OKLAHOMANS SAY NO TO SHARIA
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, gave the danger of Sharia unprecedented public attention in July, 2010, when he blasted its "principles and punishments [as] totally abhorrent to the Western world" and called for a federal law that "says no court anywhere in the United States under any circumstance is allowed to consider Sharia as a replacement for American law."
Despite some stirrings in this direction, no such federal law exists. But legislatures in two states, Tennessee and Louisiana, recently passed laws effectively blocking applications of Sharia that violate existing laws and public policy. And, in a referendum on November 2, 2010, the voters in Oklahoma likewise voted 70 to 30 percent to amend the Oklahoma State Constitution to protect the State and its people from judicial applications of the Sharia.
Although applauded by moderate Muslims such as Zuhdi Jasser, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), passage of the "Save Our State Amendment" alarmed Islamists. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), accurately accused of aiming "to overthrow constitutional government in the United States," nevertheless convinced a federal district judge to impose a temporary restraining order on the state election board from certifying the amendment.
A full court hearing could helpfully stimulate further public debate over applying the Sharia. In this spirit, let's look more closely at the just-passed Oklahoma state constitutional amendment, State Question 755. It limits Oklahoma courts to relying exclusively "on federal and state law when deciding cases." Conversely, it rejects "international law" in general and it specifically "forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law," where it defines the latter as Islamic law "based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed."
Popular criticism of the amendment vacillates between two contradictory responses, claiming it's either discriminatory or superfluous.
Discriminatory? While the wording is indeed problematic (international law cannot possibly be banned; and the Sharia should not be singled out by name), State Question 755 correctly insists that judges base their judgments solely on U.S. law. Contrary to rumor, the amendment does not ban Sharia outside the court system: Muslims may wash, pray, eat, drink, play, swim, woo, marry, reproduce, bequeath, etc., according to the tenets of their religion. Thus does the amendment not harm American Muslims.
Superfluous? No research informs us how often American judges rely on the Sharia to reach judgments, but a provisional inquiry turns up 17 instances in 11 states. Perhaps most notorious is the New Jersey ruling that concerned a married Muslim couple from Morocco. The wife related that the husband repeatedly forced her to have sex on the grounds that, quoting him, "this is according to our religion. You are my wife, I c[an] do anything to you." In brief, the Muslim husband claimed Sharia sanction for raping his wife.
The trial judge agreed with him: "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." Based on that, the judge ruled in June, 2009, that no sexual assault had been proven.
An appellate court reversed this ruling in July, 2010, on the grounds that the husband's "conduct in engaging in nonconsensual sexual intercourse was unquestionably knowing, regardless of his view that his religion permitted him to act as he did." In Newt Gingrich's more astringent analysis, the trial judge was "unwilling to impose American law on somebody who's clearly abusing somebody."
Then there looms the alarming example of Great Britain, where two of the country's ranking figures, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chief Justice, have endorsed a role for Sharia alongside British common law, and where a network of Sharia courts already operates.
Neither discriminatory nor superfluous, laws that banish the Sharia are essential to preserving the American constitutional order from what Barack Obama has called the "hateful ideologies of radical Islam." The American Public Policy Alliance has crafted model legislation that Oklahoma and 47 other state legislatures should pass.
© Daniel Pipes 2010
Originally Published in National Review Online, November 16, 2010
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, November 16, 2010
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Dr. Daniel Pipes, a Ph.D. in Islamic History (Harvard University, 1978), is Founder and Director of the Middle East Forum, Publisher of Middle East Quarterly, Founder of Campus Watch, Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, a signatory of the Project for the New American Century, a former board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Golden Circle supporter of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, a former member of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology, and a former lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pipes was the Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993.
Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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