How Reasonable Debate on Islam is Crippled by the Far Left

In Florida, a judge has ordered the use of ‘Ecclesiastical Islamic Law’ to decide a case among litigants in a suit involving an internal dispute at a mosque. Why are some so accepting of the idea that the melding of “Mosque and State” in American jurisprudence is acceptable?  I submit that, at least in some cases, political motivations stand in the way of intelligent, reasoned debate on issues related to Islam. Leftist disdain for the Right and the leftist political doctrine of multiculturalism cripple their ability to reasonably debate these issues.

Those critical of Islam and the terror which is born from it are frequently accused of trying to pigeon-hole all Muslims into one category of believers who are seeking Islam’s domination. In this accusation, the reality that some actually do seek to do just that is brushed under the rug. Though I would agree that not all Muslims desire that political Islam should become a part of America’s legal system, it is clear that the desire for Islam to dominate in America does exist among some Muslims. There is perhaps no more serious example of this than in attempts to make Islamic Law hold precedence over American Law.

Many on the Left will leap to the defense of Islam at every turn. It is true even in this case, even though the leaders of the mosque themselves argue that Florida law should hold precedence. Why would the Left press for Islam when the mosque itself argues the contrary?

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Left has introduced new doctrines that are Marxist in nature, but that have a non-Soviet flavor which may make them more palpable to Americans. One such doctrine — “multiculturalism” — has replaced “melting pot” thinking all too frequently in America. Multiculturalism is one avenue through which Sharia courts in America could gain more acceptance whereas this could not happen wherever the traditional “melting pot” thinking is applied.

In our traditional “melting pot” society, immigrants “blend in”. They accept the basic values of the American system into which they have moved while retaining those elements of their culture which do not trample over the most basic American values. For instance, in Chinatown, Americans can experience the flavor of Chinese culture, but still be fully American and retain all the freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution. There is no need to be concerned that on a visit to Chinatown, you might automatically become a citizen of China or be otherwise subject to Chinese law. You’d be  hard pressed to find an American on the Right or the Left who does not accept Chinatown as a highly welcome part of American society. Chinatown is a textbook example of America’s “melting pot” values system.

Multiculturalism is the polar opposite of the “melting pot.” “Multiculturalism,” a “major ideological successor” of Soviet-style Marxism, rejects the idea that immigrants should “blend in” to the American system of values.

Values like universal human rights, individualism and liberalism are regarded merely as ethnocentric products of Western history. The scientific knowledge that the West has produced is simply one of many “ways of knowing.” In place of Western universalism, this critique of the West offers the relativism of multiculturalism, a concept that regards the West not as the pinnacle of human achievement to date, but as simply one of many equally valid cultural systems.

I can see the Left’s embrace of the ideological doctrine of multiculturalism — as opposed to a “melting pot” — reflected in the exposition of Sharia Law as a system of law that is equally valid to other systems of law. An example of this is a recent report at Salon by Justin Elliott. Though Elliott has taken great pains to claim that Tea Party protests against radical Islamists are “anti-Muslim hate,” he admits to having little idea about what Sharia Law is.

Indeed, anti-Muslim political operatives have been warning of “creeping sharia” and “Islamist lawfare” for years, though the anti-sharia efforts have gained new prominence in recent months.

But even basic facts about sharia — what is it? how is it used in American courts? — are hard to come by. So I decided to talk to Abed Awad, a New Jersey-based attorney and an expert on sharia who regularly handles cases that involve Islamic law. He is also a member of the adjunct faculties at Rutgers Law School and Pace Law School. He recently answered my questions via e-mail.

Here we have a writer at Salon who is operating from a presumption that the protests against Sharia are “anti-Muslim” efforts by “political operatives.” He claims these protests are based in bigotry, instead of what they really are — legitimate concerns about support for terror and anti-Semitism at the Islamic Circle of NorthAmerica.

Operating from a foundation of disdain for the Right, he hangs on to the presumption that the protests are not legitimate opinions expressed by citizens but, instead, are a campaign run by “political operatives”. It is from that foundation of flawed belief that he builds. Further, in realizing that he is completely ignorant of Sharia, he seeks to build his arguments against those who would seek to discredit Islam by doing research made up entirely of an email exchange with one Muslim attorney.

It is in this manner that the Left’s knee-jerk disdain for the Right, the doctrine of multiculturalism and downright ignorance about Islam are so often found together in a formula that causes them to jump to the defense of Islam in every issue…even issues wherein they are taking the position opposite of a mosque that is opposed to Islamic supremacism in our courts.

