Sharia Law: Not a Human Rights Framework

Believe it or not I do not have to know anything about Sharia Law other than that it is a religious law to know that it is fundamentally in conflict and hostile to human rights, basic or otherwise. I do not need to read the verbose and over-analyzed Koran and I do not need to perform an exegesis of Islamic hadith. Primarily because my reasoning extends to any and all religious laws, Catholic, Protestant, Rabbinical, or otherwise. There are three bases upon which I can and will argue.

The first, is that any religious law inherently favors the practitioners of the corresponding faith. Islamic law has an innate bias in favor of Muslims, their beliefs, practices, and their values concerning community welfare. It also inherently rejects alternatives – even proven superior alternatives. It also coerces non-practitioners to respect and practice at least an aspect of a religion they do not credit, respect, understand or identify with. That alone is a violation of fundamental human rights. I have a right to practice or not practice any religion I choose…forcing Sharia Law upon me then forces me to practice Islam to a measurable and thus unacceptable extent.

Secondly, I will argue that religious law, as opposed to its secular double, is sclerotic, ossified by tradition and fundamentally opposed to change. Religious law is inflexible because it is based upon traditions and apprehensions that have no relevance in the modern world. Our understanding of the natural world has increased substantially which also colors and textures our understanding of human communities. Religious text does not in any way factor in the evolution of human understanding in its calculus of law and justice. In fact, it is at its very core hostile to such considerations because it means altering ‘holy’ and ‘infallible’ texts that would cease to be ‘infallible’ if they were altered and thus proven wrong and misguided. They would also cease to be holy if they were seen to be imperfect.

Finally, philosophically speaking, religious laws can in no way coincide with human rights because they spring from absolutely different understandings of reality. Religious law, even when exhibiting a verisimilitude to human rights, is not so because it is about one’s relationship with God/gods and not about what one owes to their fellow human. It is illegal to murder someone not because it is inherently wrong to kill your fellow woman but because God told you not to. In essence, respecting life becomes what you owe God and not what you owe humanity. This is then not a human right.

If you are prepared to argue that God feels this way not because humanity is her property but rather because murder is inherently wrong, that there is a morality so absolute that God did not invent it but merely recognizes and enforces it, then you are in even more dangerous territory still because now God has been rendered a middleman.

In summary, my three points are these:

  1. Religious legal systems like Sharia are inherently biased in favor of their corresponding faith and inherently biased against non-practitioners.
  1. Religious Law is based on ancient traditions and understandings of the world and are dictated and outlined by fixed and limited texts that cannot be abrogated or altered and therefore cannot evolve with society.
  1. Religious Laws pertain to a duty one has to God or gods and not your fellow human – again making it impossible to describe such legal frameworks as honoring human rights sincerely or genuinely.
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