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Parliamentarians in sharia-law dilemma

Parliamentarians in sharia-law dilemma

Publication: The Copenhagen Post
Date: November 25, 2004
URL: http://www.cphpost.dk/get/83873.html

Muslim politicians in this country say Islamic sharia law is an inextricable part of their identity - but claim it can be practiced within the parameters of Danish democracy

Political parties in Parliament are pressuring Muslim members to publicly disavow portions of Islamic sharia law condoning stoning, whipping and the amputation of hands.

Most parties have not urged their Muslim members to condemn portions of the traditional Islamic law pertaining to general lifestyle or religious issues such as prayer and fasting.

On Monday, Social Democratic immigration spokeswoman Anne-Marie Meldgaard issued an ultimatum to Muslim party members, demanding that they condemn sharia in order to remain in the party.

Party leader Mogens Lykketoft has so far declined comment on the ultimatum, and Meldgaard has since modified her original remarks.

"Of course it's OK to fast. As long as an individual is not acting in violation of the constitution, Danish jurisprudence, principles of equality or democracy, we can accept it. But I still maintain that people have no business with us if they place Islamic law above our democratic system, or support execution by stoning," said Meldgaard.

Social Democratic party member Hamid El Mousti, a Moroccan by birth, currently sits on Copenhagens City Council. El Mousti claims it is impossible for Muslims to disavow sharia in its entirety.

"Sharia is a part of our identity - part of being Muslim. It's unreasonable to ask us to swear off our religion - but demanding that we accept the values of Denmark is fine," said El Mousti, emphasising that he in no way condones the stoning of adulterous women or amputation of hands to punish thieves.

Centre Democrat Ben Haddou is also a member of Copenhagen's City Council, and seconds El Mousti's views.

"It's impossible to condemn sharia. And any secular Muslim who claims he can is lying. Sharia also encompasses lifestyle, inheritance law, fasting and bathing. Demanding that Muslims swear off sharia is a form of warfare against them," said Haddou, adding:

"For me, it's not a question of either/or. I can easily support sharia, but distance myself from those aspects that don't fit into the year 2004. Compare it to the constitution. Some parts are outmoded, and you might well imagine that some changes are long overdue," said Haddou.

Danish People's party leader Pia Kjærsgaard refuses to admit new members to her party if they refuse to condemn sharia law in its entirety.

"The Muslims politicians have their laundry list of complaints, but as far as I'm concerned, you're either for (sharia law) or against it. It's a package deal," said Kjærsgaard, citing the recent example of former Copenhagen Social Democrat Fatima Shah, who told Jyllands-Posten that sharia law was an "either/or" concept.

Most parties agree that members who voluntarily join the party also acknowledge the values on which the party is built.

"We have a programme that clearly outlines our beliefs. It's impossible to be a member of the Unity List and not support human rights," said Unity List MP Søren Søndergaard.

Liberal Party immigration spokeswoman Birthe Rønn Hornbech argues that sharia law represents many different things.

"There may be quite a few sharia rules that are fairly in synch with Danish law. Whether or not a private citizen supports abortion rights is none of the public's concern, but if a person declares that he or she is working to undermine Denmark's basic legal foundation, then that person does not belong in the Liberal Party," said Horbech.

Conservative MP Knud Erik Kierkegaard, Socialist People's Party MP Aage Frandsen and Christian Democrat Marianne Karlsmose say that membership in their respective parties requires prospective members to support the parties' fundamental values, and that certain elements of sharia law are incompatible with these values.

The Radical Liberals have had many heated discussions about the sharia conflict, ever since MP Sherin Khankan was suspended from Parliament after voting against a Radical Liberal-sponsored resolution condemning sharia law.

"We've seen a few examples where we've had to block people from running on our ticket. There was one county politician who came out in support of the death penalty. He wasn't nominated again. When you run for public office, you're bound to be scrutinised," said Radical Liberal justice spokeswoman Elisabeth Arnold.

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