Third, injunctions or fatwas are delivered by clerics based upon their interpretation of Sharia in the broadly defined area of the “code of conduct” for Muslims. For instance, fatwas ranging from prohibiting Muslim girls from receiving modern education or banning the use of polio vaccines, to favoring (Sharia-compliant) Islamic banking have been delivered in Pakistan by clerics.
The significantly lower output in Pakistan (compared to that of India) – in terms of the number of book titles published or the number of doctorates awarded, even after adjusting for the population ratios – may be attributed to the socio-economic influence of Sharia. In the years 2004 and 2007, 1,072 new titles and 432 doctorates were released and awarded in Pakistan, respectively. Yet even when scaled to India’s population, Pakistan has managed to produce just about 8,000 book titles and 3,000 doctorates, compared to India’s 82,537 titles and 14,000 doctorates.
A nation’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is a useful (lagging) indicator of the impact of a government’s socio-economic policies implemented under the influence of regressive ideologies such as Sharia. While Pakistan’s per capita GDP rose slightly from $2,000 to $2,400 from 1999 to 2009, India’s per capita GDP nearly doubled from $1,800 to $3,400 during the same period.
In sum, as observed in Pakistan, the continued emphasis on Sharia in a Muslim community as a divine code of conduct eventually leads to an entrenched religiosity, regressive outlook, socio-economic stagnation and violent radicalism directed at non-Muslims as well as internal conflicts. In contrast, India’s embrace of modernity, as evidenced in part by its secular and democratic constitution has led to a continued socio-economic development and resulted in a moderate outlook.
As evidenced in Pakistan, it appears that popular support for Sharia is a necessary condition for the large scale formation of jihadist groups. Conversely, reduced enthusiasm for Sharia relates to the same for armed jihad. For instance, the inability of al-Qaeda to sustain itself in Iraq even in the chaotic aftermath of the American intervention can be construed as in part due to a lack of favorable conditions for Sharia aided by decades of Saddam Hussein’s Sharia-limiting policies.
A long-running social experiment called Pakistan has taught us the perils of advancing Sharia under any form of governing. Supporting Islamists in Arab nations for whom a core vision is Sharia, it appears, will likely ensure the formation of many Arab-versions of Pakistan.
That would be one too many failed experiments.
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