Monday, November 15, 2010

Oklahoma’s Sharia Problem is Every American’s Problem

In a particularly egregious example of a Muslim group’s self-serving, manipulative distortion of Western democratic principles – a trend we are seeing more and more of lately – the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last week filed suit against the state of Oklahoma, declaring that a proposed ban on the use of sharia law in the Oklahoma courts violates the First Amendment.

Huh?

Let’s go over this again. The First Amendment, as a reminder, is the one that states that government shall make no laws establishing religion. The purpose of this, of course, was to ensure that this newly-created, democratic nation called “America” would impose no state religion: that all religions – including no religion – would be held equal, and would be handled equally under the law. By extension, this meant, too, that no religious precepts would determine what the laws of the land would be. That is the very basis of the democratic, secular state – that entity, that concept, that we as Americans hold most dear.

That is, it is the concept held most dear by those Americans who support a secular democracy, rather than an Islamic theocracy. Apparently, CAIR is not among them.

Yet herein lies the critical distinction between Muslims who happen to be American, and Americans who happen to be Muslim. It is a vitally important difference.

True, the wording of the proposed amendment to Oklahoma’s state Constitution – known as “State Question 755” – is poor. The proposal does single out Islamic law, rather than religious law in general, and does so with such bold strokes as to make it difficult even to uphold secular laws that bear similarities to the laws of sharia. But this is not what really is at issue.

A bit of background: Concerned about the growing encroachment of sharia law tribunals on communities in the UK, Canada, and elsewhere in the West, Oklahoma passed a referendum earlier this month seen as a “pre-emptive strike” against the creation of such tribunals in that state, and against the incorporation of sharia law or principles in legal decisions issued by the Oklahoma courts. And, I might add, with good reason.

Indeed, Muslim groups in Canada have, in recent years, actively fought against such tribunals and sharia involvement in Canadian courts, which have repeatedly been shown to violate Canadian laws protecting women’s rights.

Logically, of course, such a ban should not even be necessary in Oklahoma; a judge who made a decision on the basis of sharia law would, ipso facto, be violating the US constitution.

Which takes us back to the absolute insanity of Oklahoma CAIR and its manipulative executive director, Muneer Awad, who has the temerity to maintain that a ban on sharia law in the US court system is racist, that it isolates and vilifies Islam. With utter self-aggrandizement and an egotistical positioning of himself in the center of the universe, Awad declared in the (at times incoherent) suit documents: “Surely, people will whisper, there must be something deeply threatening about Muneer’s faith. For why else would the great state of Oklahoma allocate space in the state’s most cherished document to burden Muneer’s faith and no other.”

Moreover, declared Awad in his complaint: “Plaintiff’s faith informs the character and content of his personal and professional relationships. The Quran and Islam’s prophetic teachings allow Plaintiff access to the practical morality contained therein regarding prescribed and proscribed conduct in innumberable [sic] circumstances.”

What this has to do with the legality of the Oklahoma referendum barring the use of sharia law from the Oklahoma courts, I have no idea. What I do know is that the fact that Awad uses the Koran (and presumably its call for the destruction of non-believers and abuse of women, among other things) as his moral compass is no less than horrifying. But that he wishes to impose that standard on the Oklahoma justice system is even worse.

Further, the complaint refers to the State Question 755’s “unlawfully sectarian purpose.”

“Unlawfully sectarian purpose”?

What is “sectarian” about secular law?

How is it “unawful” – except under sharia?

And yet, even Awad told Fox , prior to the Oklahoma vote that approved 755, “Our Constitution would not allow any religious law to supersede the existing laws.”

I’m not sure, then, what his problem is. If he admits that the US Constitution will not allow sharia law to supersede existing laws, then why is he offended by a move to prevent sharia law from superseding existing laws? What am I missing here?

Answer: that it can – and has. In an infamous New Jersey decision overturned earlier this year, Judge Joseph Charles found a Moroccan-born man who had raped his ex-wife “not guilty” and refused to grant a restraining order the ex-wife had requested against him. According to a report in the New Jersey Journal (registration and purchase required) “During the civil proceeding before Charles in Family Court, the wife said that on Nov. 16, 2008, her husband ordered her to strip naked and said, ’Now we’re going to start punishing you.’ Then he started to pinch my private areas.”

In reversing Charles’ decision, Judge J.A.D. Payne noted testimony in the case from an imam familiar with the couple, in which he “confirmed that a wife must comply with her husband’s sexual demands, because the husband is prohibited from obtaining sexual satisfaction elsewhere. However, a husband was forbidden to approach his wife ‘like any animal.’ The Imam did not definitively answer whether, under Islamic law, a husband must stop his advances if his wife said ‘no.’”

It was in part on this basis that Judge Charles had initially denied the restraining order, stating that the defendant’s religion allowed him the right to have sex whenever he wished: “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.”

Lest there be anything unclear in that (roundabout) statement, Payne explained in his reversal that “After acknowledging that this was a case in which religious custom clashed with the law, and that under the law, plaintiff had a right to refuse defendant’s advances, the judge found that defendant did not act with a criminal intent when he repeatedly insisted upon intercourse, despite plaintiff’s contrary wishes.” (Italics mine.) In other words, sharia – religious law – had prevailed in the first trial.
(Note: Charles’ opinion statement, which originally appeared here, has been scrubbed from the Internet.)

And so, reading CAIR’s protests against the Okahoma referendum, you have to wonder. Justice? Equal rights? If CAIR earnestly sought such things, they’d have spoken out on behalf of this young woman, a Moroccan-American forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 17, and then forced, by Islamic law, to have sex with him, endure his beatings, and submit.

But they did not.

Shocking as this is, it is not, in fact, the first time such decisions have come down in Western courts: a German judge came to a similar conclusion in the case of a Muslim woman (also Moroccan) in 2007,and other cases have ended similarly in Canada. Worse, confusion about conflicts between religious and civil law allowed European law enforcement to turn a blind eye to honor killings for decades – a problem that only recently has come to light: in the Netherlands alone, one woman is murdered “for honor” every month; victims of honor violence throughout Europe number in the hundreds every year. And for decades, no one would do anything about it – out of “sensitivity” to “religious traditions, customs, and mores.”

But religious traditions, laws, or precepts have no place in the courts of the United States of America.

And doesn’t it make sense? Suppose a woman born of a Jewish mother and Muslim father brings charges against her Muslim husband for rape? Does Jewish law apply? Muslim law? Secular law? What if one of them converts before the trial? During the trial? After?

Of course, it is not uncommon for Muslim groups in the West these days to cry “victim” at every opportunity. But the real victims here are not the Muslim men of organizations such as CAIR that seek to press sharia law into the secular systems of the West. It is the women whose cries will go unheard, whose days will turn to nightmares, if we let them.

Forbes - Abigail R. Esman

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