Sunday, April 27, 2008

Remember the Husband of the Non-Jewish Korean Woman?

He's written a book.


From a review:-

Which brings us to Noah Feldman’s “Fall and Rise of the Islamic State.” The book begins in daring fashion, acknowledging the plight of the region and suggesting it might be saved by Islamic law. That’s right: Shariah...

Well now, that’s a provocative assertion. At a glance, you might think Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School, drew the most difficult card at a college debating tournament...I was eager to see how Feldman would pull off such a novel and unorthodox argument.

And he does not. Or not very convincingly, anyway. Feldman provides an interesting history of the Islamic legal system that prevailed over the Middle East and North Africa, including, in particular, the variant practiced by the Ottomans until the collapse of their empire following World War I. Feldman shows that, through a delicately balanced arrangement that relied on an unelected group of scholars to interpret the Koran and other religious texts, Shariah provided an orderly and predictable legal system that checked the power of the empire’s rulers. And he shows how that system collapsed, thereby speeding the decline of the empire by removing checks on executive power.

But that was then, and this is now. In today’s world Feldman’s argument runs out of steam. How could it not? As Roy points out, modern attempts to impose Shariah have failed wherever they have been tried — whether in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia or Iran. Failed, that is, in Roy’s words, at “instigating effective and legitimate political institutions and social justice, and guaranteeing economic development.” Feldman is correct in pointing out that Islamist ideas will play an increasingly prominent role in the Middle East, but he avoids the critical questions. What about women? What about Muslims who leave the faith? Of these, Feldman says almost nothing.

Maybe Shariah will save the Middle East. But based on the evidence we have, waiting for it to blossom into a humane and modern legal system is to engage in wishful thinking. Feldman seems to recognize this himself, and ends his book by calling on the West to help majority Muslim countries build “institutions that perceive themselves and are perceived by the public as committed to the rule of law.” Nation-building, in other words.

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