Sharia Law

Adventures in secular laws and faith: BBC takes shallow dip into Cannes burkini debates

Adventures in secular laws and faith: BBC takes shallow dip into Cannes burkini debates

If you were covering a radical Islamist government's decision to ban Western swimwear on the beaches in its territory (a) who would you interview and (b) would you include any information about the religious/legal beliefs that shaped the decision?

Of course you would focus on the religion angle in the story, probing to see precisely what kind of Islamic vision was at work in this decision. It's not enough to say that Sharia law was at work and leave it at that, because there are many different approaches to Islamic law and its enforcement in the Muslim world.

So what if you turned this equation around, as in the BBC report that ran under this headline: "Cannes bans burkinis over suspected link to radical Islamism." Here is the overture of this online report from the tense land of France:

The mayor of Cannes in southern France has banned full-body swimsuits known as "burkinis" from the beach, citing public order concerns.
David Lisnard said they are a "symbol of Islamic extremism" and might spark scuffles, as France is the target of Islamist attacks. ...
Anyone caught flouting the new rule could face a fine of €38 (£33). They will first be asked to change into another swimming costume or leave the beach.
Nobody has been apprehended for wearing a burkini in Cannes since the edict came into force at the end of July.

Ah, some readers might say, this action was not based on religion. It was the response of a secular government to religious symbols that it has decided are, in effect, threatening. As the BBC story quickly notes, in 2011 French officials banned both full-face Islamic burkas as well as hijabs that cover part of the face.

So the burkini wars are not a matter of religion, but of an anti-religion?

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Wait a minute: Does Islam’s Quran really say that husbands can beat their wives?

Wait a minute: Does Islam’s Quran really say that husbands can beat their wives?


What does Islam’s holy book, the Quran, say about husbands beating their wives?


The Guy is posting this item himself rather than our usual answer to a question posted via the Website because this oft-discussed matter has become an important public dispute. In heavily Muslim Pakistan, the nation’s Parliament is advised by a Council of Islamic Ideology, experts assigned to make sure laws fit the faith’s mandates. The Senate’s human rights committee now wants to amend the constitution in order to abolish the Council, in part because it ruled that husbands are allowed to beat their wives.

Muslim authorities emphasize that only beating “lightly” is permitted, The Wall Street Journal said, reporting this explanation from Council Chairman Muhammad Khan Sherani: “In Islam you cannot hit a woman in a way that bruises her, or break her bone, or hit her on the face, or cause bleeding.”

Amid widespread concern over spousal abuse, feminist and Christian critics of Islam regularly cite concerns about the Quran passage the Council relies upon. As with modern Jews and Christians dealing with violent Old Testament passages that disturb modern sensitivities, Muslim interpreters warn Muslim husbands about harsh misapplication of the teaching.

Here is the scriptural text involved, from Majid Fakhry’s literal-minded English translation (New York University Press) approved by Sunni Islam’s chief seat of learning, the venerable Al-Azhar University:

“Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made some of them excel the others, and because they spend some of their wealth. Hence righteous women are obedient, guarding the unseen which Allah has guarded. And those of them that you fear might rebel, admonish them and abandon them in their beds and beat them. Should they obey you, do not seek a way of harming them, for Allah is Sublime and Great!” (4:34).

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Sharia divorce: Vancouver Sun dives into what Muslim immigrants are really talking about

Sharia divorce: Vancouver Sun dives into what Muslim immigrants are really talking about

It’s really a shame that The Vancouver (BC) Sun hides its religion coverage under the proverbial bushel. Under 10 portals, the newspaper has dozens of drop-downs for all manner of specialties, such as “wine country” under the “life” portal.

I see nothing to help readers find religion news. I even checked under “staff blogs” under the “news” portal, but could not find Doug Todd, the staff writer who covers religion along with migration and diversity.

Folks south of the border appreciate his insight into the religion of “Cascadia,” the area of North America that covers coastal Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. A Seattle blog,, did a very good interview with him recently about spirituality in this region. 

 Fortunately, I know I can always locate Doug Todd’s columns here and that’s where I found his fascinating take on how divorce under sharia law fares in a western country.

The answer: Not so well. This passage is long, but essential.

“In the event of a separation, the defendant agrees to deliver to the plaintiff the following: I. One volume of the Holy Qur’an; II. One crystal sugar stick; III. One basket of narcissus flowers; IV. 3,000 gold coins.”
                — Delvarani v. Delvarani, B.C. Supreme Court
Lawyer Zahra Jenab often comes face to face with couples embroiled in acidic disputes over a small fortune in gold.
The West Vancouver family lawyer, who was born in Iran and raised in Canada, works frequently with ex-partners wrangling over thousands of gold coins, which may or may not have been given by the husband in a dowry under Islamic Shariah law.

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Crucifixion, beheading, stoning and now burning alive? What does this mean?

