Sharia States: Totalitarian to the Core

In less than two weeks, American voters must decide whether to reelect or to boot the current White House occupant. Dr. Andrew Bostom’s monumental new work, Sharia Versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, could not have come at a more fateful hour. This brilliant scholarship, while designed as an overarching analysis, also conveniently provides a kind of detailed 2012 Electoral Guide for the Perplexed. [i]


Among recent perplexities that demand voters’ consideration:

  • For weeks after the murderous 9/11, 11th anniversary attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, U.S. President Barack Obama, rather than its jihadi perpetrators, blamed a crude and laughable internet parody aimed at the founder of Islam for inciting their actions. Incredibly, to a global audience during his September 24 UN address, Obama six times reinforced that lie.
  • Now Obama plans to authorize Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to announce a temporary nuclear crisis “solution.” Iran will swap a temporary halt in partial uranium enrichment for U.S. sanctions cuts, including some on Iran’s Central Bank, before the March arrival of Nowruz, the pre-Islamic Persian New Year. [ii] The U.S. Treasury Dept. long ago designated Iran’s Central Bank for supporting terrorism. The massive inflation caused by sanctions has increasingly harmed Iranian nuclear ambitions. Obama’s blatant ploy to win reelection loosens the noose.
  • Obama banned terms that help define the current Islamic war on the West — “jihad,” “sharia,” “radical Islam,” “Islamic terrorism” and the like — and effectively outlawed study of Islamic doctrine at U.S. official and security agencies. During World War II and the Cold War, the U.S. did not provide Nazi sensitivity training or ban reading books on or by Karl Marx.
  • In June 2009, at the world’s leading Islamic university, Cairo’s Al Azhar, President Barack Obama praised Islam and blamed the West for virtually all the world’s problems.
  • The Obama embrace of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood evidently extends to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Hamas fundraising arm in the U.S. In March 2010, the Obama Department of Justice dropped indictments against CAIR and its co-founder Omar Ahmad, among others, despite massive evidence of the kind that in November 2008 convicted the Holy Land Foundation and its officers on 108 terror financing and fraud charges.

Andrew Bostom’s latest book exposes the logic that possibly motivated these and many similar perplexities in an engrossing and encyclopedic catalog of ideology and history of the naked totalitarianism of Islamic religious and political doctrines. The introduction alone establishes the diametric opposite embodied in Islamic law (sharia) to free Western social structure. It prohibits political freedoms as well as freedoms of conscience, faith, and expression (both oral and written). In Islamdom, one expresses personal views at great risk. As applied throughout its history and expressed in internal jurisprudence, the creed Mohammed founded has suppressed and oppressed all with whom it interacted — especially non-Muslims.


Indeed, jihadism and Islamic canon are intrinsically totalitarian. Neither concerns or governs only “believers.” Islamophilic obfuscation notwithstanding, many sharia attributes make the ostensibly “religious” legal code intractable, even now. By Muslim belief, according to seminal scholar Joseph Schacht (d. 1969), the “clear path to be followed” establishes divine, global Islamic order and is therefore:

not to be penetrated by the intelligence … i.e., man has to accept it without criticism. … It comprises without restriction, as an infallible doctrine of duties the whole of the religious, political, social, domestic and private life of those who profess Islam, and the activities of the tolerated members of other faiths so far as they may not be detrimental to Islam. [emphasis added]

In short, sharia statutes also govern the unique Islamic institution of jihad war, and relationships of Muslims to non-Muslims. The code requires Muslims to mount regular jihad attacks on unvanquished non-Muslims and to permanently, deliberately humiliate these “inferior” jihad survivors. Incorporation into Islamic polity subjects non-Muslims to sharia (pp. 110-112) and with it, statutes covering inheritance, requirements and prohibitions and draconian hadd penalties. These include death (by stoning) for adultery, apostasy, and highway robbery (whose victim was murdered); loss of hands and feet for simple robbery; loss of right hand for simple theft; 100 lashes for “fornication”; and 80 lashes for wine drinking. Tracing to individual Quran passages (including 45:18, 42:13, 42:21, and 5:48) and other Islamic sacred texts, primarily hadith (Mohammed’s reputed sayings and deeds), sharia is ultimately understood by Muslims as “the totality of Allah’s commandments relating to the activities of man,” Schacht notes. It embodies “the most characteristic phenomenon of Islamic thought [and] nucleus of Islam itself.”

