Imam and State
al-Zayyat, an international lawyer of the highest caliber, has written a biography of Zawahiri, bin Laden's right-hand man. The story he tells is autobiographical and biting: we were all aristocratic, pacifist activists for democracy in Egypt, he says, until we were tortured. Torture radicalized Zawahiri and sent him running for the border where he met other discontents. The origins of al-Qaeda were forged in the Bastille-like prisons of Egyptian despotism.
But fascinating as this is, more fascinating still is al-Zayyat's real story, the explications of the dialogue between religion and state in Islam. Al-Zayyat says that the point of having imams in government is that religion and religious institutions change with culture, and that for a government to respect the values of its people it has to be in constant contact with the changing nature of political, religious experience. The alternatives he sets forward are secular dictatorship and total suspicion of the church, and islamicist holy law suppressing all other interpretations. Democracy, he thinks, will naturally lead to a fusion of religion and law, and the institution most likely to encourage this fusion is the institutionalization of imams in government.
We are very in love with the separation of church and state in America. But surely he has a point. What would a priest-rabbi-zen-master sitting auxiliary council to congress look like? How would they enrich or redirect the abortion/gay rights question, for example to more scriptural issues of human rights and poverty?
The Road to Al Qaeda at Pluto Press