Lasman: The path to the oasis

Shari’a, like most legal codes from the 7th century, is not well-suited to many aspects of life in a modern liberal democracy. Particularly notorious are the huduud, or “limits,” which detail offenses against God that require particularly severe punishment — these are the beheadings, severed hands and stonings the media is so keen to associate with Islamic law. When 70 percent of Oklahoma voters approved State Question 755 — the so-called Save Our State Amendment — these were the nightmarish images they had in mind. They feared that theocracy would be the inevitable consequence “looking at international law or Sharia Law when deciding cases.”

The “international law” referred to here is a fatuous gesture towards equanimity, like the absurd restriction on “large crosses” in the 2004 French law that banned headscarves from public schools. But the Amendment’s principal author, State Representative Rex Duncan, has no qualms about its true purpose or urgency — in his words, the measure is a key victory in the “war for the survival of America.” Never mind that no judge in Oklahoma has ever come close to invoking Shari’a; never mind that U.S. law always trumps the religious laws that coexist beneath it at the communal level; or that singling out Shari’a almost certainly constitutes a violation of the First Amendment.

Harbingers of approaching fundamentalist doom are fond of citing a June 2009 case in which a New Jersey judge denied a restraining order to a woman whose husband had repeatedly sexually assaulted her. The court claimed that the husband had acted in accordance with what he believed to be his prerogative under Islam. A year later, the New Jersey Appellate Court reversed the decision, but the damage was done. The case is now touted as a sign that action must be taken to stop activist judges and subversive Islamic forces from infiltrating the American legal system.

The judge, Joseph Charles, certainly made a heinous error. Marital rape is illegal, under any circumstances — including U.S. law and many interpretations of the Shari’a. Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council for American-Islamic Relations, called Judge Charles’ notion that Islam either excuses or permits the husband’s behavior “absolute fantasy, and hateful.”

Yes, judges are fallible. But as the Fox News article on the case pointed out, with commendable common sense, religious law only holds in the U.S. in the case of contracts mutually agreed on by both parties. For instance, a couple may sign a marriage agreement that allows a private religious court to arbitrate any potential divorce settlement. Such contracts may not contradict existing laws — no court would have recognized a document produced by the New Jersey husband stating his wife had agreed to let him assault her. Religious citizens may invoke similar provisions for the execution of wills, burial rites, and dietary measures — exactly the grounds upon which an Oklahoma Muslim, Muneer Awad, is appealing State Question 755.

Far from potentially denying rights, applications of Shari’a ensure the Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. Anti-Islamic conservatives fear a paper tiger, recalling isolationist anti-Catholic diatribes of the early 20th century, which warned of an America subjected to papal dominion. Our legal systems are stronger than that. They don’t need the help of pointless, discriminatory statutes that falsely invoke patriotism to weaken the power of pluralism.

As Yale students, we are familiar with what it means to live under two systems of law: one communal and based on tradition, the other broader and more fundamental. The rules of Yale College cannot contradict Connecticut State Law. Rather, they define our communal values and guide our conduct. We understand that when our deans warn us about “illegal extensions,” no one will be taken to court — our transcripts may be at stake, but not our liberty. Navigating these coexisting systems mreinforces our civic sense. The Blue Book enhances our citizenship by deepening our commitment to responsibility and situating us within a network of relationships more immediate than the ties binding us to state and nation.

When laws cease to preserve our rights and assume symbolic dimensions, they threaten the very integrity they seek to ensure. As participants in two nested legal systems, we at Yale have a crucial commitment to invoke pluralism as a front-line defense against discrimination. This responsibility, not xenophobic amendments, is what truly constitutes saving our state.

Sam Lasman is a junior in Berkeley College.


  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Dhimmi. in. waiting.

    But that is beside the point (although we will return to the author’s presumptive [dhimmitude][1]). I agree with the broader idea that singling out sharia was unproductive. More productive might have been to focus on the measure’s main purpose: “[The measure] makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law.”

    The increasing sway of non-U.S. decisions (or, in some cases, non-ratified intentions, à la various UN doctrines) is a topic of lively debate. For example, one might be alarmed were the U.S. Supreme Court to move toward adopting “international” standards for American jurisprudence rather than relying on a strict application of the U.S. Constitution. Antonin Scalia sure is. His colleague Justice Kennedy has already demonstrated–and Justice Kagan has hinted at–a willingness to look beyond U.S. law to support Constitutional decision-making. (Unsurprisingly, Breyer, O’Connor, and Ginsburg also all voiced a fondness for non-U.S. legal thinking.)

