Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chicken Little . . . or just chicken?

Somehow the recent discussion about the Park51 Center and Islam in the US has morphed into a kind of Left/Right thing, mirroring earlier developments in Europe, where sectors of the Left have chosen to defend Islamists in the name of multiculturalism, even when they are mistreating the Left's traditional allies, women and gays.

Bien pensants tell us that the Right in this country is hysterical about sharia law. While there is no immediate danger that the US will become "sharia-compliant," such Pollyannaism disguises real problems, especially those that arise from the core principles of Islam. Neither the opponents of Islam nor its defenders have troubled much to examine the origins and nature of Islam. As regular readers of this blog know, I have made this effort. I have concluded that much of what is wrong with Islamism is what is wrong with Islam. Stoning for adultery, for example, is specifically prescribed in the Qur'an. However, it is not necessary for any particular belief or practice to be attested in the Qur'an (a relatively short book) for it to be part of the sunna, the accepted roster of orthodox belief. The Hadiths, at least those deemed reliable, cover much additional ground. For example, male circumcision is not mentioned in the Qur'an, but the rite is universally observed.

Now comes an odd argument from one of the Islamo-Pollyannas, a certain Josh Goodman at Goodman argues that we should not worry about sharia, because both Israel and India have it, though only for Muslim citizens. The reason for this is the older imperial heritage, stemming from the Ottoman millet system, on the one hand, and the Mughals, on the other. Over the years, however, the scope of sharia has been whittled down in both Israel. Stoning of adulterers and persecution of homosexuals are no longer obligatory. Even polygamy is now discouraged. In fact, sharis--ostensibly God's law--survives only in fragments in Israel and India. The principle is not very different from the survival of Hispanic law in New Mexico in the US.

In England, however, the Archbishop of Canterbury (whose advocacy goes unmentioned by Goodman) proposes to i n t r o d u c e elements of sharia law. Unlike the survivals in Israel and India. this would be an innovation. In the latter two cases, sharia law is fading. In Britain it may be burgeoning. And since England is the source of our common-law tradition, can we be certain that such an intrusion will never darken our shores?

To be sure, sharia law does not take the form of a single, canonical set of documents of the order of the Justinian and Napoleonic Codes. Because of the de facto freezing of Islamic legal traditions some 1000 years ago (the Closing of the Gates of Ijtihad), the whole thing has consolidated into a relatively consistent mass--one that is consistent according to its major principles, if not always in detail.

And then we have that insidious business of "sharia compliance." Muslims feel free to urge that o u r laws be amended so as to agree with sharia principles. Every one in this country who has become a citizen should be reminded that they swore an oath to uphold the US Constitution and the laws that our Congress enacts. These must always override sharia law. If Muslim immigrants choose not to adhere to this principle, they have violated their oath, and should be deported.



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