These facts are not an expression of hatred for Muslims. “I have nothing against the people,” said Geert Wilders in a March 2009 interview Bostom later cited — in this respect, undoubtedly speaking for all anti-jihad scholars and writers:

I don’t hate Muslims. But Islam is a totalitarian ideology. It rules every aspect of life — economics, family law, whatever. It has religious symbols, it has a God, it has a book — but it’s not a religion. It can be compared with totalitarian ideologies like Communism or fascism. [In] no country where Islam is dominant [do] you have a real democracy, a real separation between church and state. Islam is totally contrary to our values.

Bostom shows in myriad ways how Islam cements “religion” to Mohammed’s  crushing totalitarian 7th century creed. For openers, while the Arabic word “hurriyya” translates to “freedom,” it refers to “freedom as perfect slavery to Allah,” as prescribed by highly dogmatic sharia laws engineered by the same dictatorial chief (Mohammed said, by divine instructions delivered via the angel Gabriel). It means something diametrically opposite to the same word in English — study of which is now off limits for U.S. military and security officials.


He draws largely from historical sources. Bostom cites 19th century academic William Gifford Palgrave, for example, who traversed Arabia’s then virtually unknown heart disguised as a Muslim physician. Palgrave observed and studied Islam in situ, and describes its divine law (sharia) as “a pantheism of force,” with god acting as “a tremendously sympathizing autocrat,” very “jealous of his creatures,” delighted by making them all his complete slaves. [iii] And he was hardly alone in deriving a negative assessment of Islam from primary experience and Islamic sources alike. As Bostom previously observed:

Repeatedly for 100 years, between the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, important scholars and intellectuals — for example, the historians Jacob Burckhardt, Waldemar Gurian, and Karl Wittfogel, philosopher Bertrand Russell, [modern analytical psychiatry founder] Carl Jung, Protestant theologian Karl Barth, sociologist Jules Monnerot … [pre-eminent Islamic law scholar] G.H. Bousquet, and even the contemporary Western eminence grise on Islamic civilization, Bernard Lewis — have all referred to Islam as a despotic or totalitarian ideology.

Like Bostom’s two previous landmark studies on Islamic jihad and antisemitism (Legacy of Islamic Jihad: Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims and Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History), his third adds significantly to our knowledge base. Often, contemporary scholars contend that Islam grew hateful upon absorbing Nazi anti-Semitism in the 20th century. Yet Bostom shows, even in the Nazi era, intellectual luminaries saw the truth as quite the opposite. Like “Islam of old,” Barth warned in 1939, National Socialism’s political experiment promised to those willing to participate; but when resisted, it could “only crush and kill.” Nazism, he wrote, was best understood as “a new Islam, its myth a new Allah and Hitler as this new Allah’s Prophet.”

Muslim totalitarianism across the ages

A host of important Muslims, across time, thought likewise. Totalitarian terror, for example, pervaded “heavenly,” peaceful Andalusia. Spain’s purportedly enlightened Um ayyad conquerors were notoriously brutal, observed historian Evariste Levi-Provencal (1894-1956). They established strict Malikite Sunni doctrine, championed “jealous orthodoxy” and “fiercely opposed innovations”; their totally “immobile doctrine suspected and condemned in advance for the slightest attempt at rational speculation” (p. 368). In 1914, Miguel Asin Palacois saw Muslim Spain in the same light, as had Cordovan Muslim al-Kinani (d. 901), a student of “scholar of Spain par excellence” Ibn Habib (d. 853). When walking outdoors, al-Kinari noted, Jews were required to wear patches bearing the image of an ape, and Christians, patches picturing a pig. In about 1000, Muslim jurist Ahmed ibn Said ibn Hazm (of Hispanic Christian descent) reported that an infidel who did not pay his annual “head tax” (jizya) risked execution or sale into slavery, and put his entire coreligionist community at risk of losing their “protection.” Muslim rulers could impose the same penalties for “public outrage against the Islamic faith,” e.g. exposing a cross or wine jug (pp. 368-375).


In Granada, Jewish viziers appointed to protect their community were assassinated between 1056 and 1066. After the murders of Samuel ibn Naghrela and his son Joseph, a fiery anti-Jewish “ode” by Muslim jurist and poet Abu Ishaq filtered through Muslim Granada. Very possibly, the hateful “ode” incited the Muslim pogrom that then annihilated Granada’s entire Jewish population of up to 5,000 — as many or more than the number of Jewish people reportedly killed during the First Crusade’s pillage of the Rhineland some thirty years later (pp. 176-177).

