Proposed Libyan Constitution Would Make Sharia The Governing Law

For months, critics have observed that the rebels in Libya contains worrisome elements of religious extremists and that the rebel forces have been accused of war crimes (as have the government forces). The concern is that, like our work in Afghanistan (ultimately helping Al Qaeda and the Taliban), we have little understanding of who we are bringing to power in Libya in our intervention into that civil war. That concern is magnified this week by the release of the draft constitution, which (unless changed) would make Sharia law the governing law of Libya.

Of course, much appears in flux in Tripoli and this is just a draft. Yet, we have reason to be concerned. We have a long line of cases exploring the abuses and atrocities committed in various governments in the name of Sharia law.

Here is Part 1, Article 1: “Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”

If this clause remains in any final version, Libya will join countries like Iran in imposing religious law on a population. Not only is it a rejection of the separation of church and state, it would make a mockery of other guarantees of due process.

It is interesting that this issue was raised by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which seems supportive of faith-based programs and legislation in the United States. Heritage (before which I have spoken in past years) is not viewed by civil libertarians as particularly strong on separation issues. Some of us disagree with faith-based politics and legislation regardless of whether it is Judeo-Christian or Muslim.

There is of course great disagreement over the proper enforcement or even meaning of Sharia precepts. However, the treatment of women, religious freedom, free speech, and the methods of punishment have been a constant source of abuses in Sharia-based systems.

It is not clear how much support this draft has within the transitional government, but the story highlights how little we know of the intentions of leaders or factions in this new government.

78 thoughts on “Proposed Libyan Constitution Would Make Sharia The Governing Law”

  1. Sharon – you didn’t make a point, or did I miss it?
    1. True that Christ did not follow Christ, although He believed His own teachings, one assumes, and followed them.

    2. What text are you thinking of where He said “go make miracles”. I remember He did say that you will do greater things than I have done. John 14:12. And He did recommend prayer: Luke 18:1

    3. Take care of each other – oh yes: Love one another as I have loved you. A “new command” I give you. Hard to think that a command to love would be called “new” after all His preaching on love, but it did have a different twist to it. Raised the bar. Very few people do this as you may have noticed. But I suspect they are out there.

  2. But truth be addressed- Christ was not a Christian. He said go make miracles not pray for them and he preached take care of each other.

  3. Regarding separation of state from church:

    I did not mean that the church is above the law. I meant that the the state IS NOT allowed to try to influence the religious sphere whereas the church IS allowed to try to influence the political sphere. You saw Martin Luther King leading marches for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. You don’t see the reverse.

    It is true that churches can no longer burn people at the stake, but few churches find this a constraint. Possibly the satanists.

    Zoning is not a religious activity, although churches ought to be treated fairly, and in actuality, the enforcement of the law can fall short of the ideal on occasion. Oscar Grant pops to to mind.

  4. Martin:

    We we can disagree that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I’m betting shortly after 7:00 a.m. we’ ll have the answer. The point is that separation of church and state is an embedded part of American law that has served us well. That is not opinion; it is historical fact.

    There is a considerable number of laws constraining churches— some of them poorly drawn and susceptible to abuse. For example, here in my home county, they are wrangling with zoning for a new mosque and the debate has become bigoted. Churches must comply with other building, zoning, and local laws. Likewise, their leaders and members are not immune from criminal sanction for their acts even if they claim it part of their religion as the First Amendment protect of religion involves beliefs and not actions. It is true that churches are free from taxation but they are not free to impose their will upon you or require you to accept their beliefs. Likewise they may not imprison you, take your land, nor banish you a– features of the theocratic You have considerable protection from the excesses of religion. And you have that precisely because of those words penned long ago by that famous Virginian from Albelmarle County in an epistle to those fine churchmen in Danbury.

