Why should it surprise us that the transitional government in Libya is calling for Sharia Law? After all, Libya is 97 percent Muslim, Islam is a law-based religion, and Sharia is Islamic law. This is not exactly rocket science.
The rebels who killed Gaddafi were not exclaiming, “Long live the West!” They were shouting, “Allahu Akbar! Allah is great!” And this is hardly a new development. Islam entered Libya in the 7th century, the same century that Islam was birthed, and Gaddafi was not hated by his people because of his Muslim faith or his desire to see Libya become an exemplary Islamic nation. He was hated because of his destructive tyranny.
Yet commentators in the West continue to marvel that the Arab Spring is turning into a Sharia Fall. Why?
A recent headline on FoxNews.com announced, “Democracy on the Rocks in Egypt,” followed by this blurb: “Leader of radical Islamic group looks to instate Shariah law in post-Mubarak Egypt, where Christians, Muslims and its army continue to clash.” (More accurately, the last clause should have said, “where Muslims continue to kill Christians.”)
This is news? This is an unexpected development? And who says that, in the Islamic mind, democracy and Sharia Law are incompatible?
Just because these countries are calling for democratic elections does not mean they are casting off their religion, and just because they are breaking free from oppressive regimes does not mean they consider Islam to be oppressive, even in its fundamentalist form.
It is true that many of the young people revolting in these countries have access to the West and its ideals on a scale unimaginable to previous generations, and it is true that they are saying “enough is enough” to the corrupt despots who have ruled them for so long. But we make a serious error when we downplay the nature and depth of their Islamic faith, not to mention the fact that Libya and Egypt (as well as Tunisia) are African not European, while the other Arab countries in turmoil are Middle Eastern, not American. The cultural and ideological divide can hardly be exaggerated, let alone the religious divide.
In Islamic countries, there is no such thing as “the separation of mosque and state.” Put another way, “The heart of Islamic teaching is that religion is not just a part of life, but life is a tiny part of religion. Thus everything in life is dominated by this religion. As such, Islam is a system. It is a socio-political, socio-religious, socio-economical, educational, legislative, judicial, and militaristic system garbed in religious terminology” (Answering-Islam.org).
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.