Ottoman Turkey 400 years later similarly fostered totalitarian Islamic dogmas. Molla Khosrew (d. 1480) — celebrated writer, Hanafi jurist and cleric to Sultan Mehmed II — rested his jihad directives on them. Religious obligation (fard al-kifaya) requires jihad and one must “begin the fight against the enemy, even when he [the enemy] may not have taken the initiative to fight,” Khosrew instructs. Early on, he reasons, Mohammed allowed Muslims only self-defense, but later on:

He ordered them to take the initiative at certain times of the year, that is, at the end of the haram months, saying “Kill the infidels wherever you find them.” (Q: 9:5) He finally ordered fighting without limitation, at all times and in all places, saying “Fight those who do not believe in God and the Last Day” (Q: 9:29) (p. 178).

Fast forward 500 years to 1948, when English-speaking Arab League Office member Aboul Saud described Islam to investigative journalist John Ray Carlson:

You might describe Mohammedanism as a religious form of State Socialism. … The Quran gives the State the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate the right to nationalize industry, distribute land or expropriate property. It grants the ruler of the state unlimited powers, so long as he does not go against the Quran. The Quran is our personal as well as our political constitution (p. 256).

An interview with the late Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al Banna led Carlson to conclude average Egyptians “worshiped the use of force,” given that “terror was synonymous with power.” This also explained both the sensational rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the near universal popularity of Nazism in Egypt.

Strict dogma survives and thrives

The 1918 demise of the Ottoman empire and dissolution of the last Islamic Caliphate hardly assuaged Islamic totalitarianism. Rather, Muslim fervor rose to reestablish a new and stronger translational religious superstate — and with it rose individual and Islamic societal yearning for a totalitarian, sharia-based cultural regimen, including discriminatory governance of non-Muslims.

A 1979 treatise on jihad warfare by Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik reflected the bedrock Islamic ideas as had others centuries before. Published in Lahore, the book was prefaced by former Pakistan advocate general Allah Bukhsh K. Brohi:

Islam views the world as though it were bipolarized in two opposing camps — Darul-Salam (Islam) facing Darul-Harb — the first one is submissive to the Lord in cooperating with God’s purpose … but the second one … is engaged in perpetuating defiance of the same Lord. Such a state of affairs which engages any one in rebellion against God’s will is termed as “Fitna” [which] refers us to misconduct on the part of a man who establishes his own norms and expects obedience from others, thereby usurping God’s authority — who alone is sovereign (p. 201).


Hanafi judicial school founder Abu Hanifa (d. 767) designed the bifurcated Muslim worldview, which others widely distributed too, including Muslim historian and Quranic commentator Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d. 923) in the Book of Jihad. Al-Tabari includes Abu Hanafi (and followers’) extracts “affirming the impunity with which non-combatant ‘harbis’ — women, children, the elderly, the mentally or physically disabled — may be killed” (p. 62).

Countless famed Muslim jurists repeated these foundational doctrines through Muslim history, and still do, Bostom shows. In July 2003, “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader, Al-Jazeera TV personality, and MB European Council for Fatwa and Research chief Yousef Qaradawi generally approved pillage and (certainly) as related to Israelis:

Islamic law [has determined] the blood and property of the people of Dar al-Harb [the Domain of Disbelief where the battle for domination of Islam should be waged] is not protected … in modern war, all of society, with all its classes and ethnic groups, is mobilized to participate in the war, to aid its continuation, and to provide it with material and human fuel required for it to assure the victory of the state fighting its enemies (p. 64).

Alas, Muslim religious and political leaders don’t harbor these views in a vacuum. An alarming swath of the Muslim public also avidly supports them. In April 2007 the University of Maryland/ released startling results of interviews with 4,384 Muslims (1,000 Moroccans, 1,000 Egyptians, 1,243 Pakistanis and 1,141 Indonesians), run from Dec. 2006 to Feb. 2007. Nearly two-thirds of the subjects (2,872) wanted: “To unify all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate” (including nearly half of “moderate” Indonesian Muslims); 65.5% also agreed that “every Islamic country” should “require a strict application of Shari’a law.” [emphasis added]

A Dec. 2010 Pew poll in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, and Nigeria documented similar strong support for legislating hadd punishments: 82% of Egyptians and Pakistanis wanted adulterers stoned, as did 70% in Jordan and 56% in Nigeria; 82% of Pakistanis, 77% of Egyptians, 65% of Nigerians, and 58% of Jordanians supported whipping and amputation for theft. The vast majority of Muslims polled also supported execution of apostates (Jordan, 86%; Egypt, 84%; Pakistan, 76%; Nigeria, 51%).

