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Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, is also the editor of Radical Islam's Rules: The Worldwide Spread of Extreme Shari'a Law (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005). Stan Guthrie, a CT senior associate editor and author of Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, interviewed Marshall.

You distinguish between two kinds of Shari'ah, or Islamic law, as understood and implemented by Muslims worldwide. What are they?

In the last three years, I've been to various parts of the Muslim world talking to people about Shari'ah. I use the term extreme Shari'ah for the sorts of things that happen in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Pakistan—people getting accused of blasphemy or stoned for adultery, and so on. But most Muslims use the term in a very broad sense. In Indonesia, if you ask people, "Do you think women should be stoned to death for adultery?" more than 80 percent of the population says no. If you ask, "Is it okay for Indonesia to have a woman leader?" more than 90 percent of the population says yes, that's fine. So they have something very different in mind from the Taliban. You get similar results right now in Iraq. [When asked,] "Do you think Iraq should be governed by Islamic law?" about 80 percent say yes. If you ask, "Do you think there should be legal equality between men and women?" about 80 percent say yes. For many Muslims, the term Shari'ah has a very broad sense that the country should be governed in a way that God wants.

So most Muslims would not agree that, say, the punishment for theft should be amputation of one's hand?

Correct. They see that as something that used to be done, but not really fitting for the sorts of societies we live in now, that ...

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In the Magazine

February 2006

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