The British edition of my book Heaven on Earth has just been launched, and the last few days have been busy. The week began with an interview in the Guardian, in which I proposed that there was nothing wrong with Muslims choosing to have their domestic and property disputes resolved by religious arbitrators, so long as it was entirely voluntary. Given that such tribunals are used by other British religious communities and are subject to all the ordinary laws of the land, it seems to me that it’s to everyone’s benefit that they operate openly – not least because that encourages the scholars concerned to promote Islamic approaches to mediation that are consistent with human-rights legislation. Not everyone agreed, and quite a few critics instantly assumed that I was a dissembling fanatic who secretly favours misogyny and violent punishments all round. For the record, I’m not and I don’t.
Anyway, the original article is posted here, and a follow-up interview with Julian Worricker on the BBC World Service is about 40 minutes into this file. On a similar theme, I’ve also written a blog post for the London Review of Books about the recent decision of a US federal court to injunct Oklahoma’s absurd attempt to ban state judges from acknowledging the shari’a.
Meanwhile, the first reviews of the new book have appeared, and all of them so far have been pretty favourable. You can read them in full via the relevant link near the top of this page.
With regards to Boris Johnson’s review of your book, in the Mail On Sunday, the point about the man who committed adultery is that he wanted to be punished for what he saw as his crime, just as Gary Gilmore wanted to be shot by firing squad for the murder he committed in the States during the sixties, I believe it was. It is nothing to do with The Prophet himself, who only acts as a catalyst, to allow this to happen, which I don’t think Boris understands. He doesn’t want to punish the man and doesn’t get on his high horse to attack him for his crime, so he is being both honest and merciful, by not resisting the man’s will and drawing out his sense of mental torture through his sense of betrayal of his wife through what he did.
I’m fairly certain this comment will disappoint or be considered off-topic, but I find no other place to write. I heard your interview today on Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air” and found you fascinating, disturbing, and compelling. I consider myself an educated woman, and I struggle with my own biases and prejudices regularly. In the end, I have to say simply “thank you” for doing this. While I am an avowed atheist, I abhor the discrimination, marginalization, disinformation, and sanctimonious paternalism displayed by American “thinkers” and religious leaders as they attempt to “interpret” the Muslim faith let alone Sharia law for the uneducated masses here. Frightening stuff. I respect, however, your intellect, your knowledge, and your attempts to educate the unwilling. Something must be done and only folks like you can do it. No small burden.
I’m a public school teacher in Massachusetts, and I bump up against the low-information, headline mentality of my students and their deep-seated but unexamined prejudices every day. While I’m not inclined to defend any religion on a personal level, the vitriol I witness rather regularly makes me fearful–in the most liberal state in the union–for the future. Good luck to you and thank you.
I haven’t heard the interview, I plan to. It is still amazing why people seem to be in fog about this Sharia Law issue in America. We already have our own constitution. We don’t need something injected into our constitution like a virus, Sharia law. We as Americans do not hop off a jet onto foreign soil and demand them to accommodate our laws or beliefs, I do not expect them, the believers of that law to either.
Salaam. I heard you on NPR’s “Fresh Air”. I was on my way back from work. Eventhough I have a radio at home – I sat in my car on the driveway, transfixed, unable to move – in fear that I would miss a single statement of your interview with Terry. I did not. I was waiting for Terry to ask you tough questions – which she duely obliged, as always – and waiting for you to flub your lines or give tangential replies with bellicose rhetoric; joining the ranks of many who have gone down in flames on this topic. You did not. Suffice it to say – that I have bought your book on Kindle and send a hardcopy to my father. I have not finished it yet – but I have to tell you that I have waited for this book all my life. Where I come from – this is referred to as sadaqa jaria. Be well, be brave, keep writing and may Allah watch over you.