    Indeed, Steven Calabresi (JD, Yale) and Stephanie Dotson Zimdahl, in their study titled “The Supreme Court and Foreign Sources of Law” [[**link**]][2], wrote “We thus think, with Justice Scalia, that in the over-whelming majority of non-Fourth and Eighth Amendment[-type rulings], it will *not be appropriate for the Supreme Court to cite foreign sources of law*. Citation of such law is, in fact, a sign that the Court is falling into policy-making, as it did in Dred Scott, Reynolds, and Roe v. Wade, and this in turn *suggests the justices are behaving illegitimately*. We thus substantially agree with the spirit if not all of the substance of Justice Scalia’s warning against citing foreign sources of law in U.S. constitutional cases.”

    But Lasman chose to focus on what he deems Oklahomans’ (and, one assumes by extension, Americans’) “[fear] that theocracy would be the inevitable consequence.” He ridicules the NJ decision, ridicules the idea of an Islamic marriage contract where a wife would “[agree] to let [her husband] assault her” (um…. it would not be labeled “assault,” just as FGM is not labled FGM, duh). He then goes on to equate life at Yale with co-existing (“nested”) systems of law. No big deal. “Nothin’ to see here, folks.” Wow.

    We’ll address some of the real issues in post #2.

    P.S. I will skip many of the editorial tidbits (e.g., omission of the word “of” in the final sentence of para. 1), but in para. 2, was “equanimity” really the word you meant? And are you confident in your usage of “paper tiger?”


  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Now let us focus on just one dangerous sentence: “Far from potentially denying rights, applications of Shari’a ensure the Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion.”

    Uh, sure, maybe. Well, conceptually anyway. But what *really* happens when sharia law is applied in a democracy? Well, folks, luckily for us we can look to some English-speaking peers for instruction, as sharia is making active inroads into Britain and Canada.

    As of a year-and-a-half ago, Britain reported at least 85 sharia courts. Britain’s sharia courts have been granted official powers to rule on Muslim civil cases and have ruled on issues ranging from financial disputes to domestic violence and divorce. Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts (to include London and Manchester) are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. (The power is given via something akin to U.S. arbitration laws–read your credit card disclosures for an example–and parties must agree beforehand to abide by sharia outcomes. Previously, sharia decisions/orders/punishments depended on voluntary compliance.)

    Some sharia examples: Under Islamic “family” law, after a couple divorces, the father automatically gets custody of the sons when they turn eight, and the daughters when they begin to menstruate. Imams can refuse to grant a woman a divorce unless her husband consents. Nor can she remarry without her ex-husband’s approval. Sharia also prohibits Muslims from marrying or remaining married to non-Muslims. Women who wish to have their case mediated by an imam must negotiate through male relatives. At *best* Muslim women inherit half that of a male relative. And God help a woman if she is accused of *adultery*!

    The Archbishop of Canterbury was vilified for suggesting that the establishment of sharia in the future “seems unavoidable” in Britain. At the same time, the Secretary General of the Islamic Sharia Council Suhaib Hasan said, “If Sharia law is implemented, then you can turn this country [Great Britain] into a haven of peace because **once a thief’s hand is cut off nobody is going to steal**.” He went further, adding, “Once[,] just only once, if an adulterer is stoned[,] nobody is going to commit this crime at all,” and finally, “[w]e want to offer [sharia] to the British society. If they accept it, it is for their good and if they don’t accept it they’ll need more and more prisons.”

    Rule Britannia! ( “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves: Britons never will be slaves.”)

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    In Canada, interestingly, it was Muslim *women* who claimed that sharia law would treat women in the Islamic community in ways contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights. Canadian Attorney General Marion Boyd, however, concluded that sharia law would not be problematic when used in private arbitration. Sharia courts were abandoned in 2005 (legislatively taking all other religious arbitration along with it), so Muslims focused their attentions on Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal, which indignant Muslims wielded to effectively ban free speech. Here’s a [neat summary][1].

    [Pre-emptive response: [Melanie Phillips here explains][2] how Jewish *Beth Din* courts just ain’t the same thang…]

    Indeed, the actions of Canadian Muslims highlight how stealth jihadists are adept at using the freedoms and rights which Western-civ types presume as a human birthright against the system, all with the intent of slowly chipping away at civil law and custom, eventually replacing it with the totalitarian ideology of Shari’a. (Shout “ISLAMAPHOBIA” all you want, but go check out, e.g., Nigeria…) Islam adhere to an all-encompassing political-military-legal doctrine–known as shariah. Sharia obliges Muslims to engage in jihad to achiever the triumph of Islam worldwide through the establishment of a global Islamic state governed exclusively by shariah, under a restored caliphate.”

