Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman

Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Matthew Hutchins of the Harvard Law Record


* Professor and academic evangelist for “Islamic Democracy”
* His writings give a sanitized version of Islamic history.

Professor Noah Feldman is the latest high-profile academic evangelist for “Islamic Democracy.” His apologetics regarding the application of the Shari’a (Islamic Holy Law) – past, present, and potentially in the future – are characterized by the following:

(I) A completely uncritical acceptance of the most sanitized, sacralized version of “classical” Islamic history, from Muhammad’s consolidation of control over Arabia, through the extensive jihad conquests of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Feldman’s writings are reminiscent of Professor John Esposito’s presentations, which are replete with these biases, as lucidly described by the scholar Bat Ye’or: 1) historical negationism, consisting of suppressing or sketching in a page or a paragraph, one thousand years of jihad which is presented as a peaceful conquest, generally “welcomed” by the vanquished populations;  2) the omission of Christian and, in particular, Muslim sources describing the actual methods of these conquests, and the rule of the conquered peoples, as sanctioned by the classical jihad ideology written by numerous Muslim jurists since the 7th century: pillage, enslavement, deportation, massacres, and the imposition of dhimmitude;  3) the mythical historical conversion of “centuries” of “peaceful coexistence,” masking the processes which transformed majorities (i.e., vast Christian populations,  in particular) into minorities, constantly at risk of extinction.

(II) Moral equivalences that range from the deliberately disingenuous, to the frankly absurd. A few examples are these:

· The contemporary Anglican Church is deemed comparable to those Shi’ite clerics calling for the creation of an Islamic state in Iraq.

· The application of Halachic law in Israel is highlighted, in an attempt to argue that the imposition of Shari’a would be no worse – notwithstanding the truly circumscribed nature of the application of Halachic Law in Israel, relative to the far-reaching repression of basic rights for all women and all non-Muslims under Shari’a law, or Shari’a-inspired law in Muslim countries, or even Muslim-dominated provinces (eg., in Northern Nigeria) that apply the Shari’a.

· Apologism for barbaric hudud punishments (stoning to death for adultery; mutilation for theft) under the Shari’a.

· Non-sequitur discussion of the “limitations” of the U.S. Bill of Rights without any serious discussion of the fact that true freedom of conscience (i.e., including the right to become an atheist or change one’s faith) simply does not exist in any of the 55 countries of the Organization of Islamic States, while many are in egregious violation of its provisions.

This inaccurate historiography and moral equivalence are melded to yield predictions about the presumed actions of so-called “Islamist-democrats.” Feldman specifically cites SheikhYusuf Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the influential Muslim Brotherhood, as an example of such an “Islamist-democrat,” calling him “complex.” During a January 1998 interview, Sheikh Qaradawi stated his beliefs, using unfettered Medieval terminology, that Islamic law divided the People of the Book – Jews and Christians – into three categories: 1) non-Muslims in the lands of war; 2) non-Muslims in lands of temporary truce; 3) non-Muslims protected by Islamic law, that is to say, the dhimmis. Sheikh al-Qaradawi made it clear that Islamic law had established different rules for each of these categories, thus summarizing concisely the theory of jihad war which regulates the relations of Muslims with non-Muslims.

Feldman also appears to have great faith in disgruntled “former” Islamists who now profess to be “liberal Muslims”—at least in their writings. One such example is the Iranian writer Abdolkarim Soroush, who previously participated in the forced Islamization of Iranian universities under Ayatollah Khomeini. But, perhaps most telling is that Feldman provides no candid analysis of the human rights tragedy engendered by the failed Iranian theocracy, and its experimentation with Shari’a-inspired, “culturally authentic” Islamic democracy.

This profile was adapted from the article titled “Delusions of an Islamic Democracy,” written by Andrew G. Bostom and published by on June 2, 2003.


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