Rescuing and serving persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

ICC Note:

Here is a portion of an excellent article from Christianity Today with Paul Marshall on Sharia. If you’d like to see the whole story go to CT. The issue of Shariah is intimately connected with persecution of Christians.


Islam’s Uncertain Future

Freedom House’s Paul Marshall says Shari’ah is both less and more dangerous than you think.
Interview by Stan Guthrie

How did extreme Shari’ah spread across the world?
In 1975, only one major country practiced these types of laws: Saudi Arabia . Beginning in 1979, you had the overthrow in Iran of the Shah by Ayatollah Khomeini, and Iran began to institute similar laws. There are differences: Iran is Shiite; Saudi Arabia is Sunni. But in terms of the hudud laws, the criminal laws, which involve amputation, crucifixion, stoning, and so on, they’re very similar in outlook. In both cases, the status of women is very, very poor. The status of minorities is very, very poor.

Within Pakistan , the growth of such laws has been gradual. Through the 1980s, [we’ve seen] the increased influence of Shari’ah law, especially under General [Muhammad] Zia-ul-Haq, and the introduction of blasphemy laws for anybody insulting God, the Qur’an, or the Prophet Muhammad.

Beginning in 1983 in Sudan , the National Islamic Front, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt , came into power. It instituted an extremely draconian form of Shari’ah. It executed people who opposed these laws on the grounds that opposing its type of Shari’ah was itself against Shari’ah. That was one of the factors that precipitated the civil war between the largely Arab, Muslim northern Sudan and the largely black, African Christian south. In Chechnya , southern Russia , rebels have been trying to imitate the Sudanese legal code.

What has been the impetus to spread extreme Shari’ah over the last 30 years?Another reason is, again, the export of Muslim missionaries and literature from Saudi Arabia and Iran .

What percentage of the Muslim world supports extreme Shari’ah?
The percentages are very hard to come by. In Indonesia , people who support more radical Islamist parties make up about 13 percent or 14 percent of the population. Back in 1983, the National Islamic Front received about 12 percent of the vote in Sudan . In Pakistan , the numbers are similar. In Nigeria , support has been much higher, but mainly, I think, because of anti-corruption motivations. You’re probably looking worldwide at 10 percent to 15 percent of the population.

What is the ultimate goal of the Islamists?
There are four points. One is to unite Muslims, who are fragmented into different countries and faiths, as one political unit. Two is that they will be governed by a caliph—one political and religious ruler of the united Muslim world. Three, the area controlled by Muslims will be ruled by forms of extreme Shari’ah law. A fourth point, which certainly the terrorists share with some others, is that the reunited Muslim political grouping would organize to wage war, jihad, against the rest of the world to continue the expansion of Islam until it has conquered the whole world.

But while all would like to export it, not all believe in trying to spread it by war. For the moment, they just want to control their own area, the places where they live, and try to make sure it’s the form of Islam they feel is right.

Is extremist Islam growing in Europe and North America ?
Certainly in Europe . One of the frightening things about Europe is that the second- and third-generation immigrants are much more radical than their parents. You’re not getting assimilation; you’re getting the opposite. In places such as England , the first generation of immigrants from Pakistan 30 or 40 years ago came in, got menial jobs, opened shops, and were sort of marginalized but relatively peaceful. They wanted to make a success of life. The radicals are their children and in some cases even their grandchildren. As time goes on in Europe , the Muslim populations are becoming more radical, and, of course, the total numbers of Muslims are increasing. This is a frightening phenomenon for Europeans.

In the United States , the sociology of the Muslim population is very, very different. In Europe , many Muslim immigrants are low income, very poor, brought in to do menial jobs. In some ways within the society, they fill the slot that illegal immigrants fill in the United States . But in the U.S. , our Muslim population tends to be highly educated. I think more than 60 percent have degrees, and, in general, they do not live in separate neighborhoods. Whether radicalism is growing, I don’t know. There are indications it is among African Americans and in prison populations.

How does extreme Shari’ah affect Christians when Islamists gain control?
Almost immediately, there are restrictions on the building or repair of churches or the expansion of Christianity. You must stay where you are; you must stay in a subordinate position. Second, churches built without permits get destroyed. Third, Christians are often accused of blasphemy against Islam or of criticizing Islam. The pressure becomes very bad indeed. You get a community that is isolated and marginalized. Preaching the gospel to a Muslim is very strongly forbidden. That can get you killed. Or, if a Muslim decides to convert to Christianity or, indeed, to any other religion, there’s a good chance that he or she will be killed as an apostate.

How should Christians under such pressure respond?
It will depend on the situation. If you’re in a situation of severe threat, such as in Iran or Afghanistan , you keep your head down and simply manage the best you can. In situations where there are greater possibilities for change, such as Pakistan or Egypt , the Christian community becomes more outspoken. In Nigeria , there has been violent resistance by Christian bodies. Much of the violence consists of attacks by Muslims on Christians, but there are attacks the other way around as well. Then you have Sudan , in which—partly because of Shari’ah—the Christians and others have waged war to resist control by radical Islam. You see quite a range of options going on, and which one is right will very much depend on the circumstances. You have to make a judgment on what is possible.

So is taking up arms sometimes justifiable for Christians in your view?
Oh, yes, very much so. The Armenians have a long history of doing that, also the Ethiopians. These are areas where Christians still control territories and have often fought to maintain them. The defense through arms of a community and territory may well be a legitimate option, and that was the case in southern Sudan . The government was, in fact, waging a genocidal war, and the result could very likely have been the extermination of the Christian community. That’s happened in many other places, such as Central Asia . I think on just-war grounds that can certainly be defended.