemented in Somalia. It might also be nice to learn how the current system of law differs from sharia. The curious lack of details is a problem we've discussed before.
It makes one of the later paragraphs of the story somewhat difficult to understand:
The Shabab, a hard-line Islamist insurgent movement that controls large swaths of southern Somalia, has imposed its own version of Islamic law and vowed to rebel against the government.
So how is The Shabab's "version of Islamic law" different than the one the parliament voted for?
The reader who sent this story in commented:
If you have any idea what version of shariah law they adopted outside of presumably the mandatory Quranic punishments for some crimes, you should buy a lottery ticket. Sheesh.
One has to agree. It's not as if Islamic law is well understood in the West anyway. But to not explain sharia in any detail adds very little to a reader's understanding of the situation in Somalia.