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Sharia (Arabic شريعة, lit. "the way") is nutty Islamic law covering conduct in business and personal relationships. Sharia is not codified, and is best thought instead as a way to devise laws based on the teachings of the Qur'an and hadiths. Sharia is commonly and incorrectly labeled "Sharia law" when it should simply be written as Sharia.
Many Muslims consider it a good idea for moral guidance. But in some countries under Sharia Mutaween (religious police) enforce the practice of the law.
When assessing sharia, however, it is important to remember that it is not a single thing. Every country to implement some form of "Sharia" does so differently, in terms of the strictness of the laws, the specifics of the laws, and whether or not the laws apply to non-Muslims.
 Religious law
Unlike secular laws, Sharia is based on religious teachings, and is seen by traditionalists as a reflection of God’s will. The precepts of Sharia reach beyond criminal law and provide conventions for many other aspects of life, such as diet, clothing and regulated prayer. Women are expected to be obedient. Husbands may beat their wives even for suspected but unproved arrogance, but those who dislike this can argue that, "the best example was the Messenger himself [Mohammed] never beating a woman."
There are five main interpretations of Sharia. They are largely based on common precepts, but are by no means identical:
- Hanafi (Sunni. Generally predominant in Central Asia.)
- Hanbali, (Sunni. Generally predominant in Saudi Arabia.)
- Jaafari (Shia. Generally predominant in Iran.)
- Maliki (Sunni. Generally predominant in Northern Africa.)
- Shafi‘i (Sunni. Generally predominant in Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.)
 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights
In 1990, Muslim majority nations criticized the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights for being a secularized version of Judeo-Christian principles. They released a "Sharia-compatible" version of the declaration called the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights. It's rather ambiguous on a number of rights. Article 1 states:
“”All human beings form one family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. The true religion is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity.
While Article 10 states:
“”Islam is the religion of true unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of pressure on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to force him to change his religion to another religion or to atheism.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has criticized the Declaration for limiting religious freedom and freedom of speech. Blasphemy, for example, is still punishable by death in some areas in the Middle East. Similarly, apostasy is punishable by deaths in countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia. The most infamous incident relating to this is probably Ayatollah Khomeini's call for the execution of Salman Rushdie.
The implementation of Sharia varies across the globe. Saudi Arabia bases its legal system heavily on its interpretations of Sharia, and it has given Sharia courts complete authority over jurisprudence. However, this is an uncommon feature, and many Muslim states use dual systems of secular and religious courts, or only implement the sections of Sharia that address financial and marital issues. Iran's government adheres to the Shi'a school of Islam, and they view Sharia as a Sunni phenomenon. In practice, their laws are generally similar, although, in some areas, human rights are actually better in Iran when compared to Saudi Arabia. For example, women are required to wear full-body burqas and only a certain brand of Islam is allowed in Saudi Arabia, whereas in Iran women must wear a headscarf and most religious minorities are semi-protected.
Corporal and capital punishments are common under the stricter interpretations of Sharia, and much of the judgments are incomprehensible to Westerners. In November 2007 a multiple rape victim in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 200 lashes for initially being alone with a man who was not a relative. The victim's lawyer was suspended from the case as a result of the appeal and his license has been revoked.
Saudi interpretation of Sharia has been strongly influenced by the dominant Wahhabist movement, so some claim such cases cannot be seen as representative of mainstream Sharia as such. Hence the significant outcry from "mainstream" Muslims about it, almost as loud as Christian denunciations of fundamentalists. Oh, wait.
 Creeping Sharia in America
"Creeping Sharia" is a fairly recent wingnut conspiracy theory peddled by the likes of Pamela Geller that asserts Muslims are implementing Sharia in American court systems. Alternatively, it's a reaction to what has happened in other nations, see below.
This fear has been stoked by comments from politicians such as Sharron Angle and Newt Gingrich and manifested in the Park51 and Halal soup incidents as well as legislation passed in Oklahoma banning the use of Sharia in state courts and efforts to prevent the opening of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Frank Gaffney has also touted "research" that supposedly "proves" the Muslims are taking over the judicial system. Oddly, many of the people raising the alarm about Sharia share the anti-homosexual, misogynist, religiously intolerant attitudes of Sharia.
 Sharia in Britain
In Britain Sharia is implemented by Muslim Arbitration Tribunals, which were introduced in 2007, and Sharia Councils, around since 1982. These courts deal exclusively in civil law, and only in cases where both parties consent to the use of sharia - although critics point to incidents in which those who do not consent to the use of sharia are threatened, intimidated or ostracised as "kafir." Intimidating and threatening people into an arbitration contract is however illegal. In January 2013 there were incidents described in the media as "Muslim Patrols" where some vigilante arbitrarily imposed Sharia law, including on non-Muslims, by confronting gays, women in miniskirts and alcohol drinkers. These incidents are not recognized by the UK government as anything other than the acts of criminal gangs. Nonetheless, Islamophobes frequently cite these as somehow connected to the legal arbitration courts.
 Sharia in Canada
In 2005, a committee headed by former auditor-general Marion Boyd recommended allowing Muslims in the province of Ontario to establish Sharia-based civil law tribunals (similar to religiously-based tribunals already in use by the province's Catholics and Jews). After a strong public outcry, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty vetoed the plan, and moved to prohibit religious tribunals of any kind. And who says multicultural countries are full of pantywaists?
 See also
- Sharia law: A brief introduction, Religious Tolerance
- Gontowska, Luiza Maria, "Human Rights Violations Under the Sharia'a : A Comparative Study of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran" (2005). Pace University Honors College Theses. Paper 13. Full text
- Muslim Arbitration Tribunal
- Islamic Sharia Council
- ↑ An Islamic happy marriage according to the Qur'an
- ↑ The BBC quoting Tarik Ramadan of Oxford University How religions change their mind
- ↑ Viewpoint: What do radical Islamists actually believe in?
- ↑ Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Library, University of Minnesota
- ↑ IHEU statement on the declaration
- ↑ Religious Conversion and Sharia Law, Council on Foreign Relations
- ↑ Victim sentenced to be whipped - The Guardian
- ↑ Sharia Law Amendment, Ballotpedia
- ↑ Welcome to the Shariah Conspiracy Theory Industry, Religion Dispatches
- ↑ The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement, New York Times
- ↑ http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/11/us-usa-tennessee-mosque-idUSBRE87A01P20120811
- ↑ The Fraudulent Sharia in American Courts "Study", Ed Brayton
- ↑  Page 11
- ↑  Page 16
- ↑ http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jan/24/muslim-patrol-gang-arrests-homophobic-video Muslim patrol' gang: police arrest three more after homophobic video
- ↑ Ontario Premier Rejects Use of Shariah Law