Friday, April 01, 2011

Sharia Law and the Second Longest Comment Thread of All Time

Last summer, in the midst of the full heat from the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy, my mocking of a typical misspeak from Sarah Palin regarding the Park51 project inadvertently sparked a fascinating, multi-sided, several days-long discussion breaking out on my Facebook wall, which I then posted here. Not only was it an insightful discussion that gave a hearing to the many points-of-view on the issue, it also went on to become my most-read post of all time. Well, something similar happened in response to the CNN special Unwelcome, about the troubles surrounding a planned mosque in TN.

My initial post, which mused on the special as well as the continued ignorance in mainstream society (and the abuse of that ignorance) about Sharia law and its place in the lives of everyday Muslims, prompted another lengthy dialogue (which included one of the same participants from the Park51 post) that stretched on for several days. Like that other thread, I thought it'd be shame to let the conversation fade into limbo once it drifted off my Facebook page, so I've preserved it below. Like last time, nothing's been changed or redacted by me except for the names of the participants in the interests of privacy.

Again, for some context, read this first, then click past the jump for all the fun and frivolity. Enjoy!

  • M 
    I will say that as a Jew, I am ignorant in the Laws of Sharia... That said, I always wondered why nobody ever says anything about the Jewish Laws of Kashrut?! Perhaps the Bigots are more comfortable with them as they are based in the 10 Commandments (there are 613 laws however) or is it just that Jews are white and somehow less foreign?
    March 28 at 8:16pm 

  • a Florida judge just used Sharia law. Bad bad practice.
    Tuesday at 7:11am 

  • R 
    Kashrut? Jewish dietary laws?
    Tuesday at 7:12am 

  • M 
    R can you site the Case or a Link to a story on this Case? I would like to read the Judge's use of Sharia Law.
    Tuesday at 7:13am

  • M 
    Dietary laws are only a part of Kashrut. Just as dietary laws are a part of Sharia. There are 613 laws that make up Jewish Kashrut law.
    Tuesday at 7:14am

  • M 
    Some jews will call Jewish law either kashrut or Halakha.
    Tuesday at 7:15am

  • R 
    Tuesday at 7:18am

  • M 
    So the Judge ruled that the civil case can proceed under Islamic Law in accordance with an arbitration agreement previously agreed to between the parties? Being that this is civil court not a federal or state criminal case I fail to see an issue here. Especially as this course is predetermined by the parties involved.
    Tuesday at 7:26am

  • R 
    I see a major issue. Religious law has no place in our courts.
    Tuesday at 11:50am

  • R 
    imagine a pre-nup between two catholics in which they agreed never to divorce, or not to use birth control, or that the woman would not get an abortion. never stand up.
    Tuesday at 11:51am

  • M 
    The issue here though is that the application is practical and the use of Sharia does not infringe on either parties civil rights. Which all of your examples do.
    Tuesday at 11:55am

  • R 
    I disagree that it doesn't infringe on your civil rights-like the right to have a judge hear your case. the question is whether you can contract that away. Same as my examples.
    Tuesday at 12:19pm

  • M 
    You can absolutely contract away your right to a trial by Judge. It's done all the time and its in most employment agreements of the Fortune 500 companies in the US. Known as an Arbitration Agreement.
    Tuesday at 12:23pm

  • R 
    It's very dangerous because essentially a mosque, chirch, whatever could get all of thd leaders to agree to use the religious law to resolve every dispute before hand, whether that allows for due process and what not. it's about control and it's wrong. "This case," the judge wrote, "will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law." Exactly what people said was not and would never happen. and yet here we are.
    Tuesday at 12:24pm

  • R 
    No, in those cases Florida law governs arbitrations. Those aren't religious arbitrations governed by religious law.
    Tuesday at 12:24pm

  • R 
    here's a longer article. The judge's timing is also very poor considering the environment.
    Tuesday at 12:25pm

  • M 
    LOL... This judge is a Jeb Bush appointee!!! Hahaha.
    Tuesday at 12:30pm