We hear a lot about the “Far Right” in America’s political discourse on Islam. Indeed, the Far Left and their ideological doctrines contrary to America’s founding values are very much at play in these debates. Let us not forget that important point.

38 Responses to How Reasonable Debate on Islam is Crippled by the Far Left

  • You’d be hard pressed to find an American on the Right or the Left who does not accept Chinatown as a highly welcome part of American society. Chinatown is a textbook example of America’s “melting pot” values system.

    One of the first things I noticed when we moved to the Seattle area was that Seattle’s famous China town isn’t, anymore– it’s “The International District.” (Still has the awesome look, thank God.)

  • I think we can agree that Justin Elliot made the right move in admitting his ignorance of what sharia was — and attempting to compensate for it by actually seeking out and talking to somebody versed in Sharia law.

    I’d be interested in what you have to say with regards to the actual content of the interview with the Muslim attorney on Sharia law and the various examples cited? — I personally found him to be rather sensible.

    Regarding the case you mentioned of a Florida judge ordering the use of ‘Ecclesiastical Islamic Law’ to decide a case among litigants in a suit involving an internal dispute at a mosque, this Tea Party Activist did some further homework and found that it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

    See also: “The Case Should Proceed Under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law” / Jews, Ketubahs, and Gets(Volokh Conspiracy 3/25/11).

  • You appear to be changing the subject. He’s blogged on these issues without understanding them, and that is the main point, that he has had no problem operating from ignorance. Secondly, I disagree with that particular attorney’s assessment and could explain why, but that would be changing the topic. Third, I don’t get my information from Tea Party News. I looked at it myself and made my decision based on what the law says. Finally, I just read what the Tea Party site said and the point is wrong because it refers to religious courts, not the use of Islamic law by a secular judge as is the case in Florida.

    Care to address my points or would you like to speak on separate topics again?

  • Prohibiting sharia law from arbitration is decided statist. It is legally equivalent to prohibiting the Church from applying canon law in internal matters.

    Chinese isn’t a religion. I suppose Chinese-Americans can opt to apply Confucian law in arbitration but there is no religious obligation or impetus to do so. We’re all okay with ethnic diversity (so long as they’re not Mexican), but then how to deal with religious diversity? Historically, the answer has been through public schools. But that’s not the answer we want to hear, not least because it was originally intended to indoctrinate Catholic immigrants. I’m afraid there isn’t much we libertarian-types can do besides make the best case for American values in the free market of ideas.

  • Let me make this clear. There is a difference between religious courts and secular courts. The issue of religious courts is a completely different topic altogether. In this case, we have a secular judge interpreting the Qur’an to decide a case. The judge is not an imam in a mosque. He’s a secular judge.

    “Chinese” isn’t a religion, but China is a state — a political entity. Islam, unlike Christianity and Judaism, is an inherently political religion.

    It would not bother me if my state banned judges from using Canon Law as the foundation for deciding a case in a Catholic church because secular judges have no business deciding such cases. Those cases are for Church courts, not secular courts.

  • “You appear to be changing the subject. He’s blogged on these issues without understanding them, and that is the main point, that he has had no problem operating from ignorance.”

    Point taken, and his wholesale characterization Tea-Partiers was unjust. He shouldn’t operate from a presumption that the protests against Sharia are “anti-Muslim” efforts by “political operatives”

    But in fairness, insofar as he is “blogging from ignorance” of Sharia law, kudos to him for attempting to remedy his ignorance by seeking knowledge. Certainly this is commendable?

    Having agreed on your point, perhaps we can move on to the (IMHO, much more interesting) topic of Sharia law and the court system, rather than what Justin Elliot thinks about the Tea Partiers.

    Not being an attorney myself, I took the Tea Partier’s tip and went to a law blog that specializes in this very kind of law to find some informed opinion on the subject.

    In this instance, I found Eugene Volokh’s discussion of the interplay between religious and secular law informative. I’d encourage a reading of his post in its entirety rather than simply re-post it here, particularly as I found his rational consideration of all the points involved worth emulating. (Hint: He disagrees with the judge’s ruling).

    Contrary to some bloggers screaming how this can be taken as a novel infiltration of Sharia law into our legal system, I agree with Volokh: the issue is more complex. I also agree with his closing point as well:

    many of the disputes about accommodations of Islamic religious practice, about enforcing of Islamic arbitrations, and so on are just special cases of much broader disputes that the American legal system has dealt with for over two centuries. There’s nothing specially shocking or even highly novel about them. They’re not some special new monkey wrench that Muslims are throwing into our legal system; Christians, Jews, and others have routinely raised such issues before, and continue to do so today.

