Michael Gerson’s assault on Newt Gingrich’s opposition to the Arabian version of Islamic law [“Sowing the wind,” Dec. 13] contained an assumption: that in Islam, as Mao Zedong put it in another context, “100 flowers blossom and 100 schools contend.”
Mr. Gerson is correct in saying that there are several versions of Islamic law (“sharia,” or the path). And it is clearly possible for other religions and secular societies to coexist peacefully with those who hold to such Islamic law traditions as were espoused by Abdurrahman Wahid, the late president of Indonesia and a powerful advocate of political and religious freedom. But there is a very good reason why the content of sharia over much of the globe is not Indonesian or even highly varied as Mr. Gerson assumes, but predominately Arabian. As Lawrence Wright points out in his superb work, “The Looming Tower,” the Saudis constitute about 1 percent of the world’s Muslims, yet they fund about 90 percent of the world’s Islamic institutions. Oil money enables this.
Influence over the U.S. legal system is a major focus of Saudi-funded groups that seek to spread their version of sharia. Most U.S. legal cases where sharia influences the outcome involve family law. If a court accepts claims based on Saudi sharia, this virtually always operates to the disadvantage of the woman. In minimizing this issue, Mr. Gerson ignored the result of an important study released this summer by the Center for Security Policy, which found 15 trial court cases and 12 appellate ones where sharia was found applicable by state courts. The outcomes aren’t uniform. In one recent New Jersey case, the trial court’s willingness to disregard wife-beating when a Muslim male defendant pleaded sharia was reversed on appeal. But in a Maryland case, a woman lost custody of her child because the trial court refused to recognize that she would have been killed if she had returned to Pakistan to contest custody.
Arabian sharia includes stoning of women, “honor” killings of daughters by fathers, female genital mutilation, women being lashed for driving a car, and (this month) being decapitated for being a sorceress. Our courts will probably protect us for some years from the worst of this. But Mr. Gingrich is not “shallow” to take a firm stand against the United States beginning to walk, as some European states already have, this bitter misogynistic path.
R. James Woolsey,
The writer, the chairman of the foundation for Defense of Democracies, was director of central intelligence from 1993 to 1995. He is an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.