Integrating Islamic law in family law in European and North American societies poses a serious threat to women’s rights – and to national integrity, writes Elham Manea, Swiss-Yemeni political scientist
Every time the suggestion of introducing Islamic law in Western legal system is mentioned, it is tempered by its proponents with the sentence: this would only affect the family law. Ye it is precisely because this suggestion concerns family law, it should be rejected. For the issue here relates to nothing but legally sanctioned discrimination against women and children.
Calls for the introduction of forms of Islamic Law, Sharia, into European and North American legal systems have often been made by three groups of people.
First, from Islamic organizations which often represent a traditional if not conservative reading of Islam. Second, from high European or North American officials or figures, who seem to be genuinely concerned about the integration of Muslim communities in their respective countries, and consider the move inevitable for any “successful” integration of Muslims. Third, from within the circle of legal anthropology academics, who are leading a theoretical and intellectual discourse on the state.
North American Muslims are more than satisfied with the secular legal system and do not want a set of parallel courts for Islamic law, according to a new study of U.S. and Canadian Muslims by a Washington-based think tank.
The study, by University of Windsor law professor Judy Macfarlane for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, would seem to refute critics’ claims that American Muslims want to impose Shariah, or Islamic law.
In fact, the study indicates that Muslims are just as unwilling to accept Islamic law as non-Muslims.
This is the first empirical study to ask North American Muslims what shari’a means to
them in their everyday lives. The study demonstrates that the present “moral panic” over
shari’a and its alleged impact on American legal and social culture is wildly overblown. For
most American Muslims shari’a represents a private system of morality and identity, primarily
focused on marriage and divorce rituals. None of the American Muslims interviewed for this
study expected American courts to enforce shari’a. Just like other Americans, they will access
the courts for adjudication according to American family law if they cannot make a private agreement (relating to divorce) that meets their needs and values.
OKLAHOMA CITY — A proposed constitutional amendment that would ban Oklahoma courts from considering international or Islamic law discriminates against religions, and a Muslim community leader has the right to challenge its constitutionality, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.
The court in Denver upheld U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange’s order blocking implementation of the amendment shortly after it was approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters in November 2010.
Muneer Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, sued to block the law from taking effect, arguing that the Save Our State Amendment violated his First Amendment rights. The amendment read, in part: “The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law.”
State Sen. Anthony Sykes, who led the Senate effort to get the measure on the ballot, said Tuesday he would continue to fight to lift the injunction. “The federal appeals court in Denver attempted to silence the voice of 70 percent of Oklahoma voters,” Sykes said in a statement. “At some point we have to decide whether this is a country of by and for the judges, or of by and for the people. How far will the people let them go? This ruling is right along with legalizing abortion and forced busing of school children.”
The case now returns to federal court in Oklahoma City to determine the constitutionality of the proposed amendment.
“My office will continue to defend the state in this matter and proceed with the merits of the case,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement.
29 September 2011
Deputy Justice Minister of the Netherlands Fred Teeven has reasserted that Dutch law always takes precedence over the legal rules of other countries in the nation’s courts. The statement follows comments from anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders suggesting that because courts in the Netherlands sometimes conform to the legal rules of other countries in their consideration, Islamic law influences Dutch law. Teeven called the relationship between Dutch law and Islamic law ‘negligible’.
An amendment to Oklahoma’s constitution that bans state judges from considering Islamic law will face its next legal hurdle on Monday (Sept. 12) when a federal appeals court considers its constitutionality.
Just weeks after it was approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters last November, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange ruled it unconstitutional, saying “the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals.”
While judges routinely consider religious law when deciding family or contract disputes that could not be settled by religious authorities, constitutional law supersedes religious law if they are found to be in conflict.
Opponents say the Oklahoma measure would invalidate civil documents like marital contracts and wills, which some people draft according to religious guidelines.
While many Muslims viewed the Oklahoma referendum as discriminatory and fueled by Islamophobia, they say it has also given them a chance to educate non-Muslims about Shariah and Islam.
“We’ve stepped up our outreach efforts, and I think we’ve been able to change a lot of minds,” said Saad Mohammed, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. “If the referendum were held again tomorrow, I think a lot fewer people would support it.”
In light of changes to the tuition and student loan system in the UK, which lead to higher tuition fees and interest rates on loans, Muslim student groups are calling for a separate student loan system, as paying interest conflicts with some interpretations of Islamic (Sharia) law. This conflict may prevent some Muslims from applying for university – unless a scheme is in place allowing them to finance their studies in a way that is compatible with Islamic law. As the Independent reports, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) called the interest rate increase was a “pressing issue”. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills is currently negotiating with student groups. However, so far, it is uncertain how this issue will be resolved.
One of the more striking things about the current anti-sharia craze is how often state legislators who introduce anti-sharia bills can’t answer basic questions about Islamic law or why they see it as a threat.
How could all these legislators be so uninformed about their own bills? A big part of the reason is that most of them did not actually write the legislation in question. Rather, many of the anti-sharia bills being considered around the country are either based on or directly copied from model legislation created by an obscure far-right Arizona attorney and activist named David Yerushalmi.
February 21 2011
Politician Roel Kuiper, of the Netherlands’ Christian Union, has called for a constitutional amendment banning sharia law in the country. He suggests that Islamic law is “grounded in retaliation” and is “not rooted in principles which form part of Dutch culture”. Further, Senator Kuiper wants to regulate the flow of money from Arab countries to Dutch mosques.
We tend to assume Islam deserves unquestioned First Amendment protection. But it is a totalitarian way of life with aggressive political goals, not just a religion. What is to be done?
The Founders who wrote the U.S. Constitution were very aware that the citizens of this nascent nation wanted the freedom to choose their own manner of worship. They made history by forbidding religious tests for public office in Article VI. They added the First Amendment to ensure that Americans would be protected from government interference in their spiritual affairs.
But a dilemma exists in our nation today concerning whether or how the First Amendment should properly be applied to Islam. This essay will show that the ultimate outcome of blanket protection for Islam in all its manifestations on the grounds of “religious freedom” would be the establishment of Islamic law and government, or Sharia, alongside or in place of civil law and government in this country.
As we will see, Sharia law is totalitarian in nature, providing no individual freedoms while virtually enslaving those who live under its authority. This is absolutely not what the Founders intended in creating the Bill of Rights.
A South Carolina proposal would prevent the state’s courts from enforcing foreign law, including Islamic Sharia law, though Muslim advocates say it could essentially ban religion from mundane matters such as weddings and even burials.
The bill makes no reference to a specific religion or country, though its sponsors acknowledge they worry about the ultraconservative tenets of Sharia law, or Islamic religious law. At least 13 states have introduced similar measures this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Muslim advocates, however, fear the proposal could essentially ban mundane religious practices in legal documents like wills, which may distribute property based on Islamic traditions.