Islamic law is not really just history even if it does reference past scholarship

A few people have dismissed my comments on the Newsweek and The Spectator articles (last, two) on the grounds that I lack the sufficient qualifications to work with Islamic legal texts. The gist of their argument seems to be this: Islamic law is really history because it makes use of past scholarship, and making use of things from the past is history.

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Comment: The Spectator’s Muhammad [ﷺ] – in Pictures

The Spectator has also published an article that purports to demonstrate that Muslims consider it permissible in Islam to make depictions of the Prophet ﷺ. Part of its demonstration rests on the claims that textual evidence and legal works are not clear enough to conclude that it is not permissible, and that contemporary Muslim practice towards photographs is evidence that it is. Sunni scholars of Quranic exegesis, hadith commentary, law, and principles of jurisprudence are likely to find fault with these claims.

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Comment: Newsweek’s articles on figurative depictions of the Prophet ﷺ and animate life in Islamic law

Newsweek has published two articles that purport to demonstrate that it is permissible in Islam to make figurative images of the Prophet ﷺ. Part of the demonstration rests on the claim that normative legal positions within Sunni Islam permit it. This argument, as presented in the the articles, is methodologically flawed and misrepresents what is found in pre-modern classical legal texts, both of which lead to false conclusions.

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Comment: Why porn is exploding in the Middle East

Salon’s “Why porn is exploding in the Middle East” is yet another article about Muslim-state porn-search statistics.

According to data released by Google, six of the top eight porn-searching countries are Muslim states. Pakistan tops the list at number one, followed by Egypt at number two. Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey come in at numbers four, five, seven and eight, respectively. Pakistan leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes.

Something that comes up in discussions on the relevance of Middle Easterners and Muslim populations searching for porn via Google is that the Google searches are a poor measure of interest in porn or its consumption. More mature porn consumers, the argument goes, don’t go through Google: they use specialized porn sites for content and searching… or they can use Salon. So a better measure would be to look at the visitor statistics from those specialized sites. Also, the article doesn’t address the question presented in the title since it never gets into why porn consumption is so popular or on the rise in Middle Eastern countries. Youth make up a major segment of the population. Many of these youth are unemployed or underemployed, making it difficult or impossible for them to marry. Political economy is important here – in particular problems related to the Middle East’s youth-bulge.

There is a porn consumption problem in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries. But overall, I just don’t find the Google search statistics particularly persuasive or significant.

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