Such attitudes also apparently prevail among Western Muslims. A secret December 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in London revealed alarming sentiments in a study of 600 British Muslim students: 40% want to replace British law with sharia and 32% support killing for Islam.

The dangers of “Political Correctness”

Bostom takes innumerable contemporary assurances of Islam’s beneficence — from Muslims, political figures, Islamophiles, or vaunted Western scholars like Bernard Lewis — and cuts them to proper size.


He garners considerable aid from stellar scholars, far less prone than Lewis to view Islam through rose-colored panes. One can generally confirm academic errors due to their susceptibility to rational argument, wrote German scholar Karl Binswanger in conclusion to a 1977 analysis of Ottoman imposition of Islamic law on non-Muslims. Not so, the “religious,” “dogmatic” Islamophilic domain, given a modern:

… attempt to present the moral aspect of an Islamic fact as ethically valuable (not value-neutral!) even if historic (and any other) sense does not support such an interpretation.

Whomever — consciously or not — downplays or misrepresents the morally negative aspects of the Dhimma [sharia “protection” designed to oppress non-Muslims] or even distorts it into its (moral) opposite, because he would otherwise have to partially revise his preconceived evaluation of Islamic culture, he is behaving like the Marxist “researcher” who simply demonizes every manifestation of “evil” feudalism, instead of, or without (even therefore) investigating the functional accomplishments of feudalism. The Marxist “researcher” acts this way because there is no place for critical examination of his own position in his preconceived conception of the world and science. For him “scientific socialism” is a dogma.

A dogma into the like of which an “obstinate ‘scientific Islamophilia'” Orientalist studies by 1977 seriously risked descending (p. 52). The litany of gross factual errors since floated by mainstream academics, media, and politicians defies description in this already lengthy review.

But that rose-tinted discourse of Islam has spread its tentacles far beyond academia — into politics and the press — and endangered the entire nation. Americans must turn elsewhere for their data, and quickly. Post haste purchases of this book may help recalibrate the national discussion on November 6 at the ballot box.

To which end, we should perhaps return to Moses Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish author of the original three-volume Guide to the Perplexed. A physician by profession and theologian by avocation, the Ramban lived his entire life among Muslims, himself escaped numerous Islamic jihad depredations, and generally termed Mohammed the “Madman.”

As a medical man, Maimonides taught doctors for all time to examine facts before treating. Interpret, but do not stray from reason. His lesson applies equally to everything, even politics. This book supplies a large dose of reason. It can help undecided voters, and perhaps even some “decided.” Post-election, it can help radically shift U.S. policies that stand, perhaps intentionally now, totally blind to the ravages of jihad and sharia. Facts we can no longer ignore: sharia opposes all basic American ideas — and states under its law are totalitarian to their core.

[i] The brilliant Jewish doctor, philosopher and sage, Moses Maimonides produced the original 12th century Guide for the Perplexed — a timeless and apolitical three volume treatise on Jewish law and philosophy relative to religion — during an unrivaled Islamic persecution of Spain’s Jewish people. Muslim-ruled Andalusia was never a calm or comfortable home for Jews, but the Berber Moravid successors to Spain’s Umayyad conquerors opposed any “liberality and toleration” at all and were far “surpassed in cruelty and fanaticism” by the 1148 Almohades conquerors of Cordova. Yet, as translator M. Friedlander notes in his introducing his second, 1904 English edition, the “brilliant luminary” Maimonides emanated “rays of light and comfort,” and advised philosophically — and by personal example — that historical attempts to eliminate the Jewish faith had invariably failed, as would Islamic efforts contemporary to his time.

[ii] Nowruz is the most important Zoroastrian holy day. While a vestige of pre-Islamic culture, this festival remains the most widely celebrated Iranian holiday. After the 1979 revolution, Shiite clerics attempted unsuccessfully to ban the holiday all together.



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