  • Zaki Hasan 
    You're freaking out over nothing, R. The only way this case serves as any kind of a "smoking gun" (which you obviously want) is if one subscribe to the notion (which you apparently do) that Sharia constitutes some great overarching evil master plan rather than the multi-textured, multi-faceted thing that the article in my original post clarifies it is.
    Tuesday at 3:05pm

  • R 
    I don't think there's a master plan to infest US law with religious law. I think it's the result of PCness. I don't believe you can legally hold yourself to any religious law in the context of that case. Im not aware of similar holdings re:Catholicism or Christianity in general. However, it has come to my attention that some similar things in certain states have been done re: orthodox Jews. I don't like that either. (which reminds me of a L&O SVU episode come to think if it). It smacks of allowing religions to avoid state law in a manner that is against the public policy of states. (as opposed to a nonreligious arbitration which we've all agreed to probably mostly unknowingly in various contracts). Im not really freaking out though. The judge's decision is not the stupidest decision i've ever seen. Im always dubious of any defense of Sharia or any non US thing with "Of course it was better than US law in 1860 so) though. Ok, but how about now? Sharia law seems incompatible with modern democracy.
    Tuesday at 3:24pm

  • Zaki Hasan 
    It's not incompatible with modern democracy, because a central tenet of Islam is that Muslims are bound by the laws of the land in which they live.
    Tuesday at 3:26pm

  • R 
    an example. Cathoics can get divorced. Religiously. But in state court, of course they can. Catholic belief isnt upheld. the Church doesnt have to recognize it (they dont ever have to let the person marry again) they can punish it (excommunication, not taking communion). but its irrelevant to what the person can do legally. Similarly the church can decide to issue an annulment. that doesn't mean the government has to.
    Tuesday at 3:26pm

  • R 
    Central tenets of any reilgion seem to be in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, all that means if you can change the law to have the incompatible law passed and there ya go. Such as Saudi Arabia. Sharia law and state law are basically one and the same.
    Tuesday at 3:28pm

  • R 
    granted from wikipedia but i dont see how any of thise would be consistent with modern society "Sharia judicial proceedings have significant differences with other legal traditions, including those in both common law and civil law. Sharia courts traditionally do not rely on lawyers; plaintiffs and defendants represent themselves. Trials are conducted solely by the judge, and there is no jury system (like civil law in countries such as Russia and France). There is no pre-trial discovery process, and no cross-examination of witnesses. Unlike common law, judges' verdicts do not set binding precedents[102][103][104] under the principle of stare decisis[105] and unlike civil law, Sharia does not utilize formally codified statutes"
    Tuesday at 3:30pm

  • R 
    anything without lawyers i must oppose on principal ;)
    Tuesday at 3:30pm

  • Zaki Hasan 
    Central tenets of any reilgion seem to be in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, all that means if you can change the law to have the incompatible law passed and there ya go.


    Yes, and since the establishment clause already has that licked, circle takes the square. What exactly is the problem again?
    Tuesday at 3:33pm

  • R 
    the establishment clause doesn tmean you cant pass laws that would be compataible with Sharia (or the Bible or whatever). or even inspired by.
    Tuesday at 3:35pm

  • Zaki Hasan 
    R, the traditional view of Islam is that it's like water taking the shape of whatever vessel it's poured into. That means that there's no ironclad, one-size-fits-all definition of Sharia, and it also means that no law of the land will ever come into being that expressly supports Sharia at the expense of all other religious or irreligious institutions. Indeed, to do so would be un-Islamic. You know that, I know that, and the people who are propagating this non-existent scare for political gain know it too.
    Tuesday at 3:44pm

  • R, the Jewish counterpart to shariah is halacha. The two are very, very similar--in some parts almost identical-- in both content and method.

    You cannot object to sharia without objecting to halacha. If observant Jews can follow halacha in their own lives, why can't Muslim Americans do the same?

    For example, one par of sharia is eating halal meat, just a like a part of halacha is eating kosher meat. If I buy a halal or kosher tiurkey sandwich, does that prevent you from buying a bacon burger? No, it does not.

    In social interactions, if all parties involved are adults, know the terms and agree to abide by them, there is no problem for anyone else . They can agree to have their marriage or business partnership be base don sharia, or halacha, or anything else so long as it injures no third party, or does not interfere with a compelling state interest.

