Sharia Law and the U.S. Constitution

[Update I:  I have streamlined the following post to be easily readable to the average layman, but informative enough for a lawyer or law professor to learn a bit more on the similarities and differences between Sharia and U.S. Law]

Is Sharia compatible with the U.S. Constitution?

The simple answer is of course “no”.

But lets take a look at some aspects of Sharia Law and where it may or may not conflict with the U.S. Constitution.  (For disclosure I am not a lawyer nor a legal expert in Sharia or U.S. Law.)

First, what is Sharia?

Wikipedia states Sharia refers to the sacred law of Islam.  All Muslims believe Sharia is God’s law, but they have differences between themselves as to exactly what it entails.  Which will be difficult to discern what to apply when, but we’ll labor along for the sake of discussion.

In Western countries, where Muslim immigration is more recent, Muslim minorities have introduced Sharia family law, for use in their own disputes. Attempts to impose Sharia have been accompanied by controversy, violence, and even warfare (Second Sudanese Civil War).

The recent incidents at the Arab International Festival have reinforced the poor image of Sharia inside the United States and its incompatibility with American culture and law.

The following is a truncated version with a couple of modifications (eliminating repetitious ibids and links) of multiple Wikipedia entries [with my comments]:

Legal and Court Proceedings:

Wikipedia states that Sharia judicial proceedings have significant differences with other legal traditions, including those in both common law and civil law.

1. Sharia courts do not generally employ lawyers; plaintiffs and defendants represent themselves.

2. Trials are conducted solely by the judge, and there is no jury system.

3. There is no pre-trial discovery process, no cross-examination of witnesses, and no penalty of perjury (on the assumption that no witness would thus endanger his soul) Unlike common law, judges’ verdicts do not set binding precedents under the principle of stare decisis and unlike civil law, Sharia does not utilize formally codified statutes (these were first introduced only in the late 19th century during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, cf. mecelle).

4. Instead of precedents and codes, Sharia relies on medieval jurist’s manuals and collections of non-binding legal opinions, or fatwas, issued by religious scholars (ulama, particularly a mufti); these can be made binding for a particular case at the discretion of a judge.

5. Sharia courts’ rules of evidence also maintain a distinctive custom of prioritizing oral testimony and excluding written and documentary evidence (including forensic and circumstantial evidence), on the basis that it could be tampered with or forged.

6. A confession, an oath, or the oral testimony of a witness are the only evidence admissible in a Sharia court, written evidence is only admissible with the attestations of multiple, witnesses deemed reliable by the judge, i.e. notaries.

7. Testimony must be from at least two witnesses, and preferably free Muslim male witnesses, who are not related parties and who are of sound mind and reliable character; testimony to establish the crime of adultery, or zina must be from four direct witnesses.

8. Forensic evidence (i.e. fingerprints, ballistics, blood samples, DNA etc.) and other circumstantial evidence is likewise rejected in hudud cases in favor of eyewitnesses, a practice which can cause severe difficulties for women plaintiffs in rape cases.

9. Testimony from women is given only half the weight of men [in most sources outside of Wikipedia Sharia states that a woman’s testimony only carries the weight of 1/4th of a man’s], and testimony from non-Muslims may be excluded altogether (if against a Muslim).

10. In lieu of written evidence, oaths are accorded much greater weight; rather than being used simply to guarantee the truth of ensuing testimony, they are themselves used as evidence.

11. Plaintiffs lacking other evidence to support their claims may demand that defendants take an oath swearing their innocence, refusal thereof can result in a verdict for the plaintiff.

12. Sharia courts, with their tradition of pro se representation, simple rules of evidence, and absence of appeals courts, prosecutors, cross examination, complex documentary evidence and discovery proceedings, juries and voir dire proceedings, circumstantial evidence, forensics, case law, standardized codes, exclusionary rules, and most of the other infrastructure of civil and common law court systems, have as a result, comparatively informal and streamlined proceedings. [that’s one way of putting it]

13. This can provide significant increases in speed and efficiency (at the cost of the safeguards provided in secular legal systems), and can be an advantage in jurisdictions where the general court system is slow or corrupt, and where few litigants can afford lawyers. (end Wikipedia)

This is not a concise review of the difference nor similarities between U.S. Law and Sharia.  It is only meant to educate us on what Sharia law is in comparison to our legal system.

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