Some time ago, I found myself in a discussion over ‘creeping Shariah law’ in Canada that ended up with some heat in it. I felt a little guilty about this, for one, because the less-than-able Tucker Carlson to my much-more-liberal Paul Begala was the kid who worked parttime in the library for whom English was his second language to his native French, and that discussion, actually in the library, made the eyes of the library clerk go wide.
I really don’t remember how I ended up in such a conversation – so obviously hotbutton and likely to end in acrimony if not tears – but I can’t exclude the possibility I goaded buddy into it.
What I do remember is that the kid conveyed that the issue had been the topic of discussion in one of his Law and Justice classes and, as I recall, he indicated that more students’ knickers were in a twist than not.
I barked, in the end, to the effect, that the fear of the creep of Shariah was not only misplaced but profoundly stoopid: one more form of mediation to join a whole bunch of others, religious or otherwise, which do not have the power to override existing provincial or federal law, is nobuddy’s concern but that of the victims of a domestic apocalypse. Where it does intersect with the public interest, it seemed mostly positive to me, shifting more of the grunt work of divorce and custody, for instance, out of Family court, again, without being binding.
Still, pros and amateurs across the country have been losing their shit over this and the like for years. Premier Dalton McGuinty, lukewarm Roman Catholic, has had the good fortune to be able to swing at softballs, like the plank of John Tory’s 2007 campaign to extend funding to all religious schools (so obviously pandering that I reckoned it made Tory unfit for office and which McGuinty could so easily reject while throwing up his hands on the division of public and seperate education, the Constitution and all that), but more importantly here, like the movement to introduce Islamic arbitration in family law in Ontario to which DM responded with a move to ban all religious-law-based arbitrations which had been permitted under the law – on a voluntary basis – since 1991. (Did he follow through? I can’t seem to find out.)
No matter … regarding any of the above.
What makes me want to throw heat at hitters of any level in a contest over such things is the obvious focus on Islam that’s entailed. McGuinty didn’t give a rat’s patootie about extra-judicial arbitration til the Muslims wanted in, nor did my library interlocutor argue in favour of an entirely secular law in general. The former, well, he’d sell out his kids to be on the right side of any issue; the latter, I’m willing to say, is a garden-variety Islamophobe.
Anyway, an implicit or explicit appeal to secular liberal democratic values here would be laughable if not for the fact of its Islam-baiting/anti-Islam subtext which remains alive and well, and the substance of so much public discourse.
I don’t need to do the litany here, do I? In any case, don’t worry, I’ll come back to all of it in time. But for the present, I’m shaking my head by this American manifestation of the phenomenon, Oklahoma’s Measure 755 on which voters will have their say on Tuesday:
The ballot title that voters will see on their ballot reads:
This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.
International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.
The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.
Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
Shall the proposal be approved?
For the proposal
Against the proposal
Jeebus, why not throw in that the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims?
Not a Potted Plant, a lawyer, takes apart this measure with respect to its Constitutionality and existing law in Oklahoma to conclude:
But none of that is important. The facts don’t matter and they are, indeed, inconvenient. The point is to make people scared of the toothless shibboleth that is Sharia law and thus drive them to the polls to vote for meaningless-at-best and Constitution-subverting-at-worst wedge issues like Measure 755. Don’t fall for it — keep it in perspective, folks.
NPP follows up a few days later, looking into the scant evidence of the application of Shariah in arbitrations across the US, and while it’s a bit of a mixed bag so far as the results go (the negatives stemming from American judical error), NPP’s conclusion is:
yes, there are some significant differences between Sharia and U.S. law. But again, there is little here that seems so awful it can’t be tolerated in a private arbitration agreement. And as a practical matter, the only way a U.S. court is going to deal with Sharia is by way of looking for substantial due process violations when it is asked to compel arbitration or confirm an arbitration award, or when it is asked to confirm and enforce a previous award of a foreign court pursuant to a treaty obligation or the Full Faith and Credit clause.
Regardless, let’s stamp out any hint of Shariah, Oklahoma and Ontario, cuz the next thing you know the Muslims will be flocking to small town Quebec, constitutionally guaranteed Shariah in hand, to stone adulteresses and ban Christmas and drinking.