Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Little Foxes

"Catch for us the little foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom."  Solomon

In the last little while I've had the opportunity to have a discussion with a lawyer concerning the use of Sharia law in the United States courts.  Now we all know that lawyers live on their own planet, and some of them actually think that planet is Earth.  If you've ever been involved in any legal procedure at all, you've probably found that legal interpretations make little sense to the average person.  Justice is blind, they say.  Sometimes she's deaf, too.

Sharia law is quite involved, just as American law is; I'd almost bet my house that this lawyer doesn't understand or know the complexities of Sharia law.  The situation we discussed was one involving a mosque in Florida, the current leaders, and a group of ex-trustees of said mosque.  The disupte between these two groups involved a sum of money obtained from an eminent domain settlement.  This is a civil suit, not a criminal case, and the two groups agreed to a mediation by the Florida court.  The current leaders appealed a decision by the court to use Sharia law to settle the dispute, and the result of the appeal was for the case "to proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law."  According to the court order, the remainder of the hearing will be to determine if Islamic dispute resolution procedures have been followed.

The thinking of the lawyer is understandable:  this decision does not preclude the use of US law, and the case is between two groups of Muslims.  My question is why it is being heard in a Florida court if a decision is to be rendered on procedures of Islamic law?  Procedures are provided in Sharia law for such a disagreement:  if Islamic brothers cannot resolve a disagreement, they should go before the members of the mosque or the greater Islamic community.  If that is not successful, the case can be heard by an Islamic judge.  The current leaders of the Florida mosque apparently did not want to proceed under Islamic law; they sued in a Florida court.  Now the appeals judge has agreed to hear the case, but pursuant to Islamic law.  If the mosque leaders had wanted the case to be settled using Islamic law, why would they have sued in a Florida court? 

The lawyer who shared his thoughts with me (including whether I had the ability to read) felt it was ridiculous and paranoid of me to think that this case indicated that Sharia law was creeping into US court systems.  It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you. 

Sharia law covers many aspects of life, including banking and finance.  Business is conducted through partnerships, rather than corporations.  Equity is shifted over time between institution and client, with the individual accepting equal consequences in losses as well as gains.  According to James Crotty in the Cambridge Journal of Economics, Islamic financial and investment models are flourishing and taking root even in the West as Western corporations collapse. 

I admit it.  Sharia law scares me.  When a political party tried to introduce Sharia law in Turkey, courts dissolved the political party in 1998, saying that democracy is the antithesis of Sharia.  The party appealed to the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that Sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy. 

As a woman, I find Sharia exceptionally distressing.  Under Islamic law, women come out on the wrong end of honor killings, female genital mutilation, adolescent marriages, polygamy, and gender-biased inheritance rules.  Statistics are impossible to determine in these areas, but the National Geographic reports that the UN says that thousands of women are murdered annually in family honor killings.  In a National Geographic documentary Michael Davie reported that every day at least three women (including victims of rape) are victims of honor killings in Pakistan.  One example cited involved a mentally impaired girl who was killed in front of the village tribunal.  Just Google "honor killings" to read about the atrocities, including the increasing occurrences in Muslim families in the US.

The National Geographic article says that being labelled culturally insensitive inhibits the United States and the media from reporting these murders as honor killings.  Hmmm.  Seems I just read a book about Nazi Germany in the 1930s which said that the US did not intervene in the German government's abuse of its citizens because the US did not want to appear intrusive and heavy-handed.  Besides, the German government owed us money.

Then there are the stories about the Muslims who want the entire world to be ruled by Sharia law. About three years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury in Great Britain suggested that Sharia law should be a component in British law.  CBS News reports that at that time the British government quietly authorized Sharia judges to rule on divorces, financial disputes, and domestic violence cases, taking the place of legal solutions in the British courts.  The report indicates that Sharia law is only binding in Britain if both parties agree.  Ahhhhh!!  Just like in the Florida civil suit. 

NPR reports that US courts already recognize and enforce Sharia law in commercial contracts, divorce settlements, and wills.  But in the same article Clark Lombardi is quoted as saying that we're not going to see violent, retaliatory enforcement of Sharia because it's inconsistent with our public policy, but our system is similar to the one in use in Britain.  US law supersedes religious agreements if these agreements are based on tenents not congruent with our laws. 

Now consider the rhetoric of one British citizen, Anjem Choudary, who has vowed that the "flag of Islam" will fly over the White House.  He tried to organize a demonstration in Washington, but couldn't make it because he is on a no-fly list and was thus unable to travel to the US.  He and the extremist group, Islamic Thinkers Society (based in New York), called the demonstration "a rally, a call for the Sharia, a call for the Muslims to rise up and establish the Islamic state in America."  Choudary also said, "I think the American people's hearts and minds are open to receive Islam as an alternative way of life."  Well,  maybe in the case of a certain lawyer mentioned above and a judge in Florida. 

Another statment of Choudary's concerning Sharia in Britain:  "We are going to go to all these same areas and implement our own Sharia-controlled zones.  We want to run the area as a Sharia-controlled zone and really to put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term."

The little foxes are the ones who eat the grapes, a few at a time, and eventually the vineyard is destroyed.  First, we decide contract issues according to Sharia, if both parties agree.  Then a woman's divorce is settled according to Sharia.  Before we know it, American citizens are demanding Sharia controlled zones.  Then democracy dies. 

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