Monday, August 29, 2005

Abu Aardvark: Originalism and Islamic Law

There have been a number of bloggers that have made the connection between fundamentalism of the US right wing and the fundamentalism of the jihais. Abu Ardvaark does so in, Originalism and Islamic Law:

Kevin Drum writes:

Of all the pillars of modern conservatism, the one that has long struck me as the most obviously absurd is the doctrine of orginalism. Think about it. Are we really supposed to take seriously the idea that the Supreme Court of 2005 [...] is supposed to make its judgments based on divining the intent of a small group of men who lived in a simple agrarian community 200 years ago? Presented baldly, it's an idea that wouldn't pass muster with a bright 10 year old.

Constitutional law is outside my area of expertise, so take all that follows with several big grains of salt. That said, Originalism - or the "original intent" approach to Constitutional jurisprudence - sounds very, very familiar to these Middle East expert ears. Basically, it sounds like Islamic fundamentalist (salafi) jurisprudence.

Islamic jurisprudence after the passing of Mohammed revolved around establishing procedures for interpreting the Quranic message. [...] The Islamic reformers - the original salafis - in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - called to sweep away these centuries of accumulated traditions and return directly to the text of the Quran and authentic hadith.

From what I can tell, that's pretty much exactly what Originalist scholars do. Brush aside centuries of accretion to return directly to the text of the founding document. Prioritize this original text over all later interpretations, even if the conditions of modern life dramatically differ from those prevailing at the time of its drafting.

It does sound absurd, doesn't it? Too bad its no laughing matter. The Republican right wing is intent on turning back the clock and undoing a century of social progress in the US while blurring the lines between church and state. It may not be as medieval as the salafis, but the underlying world view is damned similar.

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