30 years later, still willfully blind to sharia supremacy

Getty Images

Man, this gets as tiring as it is infuriating.

Western journalists, in disbelief, are reporting — as if it is a stunning contradiction — that although the Taliban promised to “respect women’s rights,” things already have turned violent against women and girls (among others) with the militant fundamentalists’ return to power. Fox News, for example, reports that a woman in Takhar province was shot on the street by Taliban fighters when she was observed walking in public without covering herself in a burqa.

The Taliban are sharia supremacists. To repeat what I proved in court as a federal prosecutor 30 years ago, and what long has been a notorious fact undergirded by 14 centuries of Islamic scholarship and jurisprudence, sharia supremacists do not accept women’s rights as they are understood in the West and in other civilized societies.

When they say they will respect women’s rights, or anyone else’s rights, the Taliban mean their rights under sharia, Islam’s ancient legal code and societal framework, as it has been understood since the 10th century. 

While the Taliban are especially zealous on this score, they are not singular. Afghanistan is a fundamentalist, tribal society in which sharia supremacism is influential. The Taliban are not an exogenous phenomenon. They are a natural outgrowth of Afghan culture. That is why their insurgency not only sustained itself but became stronger over the past 20 years. Even if it were not extortionate, it would have a fair amount of Afghan public support.

Under the Taliban’s interpretation of sharia, a woman has no “right” to walk in public without covering herself. Sharia punishments, moreover, are draconian. Women who fail to don the burqa are not just seen as flouting Islamic dress codes; they are seen as fomenting discord in a sharia society by encouraging other women to ignore Allah’s law. To foment discord among Muslims by encouraging deviations from sharia is deemed to be the highest offense against sharia. That is why, for example, apostates are put to death.

Purblind transnational progressives continue their willful blindness to this reality. They blithely assume, history notwithstanding, that fundamentalist societies will grow out of it.

Thus did the U.S. State Department figure it had written a boffo Afghan constitution in 2004, expressly safeguarding what Americans see as the fundamental rights of women and religious minorities. But to be accepted in Afghanistan, that constitution had to stipulate that no law could countermand sharia, and that to the extent there were any inconsistency, sharia governs.

Naturally, progressives were shocked when, despite the parchment promises of religious freedom, Afghan apostates continued to be sentenced to death immediately after the constitution was adopted.

The State Department tells itself, and the rest of us, that the Taliban are different, they’re outliers. Again, the Taliban are doctrinaire. Yet, they are not an aberration.

In 1990, what was then known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC (now called the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) promulgated the Declaration of Human Rights in Islam — also known as the “Cairo Declaration.” It boasts that Allah has made the Islamic ummah (the notional worldwide Muslim community) “the best community … which gave humanity a universal and well-balanced civilization.” It is the “historical role” of the ummah to “civilize” the rest of the world — not the other way around.

The Declaration makes abundantly clear that this civilization is to be attained by adherence to sharia. “All rights and freedoms” recognized by Islam “are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah,” which “is the only source of reference for [their] explanation or clarification.”

The OIC is not the Taliban. It is a conglomeration of Muslim majority countries, plus the Palestinian Authority. It pronounces itself the “collective voice of the Muslim world.”

Why did Islamic countries, such as the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” (as it was known even before the Taliban declared themselves an “Islamic Emirate”) feel the need to codify human rights in Islam? Very simply, to make it abundantly clear that mainstream Islam separates itself from the Declaration of Human Rights promulgated by the United Nations in 1948, under the guidance of Western progressives.

Sharia supremacists do not accept “women’s rights” as they are construed in the West. Sharia governs. That was Afghanistan’s position in 2004, when the Taliban had been ousted from power. Why would anyone believe things would get better under the Taliban? That when they committed to respecting “rights,” this meant women’s rights as we construe them would be secure?

American governments since the George W. Bush administration have determined to treat the Taliban not as an enemy, not as a sponsor of terrorism, but as a negotiating partner who could be reasoned with, relied on to guarantee the rights of women and religious minorities as they are understood in Washington, London, Paris and the West generally.

The Taliban have never pretended to be anything but anti-West. Our State Department and every presidential administration, President Biden’s included, had no excuse not to know that, if the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, there would be no “women’s rights” as we affirm them. The media had no reason not to know. The Taliban have been telling us who they are from the beginning.

Thirty years later, we’re still stunned.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at National Review Institute, a contributing editor at National Review, a Fox News contributor and the author of several books, including “Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad.” Follow him on Twitter @AndrewCMcCarthy.

Tags afghan women Afghanistan Joe Biden Sharia Taliban Taliban's rise to power

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video