The website “On Faith” recently posed the following question:
How would you respond to radical Muslim clerics in northwest Pakistan — now under Islamic law — who are calling for expansion of Islamic law across the entire federal republic of Pakistan? Should any nation be governed by religious rules?
Rabbi Steinsaltz responded:
“There is no cogent reason — neither rational nor historical — to assume that a state must be governed by a secular system.
Why should laws devised by politicians and lawyers be intrinsically superior to those that claim to be created by divine inspiration?
History demonstrates that secular governments — even democracies — do not necessarily lead to better societies.
However, each case needs to be examined on its merits.
Is the particular religious system broad enough, or flexible enough, to meet the needs of an unstable, fluid world?
And who are the people assigned to carry out these laws?
The officers of the court in secular societies are, in another parlance, the servants of God.
The discernment, justice and ability of such people will always vary; these qualities are not to be found in many systems — and perhaps not in the clerics of Pakistan.”