In many Western governments, particularly the United States, there is a separation between religion and government. Many Muslims believe in Shariah, which means “path” in Arabic. Shariah law tells many devout Muslims what to eat, how to pray, and how to behave in public. Muslims believe the Shariah are commandments from God (Arabic Allah).
Under Shariah law, people may not consume alcohol, borrow money at interest, or allow women in their families to go publicly without a veil. Shariah law allows a man to take as many as four wives, provided his first wife agrees and he can support all of his wives and children. This provision of the Shariah is not often employed in even the most traditional Muslim societies.
Saudi Arabia is the only nation that closely adheres to Shariah law. Criminals convicted of murder, rape, or other violent crimes in Saudi Arabia can face public amputation of arms or legs or beheadings. Westerners often argue that Saudi justice is cruel, but most observers agree that violent crime is less common in Saudi Arabia than in America.
Devout Muslims defend Shariah because their values have served them well for over one thousand years. Saudi professor Dr. Hend Khuthaila said, “The West may be more advanced in some areas like science, but I have never believed for a minute that your culture is better than ours…We go to the United States and see playgrounds, so we build swings for five thousand dollars, and our children don’t use them. Swings are not part of our culture. We would rather spend time with our families than be on a playground with strangers.”
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Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on the Middle East and North Africa.