Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan…and (as of May 1st) Brunei, a small country in Southeast Asia–These countries are all dominated by sharia law, a legal system based on the Quran and scholarly interpretations of Muslim leaders. For Westerners, this system of laws can seem harsh if not downright barbaric. Now sharia law is being established in Brunei. For those not in the know, its oil fields make Brunei the fifth-richest nation in the world and the only country other than Libya to have no national debt. In this particular case, size really doesn’t matter.

Delving into sharia law could take a college semester, so I’ll run through an example of ‘due process’ under this Draconian law, which is most often enforced by religious policemen, or mutaween. First, a crime is reported by two to four eyewitnesses or by a confession. The eyewitnesses, of course, can only be adult Muslim men. Even if these criteria aren’t met, a judge can still impose sentencing without enough evidence. The range of crimes range from adultery to theft, but the crimes most shocking to Westerners are the subtle ones. For example, a male doctor cannot examine a female patient, under any circumstances, without a family member present. In 2013, a Afghan doctor forgot this law, and both he and his female patient were brutally stoned by a mob. The fate of two is unknown, but many suspect the doctor either died or fled the country after recovering.

To be fair, there are many levels of sharia law, and countries don’t adopt ALL aspects of it. Some allow citizens to choose sharia law’s application, and some only use it in regard to civil instances.

However, the question is how far should the U.S. go to understand and appreciate a foreign country’s religious customs, even when those customs are downright barbaric? We’re not talking a different idol or different language. We’re talking actions that are so distasteful to Americans that, if committed in the U.S., would result in a life sentence or even death for the instigator. How can we tolerate a country that holds these same individuals up as models of righteousness?

Simple. We can’t.

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