Crucifixion, beheading, stoning and now burning alive? What does this mean?

Despite the ancient examples of capital punishment in the Bible, in modern times there’s been broad moral concern in Christianity and Judaism on whether it should ever occur.  

If legal, then what methods are proper?  Under secular law in the United States, hanging, firing squads and electrocution have given way to lethal injection, supposedly more humane though recent foul-ups raise questions about that.

Islam is unambiguous in endorsing executions for “just cause” (Quran surah 17:33). But what about the methods?

The Islamic State claimed religious sanction when it burned alive, proudly and on camera for all to see, Jordanian prisoner of war Muath al-Kasaesbeh, supposedly because this fellow Muslim was  an “infidel.”

In a good Reuters follow-up, doubly datelined from Dubai and Amman, Muslim religious figures denounced this form of execution. Sheik Hussein bin Shu’ayb, head of religious affairs in southern Yemen, declared that the Prophet Muhammad “advised against burning people with fire.” And Saudi Arabian cleric Salman al-Odah said “burning is an abominable crime rejected by Islamic law, regardless of its causes.” He added, “Only God tortures by fire.”

The most striking quote came from the grand sheik of Cairo’s venerable Al-Azhar University, Ahmed al-Tayeb, who said the pilot’s executioners deserve to be “killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated.”

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The Washington Post wrestles with the dilemma that Muslim parents are facing in the West

The Washington Post wrestles with the dilemma that Muslim parents are facing in the West

If there has been one consistent theme over the past decade in GetReligion posts about Islam it has been a complaint that mainstream journalists rarely attempt to wrestle with the religious and even doctrinal content of the debates that are taking place inside the complex world of modern Islam.

Instead, the assumption in most newsrooms seems to be that so-called "moderate," or pro-Western Islam is the true Islam and that more fervent or even radical forms of the faith are "fundamentalist" and thus fake or twisted. Millions of Muslims, of course, are on opposite sides of that debate, which only goes to show that it is simplistic to view this complex and global faith as some kind of monolith.

But what do these debates look like at the human level, at the level of families, local mosques, schools and trips to the local shopping mall? Have you ever been waiting to board an airplane in an American airport and seen a Muslim family with the dad in a suit, the mother in modest clothing with a veil and the children standing behind them -- video games in their hands, hip headphones in place and decked out in clothing fresh off the fad racks at the local mall? What are the debates inside that family?

Journalists at The Washington Post tried to dig into that kind of story the other day with a Chicago-datelined piece about how some typical American Muslim teens ended up trying to flee this apostate land in order to support the goals of the Islamic State. It's clear that this was an attempt to wrestle with questions linked to what experts call "cocooning," the process of trying to keep children in the faith by, as the story says, "shielding" them from as "much American culture as possible by banning TV, the Internet and newspapers and sending them to Islamic schools."

Does this work? In this case, it didn't.

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BBC: Another generic, mysterious 'honor killing' (updated)

This time the bloody honor killing took place in a public place, for all to see — outside the Lahore High Court. The short BBC report noted: Police said 30-year old Farzana Bibi died on the spot after being attacked with bricks and sticks. Her father handed himself in, but police say her brothers and former fiance, who also took part in the attack, were still free. …

Farzana Bibi’s parents accused her husband, Muhammad Iqbal, of kidnapping her, and had filed a case against him at the High Court. However, she testified to police that she had married him of her own accord. Police said the couple had been engaged for a number of years.

Religion, apparently, had nothing to do with this event, which was said to be a mere cultural phenomenon. However, the report ended by noting:

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Reuters: On apostasy and the death penalty in Islam

A 27-year-old woman, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, has been sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy by a Khartoum court. That fact, plus her marital and family status (pregnant mother with a 20-month-old child and a Christian husband) are about the only things about which the newspaper accounts agree. Reuters’s account conflicts with those offered by some Christian NGOs and differ from the BBC and NBC, whose reports on the case appear to be based upon a press release provided by Amnesty International. Reuters also enters into this story with an assumption about Islamic law and the penalty for apostasy, writing as if all apostates from Islam are to be treated in the same way.

There is the shock value to Western eyes of the death sentence for apostasy. But this story should also trouble Muslim readers for what Reuters reports about Sudanese sharia law is at odds with Islamic jurisprudence. Not only is the sentence barbaric — but unjust from a Western and Islamic perspective.

The lede to the Reuters story as printed in the Daily Mail states:

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New York Times solves the problem of Sharia

This report on Thursday’s Cairo conference from the New York Times breaks the streak of great stories it has filed from Egypt over the past few months. Long on speculation and short on facts, “Rivals Across Egypt’s Political Spectrum Hold Rare Meeting, Urging Dialogue” on page A10 of the 1 Feb 2013 issue rambles on about what the Times thinks might happen rather than report what has happened. And, (I know you  will be surprised to hear this) the article omits the role religion and religious groups play in the news.

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