That, however, is not the half of it. As I detail in Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, Islamic supremacists shrewdly comprehend that controlling culture is more important that dictating law. The game is either (a) to enshrine sharia in a nation’s law generically (i.e., without getting into the grisly details), as do the constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq, both birthed by the U.S. State Department; or (b) to soft-pedal talk of sharia but champion a revival of Islamic culture, the stratagem perfected by Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Once this is done, formally enacting sharia’s specific provisions is unnecessary: The regime’s overt reverence for Islam green-lights the de facto and often vigilante enforcement of sharia standards.
Thus, for example, post-Saddam Iraq is among the world’s most notorious practitioners of anti-gay persecution. There is no formal law on the books forbidding homosexuality, but Sistani’s brutal injunctions are broadly observed. In Egypt, even under Mubarak’s “secular” regime (i.e., even before the recently ousted Muslim Brotherhood government ushered in a full-blown sharia constitution), homosexuals were routinely arrested — usually under the pretext that they had violated other laws — and subjected to savage treatment in the country’s many Islamic-supremacist strongholds. And in Erdogan’s increasingly Islamic-supremacist Turkey, homosexuals are subjected to harassment not only by mobs but also by the police, even though gay-advocacy groups are ostensibly permitted to operate.
In the greater scheme of things, Putin is a piker when it comes to oppressing homosexuals. Undeniably, he is resuscitating the stigmatization of gay life as a means of promoting traditional, procreative relationships — in a desperate attempt to reverse Russia’s death-spiral population decline. But a law banning pro-gay propaganda does not hold a candle to sharia’s license to brutalize and kill people over their sexual behavior.