Hi everyone, I'm glad to see this thread got some attention.
Rather then just replying to each post individually and quoting every sentence, I'm just going to post some paragraphs which I hope answers most of it, and then answer to some specific quotes.
* First of all as many have already pointed out, the debate has some practical problems, that's also the reason I didn't go into to much detail in the opening post. There is no method by which we can actually "weigh off" one system against another. The matter is way to complex and the effects of a government system to widespread over various aspects of life and community. Instead what I was hoping for this thread, is that by discussing this, those that oppose sharia, could at least give it the benefit of the doubt.
* Secondly to clarify, I didn't mean that Shariah is utopic, but rather that when comparing it to other systems, practically speaking it's as good as it gets. Also I don't think shariah would work for a country with a majority of non-muslims. And neither do I think it should be enforced in such a country.
* As for examples, I already mentioned that I don't consider any of the current states as a true shariah, since they always mix shariah with man-made, imperfect rules. If we must have an example to compare, take the Islamic caliphate starting from Muhammed (peace be upon him) and ending four caliphs after him. So we have a time period with 5 caliphs. After that, the civil war started between shia and sunni, and I argue that there exists no government system that could have survive that any better then shariah did. However many un-islamic rules started then. Perhaps the only weakness was that this system was not suitable to govern such a large region back then with so little means of communication and transport. However, in those extreme situations, only a militarian dictator could maintain better stability. But I argue that there the downsides of absolutism and tyranny obviously outweigh the benefits. On a side note -in case you're wondering- a caliph is not a dictator since under Islamic law he is not allowed to implement laws based on his personal preference, but needs Islamic source.
* Since I take it most opponents of Shariah will be in favor of democracy; I'll compare between those two. Some of the major difference between shariah and democracy:
Stability, static vs dynamic
A democracy is dynamic whereas shariah is static. A democracy is built to be changeable, whereas shariah is build to be maintained. However this doesn't mean that shariah is rigid. The static laws have built in dynamics. For example the rule on pork, is static and dynamic at the same time. It is forbidden unless it is necessary to survive. Of course there should be some room for man made rules. But these should be strictly practical and conventional like deciding whether you drive on the right or the left side of the road. And even if new situations occur, that require new laws there's room for new fatwa's. However all these other rules which touch individual freedom, should be motivated Islamicly. So prohibiting woman to drive should be motivated by hadeeth (which so far I haven't seen). A democracy on the other hand, allows for almost everything to be changed, including the democratic principles themselves. It has already been mentioned to, corruption is a huge problem for any governmental system, including both shariah and democracy. It is inevitable to occur. However, the huge difference is that in shariah, corruption can only occur by breaking the rules, whereas in a democracy there is also room for those with power to push legalization of certain types of corruption. This is also known as the democracy paradox, which asks: "What if a democratic election favors an undemocratic party?"
Justification of laws, and measuring pro and con.
In a democracy, the most common ideology for justifying laws is to maximize individual freedom. In other words, an individual's freedom should only end there where the freedom of another begins. Any additional limitations are frowned upon. In Shariah the justification is simply that we believe it is divine, but obviously that will mean little to an atheist. However in looking at the rules, we can recognize an underlying justification. Rather then maximizing personal freedom, Islamic rules appear to be aimed at maximizing wellbeing, not only individual wellbeing but also the wellbeing of the community. To give a concrete example. In the West a prohibition on alcohol is unthinkable. Nobody questions whether or not alcohol causes many problems to individuals and the community. Everybody realizes the health, social and communal ramifications. However despite of that most people would refuse to give up on alcohol, simply because somebody else can't handle it. Their individual freedom is more important then the wellbeing of the community. Of course the ironic part of this is that even the alcoholics and binge drinkers who cause the problems argue with this logic and place the blame in someone else. Personal I feel that asking people to give up certain individual freedoms for the wellbeing of others should be acceptable, but I suspect many proponents of democracy would disagree.
Under Islamic law, we find that rather then treating everybody the same, the aim is to balance the treatment. We find that where a certain group, gender, religion is benefited it one rule, it is limited in another. Personally I find this much better rather then treating everybody the same. If you treat different people the same, due to their intrinsic difference, they will not be treated in the same way. For example, taxing a rich man and a poor man by the same method. Of course nowadays democracy has bypassed this particular example by maxing taxes proportional rather then fixed. But nevertheless I find this a good illustration on how treating equal ≠ equal treatment. Another example of this principle would be an employer expecting the same physical labor from a female employee as from a male.