  • If you are referring to my post as “screaming” (and I have to think you probably are since it’s my post you’re commenting on) I do not think I screamed. Perhaps the shock of disagreement caused you to interpret it as screaming. I’m not screaming.

    This is an import point at Volokh: “I think the court erred, not in being open to enforcing a religious arbitration decision, but in proposing to use ‘ecclesiastical Islamic law’ to evaluate the validity of the “dispute resolution procedures” that were used.”

    Rather than letting this be settled by “religious arbitration”….which is perfectly legitimate, the judge opted to subjectively interpret the Qur’an to make his decision. Mind you, this is a secular judge.

    Am I upset about that? Yes. Is Volokh upset? No. Did I scream? No. I’m warning about it. Volokh isn’t warning but rather is pointing out the error ever so politely and yawning about it. I’m not screaming, but I am also not yawning.

    Generally speaking, secular courts sometimes make rulings based on religious rules that are clearly spelled out in the contract, but for a secular judge to interpret the Qur’an in the absence of the contract being spelled out IS “novel”…and dangerous.

  • Sorry, I think if you googled “sharia, federal judge, florida” you’ll find plenty of screaming. You come across as fairly civil.

    I think we’re in agreement with Eugene Volokh here and with each other. That’s something we can both celebrate, yes?

  • I am not in agreement with his claim that this is not ‘novel’. He admits the judge ‘erred’.

    Also, Mr. Elliott would do well to read the Qur’an for himself and to examine Sharia in practice in Muslim countries. Asking a Muslim, even an attorney, what Sharia is is not legitimate research, particularly given the teaching on ‘taqiyya’. Clearly, the attorney he spoke to is either (1) ignorant or (2) lying per taqiyya.

  • Bad research is worse than none– you end up thinking you know a lot more than you do, and those who trust you are likewise misled.

  • I agree. Bad research is worse than none.

  • “Asking a Muslim, even an attorney, what Sharia is is not legitimate research”

    First, “Sharia” seems to be a pretty broad topic and too big to be categorically dismissed as something abominable.

    Condemnation of “sharia” is akin to the rampant condemnation of the concept of “jihad” in the Islamic religion — now, there are forms of “jihad” that are acceptable (understood as the regulations of an Islamic just war tradition), and there are forms that aren’t. You’ll find a fair treatment of “jihad” by James Turner Johnson in First Things).

    Secondly, in most cases where I want to make a genuine inquiry into a religion and the laws, customs and forms of that religion and the schools of interpretation that might have arisen in applying them, I would think it a matter of common sense to inquire with a scholar from that religion — and not merely critics external to that religion with an axe to grind.

    As a Catholic I would hope the same justice could be afforded me by an admittedly-ignorant outsider inquiring about the Catholic Church and its laws and customs; or a gentile inquiring about the finer nuances of Jewish law.

    “particularly given the teaching on ‘taqiyya’. Clearly, the attorney he spoke to is either (1) ignorant or (2) lying per taqiyya.”

    Operating on the basic assumption that Muslims who converse with non-Muslims about sharia are either ignorant or engaged in willful deception and falsehood leaves little basis for human civility and dialogue, much less Christian charity.

  • [Lisa Grass]: “In our traditional “melting pot” society, immigrants “blend in”. They accept the basic values of the American system into which they have moved while retaining those elements of their culture which do not trample over the most basic American values.”

    I admit this is a completely tangential note, so feel free to reject this comment, but there is a fascinating internal debate between orthodox Catholics, for instance, as to whether “basic American values” — and the institutions of “classical liberalism” — are in sync, and compatible with, Catholic Christianity. (We certainly like to think there is some compatibility). This is a topic that David Jones and I have been engaged with for some years.

    On one side you have scholars like Tracey Rowland, David Schindler (editor of Communio), the philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre; on the other hand you have the triumvirate of the late Richard J. Neuhaus, George Weigel, and Michael Novak, who take their inspiration from Fr. John Courtney Murray.

    One of the key points of dispute is the separation of “church” and “state” as enshrined in our constitutional democracy and what is often spoken of as the “neutrality” of our system with respect to religious claims, wholly confined to the private sphere. David Schindler addresses this in Heart of the World, Center of the Church: Communio Ecclesiology, Liberalism, and Liberation Eerdmans (October 1996). (Fr. Neuhaus responds to Schindler here).

    I provide some resources here:

    http://religionandliberty.blogspot.com/
    http://thechurchandtheliberaltradition.blogspot.com/

  • It’s “Graas”. Thanks.