    There would be a problem if someone tried to impose sharia, or halacha, or Catholic canon law, or any other religious code on the rest of the country. But Muslim Americans aren't trying to do that. Can you cite any instance to the contrary?

    What is wrong with the voluntary, private observance of shariah? How is it different from Judaism (especially the Orthodox and Conservative kinds), or Catholic or Eastern Orthodox canon law, or the Amish, or a Calvinist trying to live by Biblical law, or Buddhist law, or Sikh law, or Hindu law, so long as it is voluntary?
    Tuesday at 4:54pm

  • ‎@R: "Sharia law seems incompatible with modern democracy."

    That would be the case only if shariah were established as civil law, which would contradict the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits making any religious law, qua religious, into civil law.

    Shariah, when observed on a voluntary basis by individuals, families, and private organizations to govern their own affairs and not infringing on peoples rights, is perfectly compatible with modern democracy. In fact, it is the essence of modern democracy to allow individuals, private groups and voluntary associations to follow different practices and lifestyles.

    This is not PCness. American Muslims are not asking for anything else except for the same freedoms and responsibilities that all other groups enjoy.
    Tuesday at 5:12pm

  • Zaki Hasan 
    Lots of good points.
    Tuesday at 7:18pm

  • I think it is a misnomer to speak of "Sharia law" operating in the West as if it is equal to or overrides the law of the country - so far as I understand it, it is a system of negotiation/mediation between private parties facilitated by a cleric or group of clerics.
    Wednesday at 4:04am

  • Now I may not agree with the overarching ethos that informs the decisions made, but they do not have the force of law, and can only be enforced if endorsed by a "proper" judge
    Wednesday at 4:05am

  • V
    I also find it ironic conservatives are getting hot under the collar about sharia law when at the same time our government is planning to restrict rights to justice ina proper court of law by replacing them with a system of private firms whom they will contract to mediate in civil disputes.
    Wednesday at 4:08am

  • V
    Perhaps the clerics who form part of the Sharia judicial system should just reform themselves as private mediation companies
    Wednesday at 4:09am

  • R 
    J, Your missing my point. I don't care how people live. If someone wants to be Amish, Kosher, observe Sharia privately (and voluntarily), whatever. It's when the laws of the country come into conflict with those things-or the courts are expected to uphold religious arbitration or any such nonsense that I have a problem. Whether Jewish, Muslim, or whatever.
    Wednesday at 5:25am

  • R 
    These insular communities are ripe for abuse, Whether it's domestic abuse in Orthodox communities (Hasidic in particular) that is not reported, Catholic hierarchies not reporting accused priests, or people being forced to follow Islam. In this case in Florida, the people don't want to have a religious arbitration. But they are being forced to because they allegedly made a prior agreement to do so. Which is disputed. and to me, that is the equivalent of a Catholic not being allowed to civilly divorced because they agreed not to prior to their being problems. The real question is not "Who cares if they decide to live in a marriage bound by Sharia/Orthodox Jewish principles." that;s the wrong question. (although often those kind of super religious marriages have strong elements of sexism and what not that i believe aren't very compatible with modern values, but hey, in the end, if you choose it, you choose it,whatever, although the kids....there's your injured third party), the real question is, what happenes when you decide you don't want to live like that anymore. you don't want the Islamic leadership to decide your contract dispute or marriage dispute anymore. you don't want the Jewish elders in the Hassidic community to make determinations regarding abuse, or divorce, or what not. You want to leave that system or not abide by it. and our courts have no business forcing someone to stay by religious principles they don't want anymore or in that particular case. You take the Hasidic community in brooklyn or upstate ny. It's filled with abuse and non cooperation with police because they force these people to keep everything quiet and not talk to 'outsiders.' You speak up, your not welcome in the community, you can;t marry a Hasidic girl, the Rabbis who are all powerful ostracize you. There's simply no basis for civil law to be trumped by religious law. If a person chooses to mediate religiously, fine. But the moment they say "no, i don't agree to that anymore" it should be all handled civilly, according to civil laws re: courts or civil arbitrations. the law should not bind anyone to any religion once the person doesn;t want that anymore.
    Wednesday at 5:36am

