The Great Shariah-Libya Freakout

Of Libya's plan to adopt Shariah law, Adam Serwer blogs at Mother Jones that the U.S. cannot force its preferred outcome on the Middle East's fledgling democracies.

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Libyans celebrate liberation. (Getty Images)

In a blog entry at Mother Jones, Adam Serwer says that since the Libya Transitional National Council announced its decision to adopt Islamic Shariah law as the basis of its legislation, the right has charged President Barack Obama with being supportive of the decision. Serwer brushes back the claim, saying that the U.S. has no control over the outcome in Libya, and it's pointless to wring one's hands over Islam's prominent role in the Middle East's fledgling democracies.

Between the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Moammar Qaddafi, it's hard out there for conservatives trying to portray President Barack Obama as weak on foreign policy. But with Libya Transitional National Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil's announcement over the weekend that Libya would have "Islamic Shariah law [as] the basis of legislation," the right is settling on a narrative: Obama is making the world safe for Shariah!

There are a few problems with this line of argument, but the most obvious is that President George W. Bush invaded two mostly Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and both of them adopted constitutions that identify Islam as the state religion and decree that laws have to be consistent with the precepts of Islam. Despite this, both constitutions contain provisions respecting the rights of religious minorities -- as does Libya's draft constitution.

That's not to say that there's nothing to worry about -- any country that identifies one particular religion as its "state religion" will, by definition, end up treating religious minorities as second-class citizens in some fashion. Indeed, Iraq and Afghanistan's religious minorities continue to face persecution. But it's not like the Libyan TNC writing Islam into its constitution is an Obama-sponsored departure from the Bush policy of midwifing fully formed Madisonian democracies from the ashes of despotic regimes. You can have American-backed dictators forcing nominal secularism onto Muslim countries at gunpoint or you can have popularly elected governments reflecting the will of the mostly-Muslim populations of these countries, but you can't have both. 

Read Adam Serwer's entire blog entry at Mother Jones.

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