Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oklahoma and Sharia

What if someone died without a will and his sons went to the court and said, "We want the estate divided according to our religion which says that we get twice what our sisters get." I suspect that the Left would be outraged. Unless you specified that the family was Muslim. Then, apparently, it would be ok. The same is true for divorce. The Left has been arguing for women's rights during a divorce for decades but Sharia puts the wife at a huge disadvantage.

So why is the Left so outraged at a constitutional amendment that forbids the courts from considering foreign law or Sharia? It appears that they put the feeling of Muslims above the rights of women.

A little background is needed to understand where this amendment came from. Sharia has not been referenced in any legal cases in the US but a separate legal system has been set up in Canada based on Sharia. It is limited to civil cases and participation in this is supposed to be voluntary by all parties but the fact that any woman would agree to this shows that they are pressured by their family and others to go against their best interests. There has been talk of setting up a similar structure in Great Britain. Many European cities with large Muslim populations have unofficial Sharia courts.

As for international law, the Supreme Court has cited this at least once in deciding a case. The problem with citing international law or, more accurately, citing laws from other countries, is that it is easy to pick and choose which countries you are going to cite from in order to justify a ruling. It also circumvents the legislature, allowing the courts too much power. For some reason, this part of the amendment has been ignored in the debate but it is important since it puts the part about Sharia into context. The amendment simply makes it clear that influences that have no business in American courts should not be considered. Some have described it as a solution in search of a problem. A lot of laws are like that. If there is no problem then it will never be an issue.

Nether of these principles is in keeping with the American spirit or Constitution. In fact, the First Amendment should make this unneeded. Should is the operative word here. Sharia has already been cited in one case in New Jersey. In 2008 a judge found a man not-guilty of raping his wife and refused to grant a restraining order. His reason? The court found that, because of his religion, he believed that the husband thought that his wife had to grant his desire for sex whenever he desired it.

Enter CAIR (the Council of American-Islamic Relations). They have made a number of outrageous claims. They got a temporary injunction against the amendment on the claim that it would outlaw an Islamic will or ban the wearing of a headscarf. As long as there is a will, the law does not care if you gave your sons a disproportionate share of your estate because of your religion or because your daughter spilled gravy on you at Thanksgiving nor does it say anything about individual choices like the headscarf.

The issue is highly polarized with the Left supporting CAIR and the Right supporting Oklahoma. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post dismisses the amendment as faith-baiting. This is a rather typical reaction and in keeping with the Left's blind spot towards Islam is general. This is not really surprising. I could write a book on the Left's blind spots to human rights abuses. Instead I will close with a variation of my original question - how would the Left have reacted if a man was found not-guilty of raping his wife because of his Christian beliefs? Would they be rallying behind the husband or the wife?

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