    I will only say that personally, I am a Catholic before I am an American.

  • But which scholar? The best thing to do is to read the Qur’an for yourself. You will find that those who are devoutly following the teachings of the Qur’an are the ones who are slaughtering people.

    The video Three Things About Islam explains very accurately and succinctly why it is a mistake to believe that the Qur’an can be treated (regarding interpretation) the way the Torah and the Bible are treated. I really encourage you to read the Qur’an as a scientist would read it, and not as one who has wishful thinking.

    I know what the Qur’an says and I know what Sharia is, so if there is some alternative to ignorance and taqiyya then I would be most happy to hear it. The man makes claims that are simply not true. Ignorance or taqiyya are, logically speaking, the only explanations I can think of. If there is an alternative explanation for why he is not telling the truth, I am happy to hear it.

    I am also quite ignorant about many things. Why should it be uncharitable for someone to point it out to me if I were engaged in a serious debate about something? Ignorance is no sin. It’s more akin to a disease, and one cannot treat a disease unless one first names it.

  • “Grass” (my mistake I apologize).

    “Why should it be uncharitable for someone to point it out to me if I were engaged in a serious debate about something?”

    I think what we have here, as they say, is a failure to communicate. Perhaps it’s my fault.

    Have a blessed Lent and Sunday afternoon.

  • Grrrrrr typos. Just shoot me now. =)

  • It is a feature of secular American law that it applies religious law as a guide to settling certain kinds of disputes. For example, here is a recent decision from New York about whether a woman with Alzheimers should be given food and water even if this necessitated a feeding tube. The legal test is what the woman would have wanted, and since the woman in question was a devout Catholic, the court ruled that a feeding tube should be used if necessary as this is what was called for by Catholic teaching.

    Similarly, disputes regarding church property often involve recourse to religious law, because the rules governing the use and disposition of property are set by the property holders, and they are free to stipulate that ownership is to be determined in accordance a particular set of religious laws if they like.

  • If I remember that case correctly, it only came up because two of her children put in a do-not-treat order for the lady, and the other four said that there’s no way she’d want that;the son that was for starving dehydrating her to death said that the Catholic Church had no teachings about food and water to the gravely ill. (The woman in question regularly went to daily Mass before she became too ill.)
    It was a secondary question that came up in an attempt to figure out what the lady would have wanted, were she able to speak for herself.

    A more equivalent ruling would be a judge ordering a couple that was married in the Church to get an annulment rather than a civil divorce.

    If there was a prior agreement between the two parties, then it would make sense for a judge to say “you have to use Sharia law”– barring that, this is bad juju.

  • Tomorrow, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick will be testifying before Congress in defense of the civil rights of American Muslims.

  • BlackAdder, you will not find me defending a judge’s authority to disallow a feeding tube. There is no need to appeal to religious authority on a feeding tube. America’s Constitution defends life and no person, no matter what he believes, should be assisted in his own suicide. So, that case is flawed to begin with.

    On the latter issue, the courts should not be deciding cases based on a secular judge’s interpretation of Canon Law. As I understand it, judges can only consider those cases if the particular provisions of Canon Law are clearly spelled out in the contract. That’s also a far car from having a secular judge interpret Canon Law and an even farther cry, if you will, from having him interpret religious texts that are centuries old and with which he has not had any training.

  • “Tomorrow, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick will be testifying before Congress in defense of the civil rights of American Muslims.”

    Sigh. No doubt the emeritus archbishop will offer up some unmemorable soothing pap.

    If this waste of time was intended to be productive–as opposed to partisan posturing against Rep. King’s almost equally pointless hearings–then Durban would have invited a Catholic archbishop who’s actually seriously pondered such matters, Thomas Wenski. Wenski’s even sympathetic to Muslim concerns, albeit clear-eyed.

    http://nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/word050506.htm

    Instead we’re getting the word from the episcopal Derek Smalls.

  • Amusing that the hearing is held by one of the foremost Catholic pro-aborts in the Senate, Dick Durbin. Durbin got into Congress by ousting pro-abort RINO Paul Findley from Springfield. He did so with a lot of pro-life Republican votes since Durbin then claimed to be pro-life and an ardent foe of abortion. A few years in Congress and Durbin switched to being 100% pro-abortion since he realized that a pro-life Democrat had no hope of being a Democrat leader in Congress.

    As for Cardinal McCarrick, I trust he is more willing to defend the civil rights of Muslims in this country than he is willing to speak up for the rights of Christians in Saudi Arabia.

    http://www.cnsnews.com/node/72393

    Cardinal McCarrick gives insipid mush a bad name.

