Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.


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Who makes me laugh

July 15 2009 Wednesday 15 July 2009 A friend of mine has the motto: “Start the day with a smile, not with a tear.” A nice outlook on life. Although I do not awaken every day with a smile, most of the time I do start a new day in a good mood. However, a few days ago I woke up with a sense of dread.

At first, I couldn't quite figure out where that feeling came from but then it suddenly came back to me: I had watched "Network" the previous night and that was about the sharia, which didn't make me happy. When I checked Wikipedia to learn what exactly sharia means, it made my mood even worse. A quote from Wikipedia:

Which sharia?

A significant problem when discussing sharia is that the Islamic world does not recognize a single dogma, resulting in many, sometimes widely varying versions of sharia. Therefore, we cannot speak of "the" sharia, just as we cannot speak of just one justice system for the rest of the world. Nonetheless, in practice, we do often use the term "the" sharia, in which case it concerns an abstract or reference is made to one of its variants.

Usually, the interpretations of the "madhabib" or schools of justice are cited. There are four Sunni and two Shiite schools of justice, each with their own interpretation of sharia. For many actual societal questions various and sometimes even contradictory guidelines are provided.

The sharia is solely applicable to a restricted number of areas of justice: family law, some criminal law, war- and contract law, and finally the judicial position of non-Muslims and women within these areas of law. All other areas of justice are part of the ruling authority of the government (siyasa). According to Fazlun Khalid the sharia also knows an area we would call environmental law.

If I understand this correctly, the sharia is variable and yet it is not, as there is no one, single dogma.

On Network there was an imam who wanted to add the sharia law to the Dutch judicial system. In Great Britain, there already are five legal sharia courts and, additionally, another eighty-five sharia tribunals. Most cases concern marriage and divorce, such as polygamy or finalizing the terms of a divorce, which mostly does not benefit the woman, or will not be finalized, while her life may be in jeopardy because of spousal abuse.

I find the situation in Great Britain almost unbelievable and asked an American friend how that is done over there, where many Muslims live as well. She almost keeled over: "Absolutely no way," she e-mailed me back. "Under the law EVERYONE is equal, with few exceptions. There are no sharia courts next to the regular courts, and such legislature would never be approved, as it would mean political suicide. Such a proposal would never go through." 

And yet, in The Netherlands there probably already are illegal sharia tribunals, where the "court" is a back room in a mosque.‘"For many actual societal questions various and sometimes even contradictory guidelines are provided," Wikipedia states about sharia. May we expect honest justice in those little back rooms?

So yesterday I woke up with a sense of discomfort because of that Network broadcast about the sharia, and that I didn't want because, firstly, the multi-cultural society is an enrichment of our existing society, including all religions, as long as people respect one another and there is no suppression of anyone. Secondly, one of my pen pals sometimes writes me about his religion, how it has given him rest and how peaceful Islam is in principle. I want to believe him, but the sharia frightens me and it wasn't good to start the day with such disconcerting feelings. Start the day with a smile, not with fear.

News reports are often worrisome and the idea of legalizing sharia courts is downright scary. Religion and law should be strictly separated. If sharia courts are allowed, it would be but a small step further to allow Orthodox Christians to conduct their own court cases, Bible in hand, and before you know it we will find ourselves back in the dark ages. I know, I am exaggerating, but that's because of the weather. It is so hot and that puts me in a bad mood and makes me see all things negatively. I'd like for the weather to cool down so that I see everything a bit rosier and, most importantly, I can laugh again.

Then, on Friday, another scorcher of a day, I read in the evening newspaper that there will be an investigation of the sharia courts. “Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Balin stated yesterday that the sharia courts will not be accepted as part of the Dutch justice system. The Second Chamber had asked the First Chamber for clarification of reports that in The Netherlands there are mosques or imams who pass verdicts based on the sharia. In Great Britain there are estimated to be 85 sharia courts while there were initially thought to be only five." (Leeuwarder Courant, July 3, 2009).

That report made me feel better. Good! The minister and I are in agreement: Church and state, religion and law, need to remain separate. Sharia courts will not be accepted. My mood is lifted significantly and the weather reports are good, too; it's getting cooler. What more can one want?

A laugh, a belly laugh! Something Dirk van Weelden and, the now deceased, Martin Bril are taking care of with their book Vitamins for Work, the ABC of Bril & van Weelden. I just picked up this book at the library and opened it up - it is time to relax. I am citing a small part of the first chapter:

Special Offer! 07-28-87 Bril and Van Weelden present:

The bad dream of Little Red Riding Hood. Laurel and Hardy in their roles of snow flakes. The index of reality. The mechanism of melodrama. Booze talk through the centuries. The stupid jackass and Ten Tips For a Beautiful Butt.

And so I get what I want: I end the day laughing out loud. 

Text:Dini Commandeur, Translation: Maria O’Neill


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