I just listened to an interview with Noah Feldman (Constitutional Law Professor at NYU) on his new book The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State on Diane Rehm Show on April 16, 2008. (I actually listened to it twice.) You can find it on the NPR website http://www.wamu.org/programs/dr/ or as a Podcast.
Here is a review of his book: http://www.cfr.org/publication/15491/
Everyone should listen to this interview; Mr. Feldman is a scholar of Jewish law, Christian law, and Islamic Law - Sharia. (And obviously from his position, Constitutional Law.) I think you could give him the label 'accomplished'.
Anyway, this interview made him No. 1 on my 'People I Not Only Want To Have Dinner With But Also People I Want To Rule the World' list.
Why? He is rational and reasoned in his impeccable explanation of the Sharia - which was a fair, just, balanced, fluid law which gave more rights to women for example when it was put in place, reversing many oppressive tribal laws.
This is the best point Mr. Feldman drives home, when we hear about stonings and honor killings, this is NOT Sharia. These are unfortunate, archaic, tribal laws that have been in place in Muslim and non Muslim villages for centuries. Why they remain is another story for another time. But it is CRUCIAL to remember the following:
1 - These acts are not written in Islamic law, even though some corrupt militant might say they are to justify his own deplorable acts.
2 - Islamic law actually reversed these standards and customs in Arabia and in other regions as Islam spread.
3 - Sharia law is fluid, adaptable, and just.
3 - Most importantly these stonings and honor killings rarely occur. We just think of them often because of their extreme nature and because they are drilled into our minds by the media so we think of them as typical in the Middle East, or Asia, or Africa. They are not.