  • As long as progressives and muslims aspire to replace American culture and government with heathenism and tyranny; as long as liberals and muhammedans refuse to criticize themselves, reform, or accommodate the consent of the governed as reflected in 222 years of free elections; as long as muslims and liberals are political adversaries of the West; . . .

  • Operating on the basic assumption that Muslims who converse with non-Muslims about sharia are either ignorant or engaged in willful deception and falsehood leaves little basis for human civility and dialogue, much less Christian charity.

    Not to mention it’s the next best thing to a non-falsifiable accusation. How, exactly, is a Muslim interlocutor supposed to disprove the charge?

    Not that one shouldn’t apply careful scrutiny to the statements and arguments of the professional Muslim grievance lobby, of course. But even there, the problems are usually misdirection or incomplete comments, not willful falsehood.

  • I find it difficult to understand why it is that my acknowledging the reality of taqiyya has caused me to be characterized as lacking civility.

    As to the problems it causes for the credibility of Muslims, that’s what I would call an occupational hazard, if you will, though it’s a religion, not an occupation.

    Taqiyya is a principle from the Qur’an whereby Muslims are allowed to lie if it will advance Islam. It is what it is. It exists. Considering that he did not offer the reality of what Sharia is, there must be some explanation for why he did that. Ignorance and taqiyya are the two explanations I offered and I am open to alternative explanations.

    Smearing my character isn’t proper discourse.

  • Not to mention it’s the next best thing to a non-falsifiable accusation. How, exactly, is a Muslim interlocutor supposed to disprove the charge?

    By giving evidence that the guy’s statement was true.

    There are two options:
    The guy passed on incorrect information due to lying or ignorance,
    or
    The guy was telling the truth.

    If the statement was really not falsifiable, then you wouldn’t be able to show if the statement was true or not.

    Ms. Graas even pointed out exactly how she knew the guy was full of it– by reading the Koran.

  • As for Cardinal McCarrick, I trust he is more willing to defend the civil rights of Muslims in this country than he is willing to speak up for the rights of Christians in Saudi Arabia.

    Last I checked, what makes human rights to be human rights is that they are not some quid pro quo. We stand for the human rights of Muslims in America because of human dignity, not as a trade off for Christian human rights elsewhere.

  • We stand for the human rights of Muslims in America because of human dignity, not as a trade off for Christian human rights elsewhere.

    Which is exactly why it’s annoying to see people fussing about looking closer at a group that has a disproportionate number of terrorist attacks against us in the last X years and happens to be a religious group, while ignoring death, kidnapping and rape of our own group elsewhere.

    It really looks bad when speaking up about the first group is safe, and the second is dangerous.

    It’s like the old “why doesn’t PETA protest biker bars” question.

  • “Last I checked, what makes human rights to be human rights is that they are not some quid pro quo. We stand for the human rights of Muslims in America because of human dignity, not as a trade off for Christian human rights elsewhere.”

    Actually one would expect a Cardinal of the Catholic Church to be concerned about religious freedom everywhere, and especially for Christians in lands that persecute followers of Christ. However, I do understand that the Cardinal we are talking about, McCarrick, has a history of being mainly interested in carrying water for the party of abortion rather than acting as a Prince of the Church.

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/archive/ldn/2009/sep/09090107

  • Judges use foreign law all the time to settle disputes in civil courts when an agreement calls for the application of that law. If an agreement called for it to be interpreted using Chinese, Nigerian, Sharia, Cannon or Plutonian law (assuming such could be credibly discerned) there is nothing I am aware of in American jurisprudence that would reject it out of hand.

  • Again, judges don’t go outside of American law unless the specifics are spelled out clearly in the contract itself. For instance, if I write in my will that I want my estate handled in accordance with Canon Law….I have to spell out the specifics of Canon Law in the will.

    This is a case of the specifics not being spelled out, and the judge will be interpreting the Qur’an.

  • If you’re curious, my words taste like rawhide:

    http://www.zenit.org/article-32159?l=english

    Excellent testimony by the Cardinal, and my apologies to him.

  • If it makes you feel any better, Dale, I shared your misgivings about Cardinal McCarrick being chosen by Durbin to testify at his dog and pony show.

    And I share your assessment of the quality of the Cardinal’s outstanding testimony. Durbin and the rest of the “progressives” on the committee must’ve winced big time when Cardinal McCarrick used the opportunity to get in a defense of traditional marriage and decry the efforts of those who would paint the Church’s traditional teaching on the subject as “bigoted”.

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