* Some reply to quotes:
Are atheists/agnostics and other non-religious folk allowed to become dhimmi?
Yes, I believe even apostates given that they are non-combatant.
What rules would this Islamic state follow exactly? We all know there is not just one interpretation of Islam. Islamic interpretations are like noses, everybody has one. How can we know which, if any, of the schools represent the "real" Islam? Clearly you consider countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia to not implement "Islam" properly. But IMHO that is merely your opinion. Both countries have institutions in place which are supposed to make sure no laws get enacted that run contrary to Islamic law.
Yet at the same time, both countries have laws that are un-Islamic. the problem is that the current Islamic states have a history and have been built down and up again, and after each war, starting from the civil war between sunni and shia but including also interruptions like during the time of colonizations. It is not simply a matter of opinions, every current state that claims to be Islamic seems to have laws that cannot be motivated Islamicly. Of course I grant that I don't know the laws of every country, nor do I know every hadeeth; this is just a general idea that I get looking at many rules and laws from current countries.
For example, if you political priorities are the following (in no particular order):
1. Individual liberty
3. Religious self-determination and freedom
4. Majority rule
1. Common wellbeing
2. Equality (balance rather then absolute)
3. Religious freedom
4. Individual liberty
*Women and non-Muslim testimonies in Islamic courts count less then testimonies of Muslim men
this is outbalanced by other rules, for example non-muslims receive a much less severe punishment for crimes.
* Rules against apostasy and blasphemy and the unclear status of minorities that are not "people of the book", such as atheists, polytheists, animists, etc..
* Inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims, for example non-Muslims cannot benefit from Zakhat. Islam simply does not consider religions to be equal.
I don't consider the rule about apostasy correct. I have discussed this in depth in the apostasy thread. In short, all the hadeeth that prove this ruling are referring to cases where there was apostasy and treason to the state at the same time and there exist other hadeeth of people who apostated without treason and weren't punished.
* The Islamic view on the division of labor between the genders
There is no rule that the state should oversee the division of labors in the households. A true Islamic state should not attempt to govern every single aspect of life. In the case of division of labor, what you have is actually a division of responsibilities. The husband is responsible for the income and the wife for the household. However if a couple decides that they will share the work (both work and both tend to the family) then there is no problem with this. Technically speaking they can even switch completely. But regardless, this is a private matter between couples, not an affair of the state.
* Essentially all Islamic rules that punish "victimless" crimes are in violation of my belief in individual liberty and self-determination. Why can't consenting adults have a relationship? Why can't I eat pork? Why can't I pop a pimple during ramadan? Why can't I call Muhammed a fraud?
I wouldn't know why you wouldn't be able to pop a pimple during ramadan, a dhimmi would be even allowed to eat I think. As for all your others, they are not truly "victemless". Calling Muhammed (peace be upon him) a fraud is slander. you would still be allowed to voice opinions, but required to do so in a diplomatic manner. Eating pork victims the whole community. trough you animal diseases can then be spread to humans that would not spread under any other methods (exampel, burdflu). Secondly, for you to eat it, is should be sold in the country, meaning that because you want to eat it, the whole country now has to read the ingredients and watch out on every product they buy. Consenting non muslims cannot be punished for fornication. since that rule applies to muslims. this is another example of where dhimmis receive less punishment. Besides then that I should point out that this isn't victemless either. Promiscuity helps the spread of STD, creates many social problems like fatherless childs, heartbreak and jealousy.
Religious revelation matters more than popular opinion. Since the state can never implement un-Islamic laws, popular opinion simply doesn't matter. The state has no choice but to follow scholars, which means that an Islamic state will essentially be an oligarchic system, where a small group of religious scholars determine the rules.
They don't "decide
" the rules, they "deduct
" them from religious source. Beside, I don't think to highly of popular opinions. If history teaches us anything, I 'd say it teaches us that mankind does not know what is best for him and the community. And even if they do know, we need to consider selfish voters. I argue that the very idea of letting majorities rule is inhumane!