  • R 
    Shariah, when observed on a voluntary basis by individuals, families, and private organization*** that;s the point. In the two US court cases so far enforcing Islamic/Sharia Law (one overturned on appeal), the person didn't want to voluntarily abide by Sharia anymore. But they were forced to by law. To say nothing of the societal and community pressure to do so when they really don't want to but feel they have no other choice.
    Wednesday at 5:39am

  • R 
    Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says he has 10 active sexual abuse cases involving Orthodox Jews — including a school principal who was recently arrested on a lead from Hikind. And Hynes says there could be many more. Yeshivas are private schools, which means they don't have to report accusations of sexual abuse to civil authorities.

    "I've got no way to know if there's a pattern of concealing the conduct," he says.

    Hynes says the Jewish leaders — like Catholic bishops — try to handle these affairs internally, through a rabbinical court. It's a practice that infuriates him.

    "You have no business taking these cases to religious tribunals," Hynes says. "They are either civil or criminal in nature. Or both. Your obligation is to bring these allegations to us and let us conduct the investigation."

    Wednesday at 5:39am

  • That's exactly the problem. Religious tribunals determining things that should be handled civilly.
    Wednesday at 5:40am

  • R 
    I mean until it was reversed on appeal, you had a NJ court saying essentially, well the wife wasn't raped because the man believed he had the right, under Islamd, to sex on demand from his wife. "This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited." I would be stunned if that same judge would have accepted that defense from a husband who was not claiming the belief under Islamic law. Thankfully the appellate court got it right "
    As the judge recognized, the case thus presents a conflict between the criminal law and religious precepts. In resolving this conflict, the judge determined to except defendant from the operation of the State's statutes as the result of his religious beliefs. In doing so, the judge was mistaken."
    Wednesday at 5:43am

  • F 
    The real issue in my opinion was presented near the end of the program when the host asked the woman if she had ever met or talked with any of the Muslims in her community that she was so against. Her response was something like "well they never invited me". Open dialogue would definitely clear up many misconceptions. Pew Research proved that those that know a Muslim personally have a much more favorable view of Islam.

    I also found it comical that some guy (dressed in white suits and bow ties no less) would make an argument in court that Islam is not a religion and Muslims are trying to implement Sharia law in this country. Unfortunately, the situation has degenerated to the extent that fifteen states in the U.S. are discussing ways to criminalize Shariah, which includes, in one case, making it a felony to wash for prayer in a public restroom. This is an affront not only to the practice of religion in America, where freedom of religion is guaranteed in our constitution, but it is also the targeting of one specific religious community, which is discrimination. Hopefully, will help educate Americans when the site launches soon.

    p.s. Islam & Democracy! That's where I know Feldman from...thanks!
    Wednesday at 11:21am

  • Zaki Hasan 
    Open dialogue would definitely clear up many misconceptions


    I've found that that's just good advice for life.

    Wednesday at 4:10pm

  • Zaki Hasan 
    And R, that NJ court case is a head-scratcher. I'm certainly not going to defend the guy who made the argument, nor the judge for running with it.
    Wednesday at 4:18pm

  • Zaki Hasan 
    Folks, here's a document just released today, a brief by my friend Wajahat Ali (and several others) for the Center for American Progress that pushes back on the current narrative and goes into great detail on the whys-and-wherefores of Sharia, especially in context with the many anti-Sharia measures that are wending their way through state legislatures as we speak. It's a wonderful bookend to the Noah Feldman piece linked above, and I think it's essential reading:
    23 hours ago · 

  • Zaki Hasan 
    Some key points:

    *Sharia is not static. Its interpretations and applications have changed and continue to change over time.

    *There is no one thing called Sharia. A variety of Muslim communities exist, and each understands Sharia in its own way. No official document, such as the Ten Commandments, encapsulates Sharia. It is the ideal law of God as interpreted by Muslim scholars over centuries aimed toward justice, fairness, and mercy.

    *Sharia is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observance such as prayer and fasting, and not with national laws.

    23 hours ago

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