Misappropriation of Religion

There have been almost 3000 news stories on the bizarre Teddy Bear affair in Sudan. The AP notes that “Sudan’s Islamic government, which has long whipped up anti-Western. . . hard-line sentiment at home, was balancing between fueling outrage over the case of Gillian Gibbons and containing it.” Given the diversity of implementations of Sharia law, the case appears to be yet another sad example of religion misappropriated to crass political ends. Law prof Haider Ala Hamoudi makes the following point:

[W]ould a medieval jurist know what a teddy bear even was? Does it matter at all to the conventional wisdom that the crime under Article 125 of the Sudanese criminal code is NOT blasphemy, it is “publicly cursing or insulting, any of the religions or their religious customs or its sacred matters . . . ?” Does anyone believe that medieval jurists actually cared about protecting the “religious customs and sacred matters” of religions other than Islam as this law at least purports to? Would medieval jurists of any religion have phrased anything so ecumenically? Does anyone at all reporting on the shari’a crime of blasphemy care in this absurd case about this actual law, under which this poor actual woman is being judged, instead of some academic construction of what is happening based on sources the Sudanese judges and lawyers aren’t reading? . . . . [Given the] disinterest of respected religious scholars in supporting the Sudanese verdict, I tend to conclude nobody thinks the shari’a, as opposed to Sudanese politics, has very much to do with any of this.

In other news, in an upcoming conference on Christian legal theory, “Judge Michael McConnell will deliver an address with the provocative title ‘Asking Muslims to be Moderate.'”

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