  5. Martin,

    I agree with you on the need for humanitarian interventions in the horrors perpetrated in this world. However, I don’t see any viable mechanism in place to effectuate it and I do see the extreme misuse of “humanitarian” to justify unwarranted national incursions. It’s a tough decision, but my life experience has taught me not to readily trust my government when it supposedly takes humanitarian actions.

  6. Mike – those are the issues and considerations.

    My desire is to find a way to respond to the cries of the oppressed, while avoiding the common humanitarian cover given to imperialist military actions.

    The US response to Somalia (which ended with Black Hawk Down) seemed an appropriate attempt to help many avoid starvation for a time.

    My suggestion above, to use NGO’s, is probably a pretty bad solution, and probably the heart of the idea is that most NGO’s are not heavy on the kinetics. I don’t know if the for-real all volunteer army that went to Spain to fight Franco (Hemingway et al) was a good idea or a bad idea. I lean towards good, but know little, and suspect running is a better strategy than fighting.

  7. Mespo – Well, we disagree.
    There are few laws that constrains the church.
    What constraints are there, or would you like to see, on churches as regards public issues, matters of state? The church generally sucks up to the state anyway, although that is not its mission.

    The Blackmun quote is 1st Amendment, “separation of state from church”, not “separation of church and state”.

  8. “But I also am dismayed by our lack of action in Rwanda, and when the Serbs were cutting out the Croats eyeballs and stuffing them in their mouths [or was that another made-up story, like the stolen baby incubators in Kuwait.] Do you think that action could be taken by NGO’s to address situations like Rwanda or Haiti, and I am aware that Blackwater can, in a sick way, be thought of as NGO, may Eric Prince go to hell for Nissour Square.”


    The problem as I see it is that once you accept the premise that America has the right to act unilaterally in the internal affairs of any other nation, you have also legitimized its’ right to tailor the concept of American humanitarian
    interference into a dangerous abstraction. Thus the horror of 9/11 justified our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Rwanda and the Serb/Croat insanity touched me deeply and engendered a longing in me for intervention. However, until humanity is wise enough to coalesce into a humane world government, a highly unlikely prospect, the US lacks the moral authority to cast judgments on others countries governance. Unless their government represent a direct, rather than abstract threat to our citizenry and not to certain business interests.

    That is why I used Hitler as an example. Once he began the invasion of autonomous countries intervention became necessary and indeed the
    European nations who assented to the Czechoslovakian incursion were disgraceful in their lack of action to save that nascent democracy. As I believe you imply it is a difficult call to make in the face of atrocity. However, considering the justifications used for Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc., in almost all instances at bottom is a belief in American Societies right to impose its values on other societies deemed to be culturally backward. Within that belief is indeed a historically racialist conception that carefully examined deems White European Cultural heritage as superior to that of those with darker skins. This belief is of course not only based in societal values, but in their Christian religious underpinnings.

  9. “They made the only feminist in the Christian bible- an herbalist, prophet and healer, into a whore.”


    I agree. She was also the most beloved by Jesus of his Disciples and the one he said understood his teachings best. Some assert she was also his wife. Due to Roman political beliefs and a strong strain of ant-female clerics, the Council of Nicaea maligned her and most probably edited the Gospels to demean her.

  10. The Passamaquoddy Indians had it right. We are only as strong as our weakest, only as rich as our poorest, only as smart as our most excluded, only as helpful as our most helpless.
    We are our richest resource, one that will make us strong, and rich or weak and poor. It rings so true when the poor rebel to bring down their government.

  11. Martin:

    The phrase “separation of church and state” goes beyond what the First Amendment says. The First Amendment limits the government.


    Likewise “innocent until proven guilty” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Doesn’t that also limit government coercion? The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land not the only law. The Separation of Church and State is as much a fabric of our Republic as the First Amendment.

    “When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.”

    ~Justice Harry Blackmun

  12. Regarding the plea for “reason”

    Reason needs axioms, and axioms are outside of reason. Calls for reason in this context seem to me to be a fantasy, kind of a modern prayer to the big bang.

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