    Shariah–when, where and as it is fully implemented–has some nifty but basic tenets; among others:

    1. *Adultery* – unlawful intercourse is a **capital crime** under Shari’a.
    2. *Apostasy* – leaving or rejecting Islam is a **capital crime**.
    3. *Female genital mutilation* – Circumcision for both sexes is often
    4. *Gender inequality* – under Shari’a, women are inferior (at least by
    Western standards — and you can just
    fuggedabout homosexual rights!)
    5. *Anti-Semitism* is elemental to Shari’a.
    6. *Blasphemy* – it is a great offense against Islam to offend Muslims
    (penatly, as usual, is death)

    (Also check out takkiyah, zakat, abrogation, huduud, marriage/sexual laws pertaining to young’uns, and more!)

    For further reading (links):

    – [Islamic States of America][3]
    – [Sharia Law in Britain][4] (.pdf)
    – [Sharia: The Threat to America][5]
    (.pdf–and a big one!)


  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Lastly, and as a sort of palate cleanser (though under the heading of could-be-funny-if-not-so-FREAKIN’-outrageous), I offer up some real-world Seinfeldian situations:

    May 8, 2010; Altavista, Virginia: Christine Calabrese, legally blind, went to a restaurant with her husband John and her service dog, Koji. They were asked to leave by the managers, Ahmed Ahmed and Fathy Morse. Mr. Calabrese repeatedly explained the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the manager “leaned over and said to me ‘I know my business. That dog is not allowed,'” said Calabrese.

    May 16, 2010, Sydney, Australia: A Muslim taxi driver agreed to take Sarah Eady’s seeing-eye dog Ally – but only if it went into the trunk of the car.

    June 8, 2010, Wales: Nader Rohbani-Eivazi informed Janice Powers that she could not take her seeing-eye dog Wayne into his taxi. When she protested, he replied, “Take me to court.”

    (My fave!) June 22, 2010; London: Judith Woods writes for the Daily Telegraph about Daisy, a Manchester terrier and how, on two occasions within a single instance, the dog was barred from London buses on religious grounds.

    “As they [Daisy and a human friend] tried to board the bus, the driver stopped her and told her that there was a Muslim lady on the bus who “might be upset by the dog.” As she [the friend] attempted to remonstrate, the doors closed and the bus drew away. When a second bus arrived, she again made to embark, but was stopped again – this time because the driver said he was Muslim.”

  • River Tam

    > Never mind that no judge in Oklahoma has ever come close to invoking Shari’a

    I notice you didn’t say “no judge in the US”.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Never mind that no judge in Oklahoma has ever come close to invoking Shari’a

    River Tam noted:
    > I notice you didn’t say “no judge in the US”.

    Hey, FB! Glad someone else has read this column; I dinna have time to point out every mealy-mouthed construction in this dhimmi piece.

  • River Tam


  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Addendum: Apparently y’all may have to locate your *own* copy of [Shariah – The Threat to America.][1] I’m sure a copy is floating around Luce Hall (not!).


  • RexMottram08

    Islam must be defeated.

  • The Anti-Yale

    If I recall correctly, all of these barbaric punishments appear in the judeo-xtian sacred book (aka Bible). Guillotines, nooses, firing squads, electric chairs,lethal injections: Can anyone really claim these techniques in official murders represent an evolutionary trend toward humanitarian murder?

  • Undergrad

    Oklahoma: where conspiracy theories are taken as accepted fact.

  • ignatz

    Sam Lasman refuses to acknowledge the brutality of Islamic law toward women and non-Muslims, pretending that “it’s just like any other 7th century law code.” Uh, Sam, which other 7th century civilizations are currently killing Christians and Jews on 5 continents? Wake up!

    Unwilling to recognize evil and confront it, Lasman claims that “we at Yale have a crucial commitment to invoke pluralism as a front-line defense against discrimination.” This is exactly backwards. “Discrimination” between good and evil is not just an essential survival skill — once upon a time, it was actually the main point of a college education. “Pluralism,” on the other hand, is code for accepting all people and all ideas as fully legitimate and equally good. It’s the suspension of morality, the abdication of good sense, the embrace of zombie-hood. So we at Yale should be invoking discrimination — in its original, pre-1960s sense — as the first line of defense against pluralsim. If we still care about preserving Western civilization, that is.

  • alalusim

    sam, thank you for a fair if slightly flawed article. it’s comforting to see that other people recognize how preposterous all of this is.

  • RexMottram08

    The multi-culturalists welcoming Shariah law are just like a Halal slaughtered animal, turning its head to face Mecca before having its throat cut.

  • Arafat

    Let’s lighten things up just a tad.

  • robert99

    Why is this guy trying to rationalize and excuse sharia law? His time would be better spent making an argument for the health advantatges of typhoid.

  • robert99

    Why is this guy trying to rationalize and excuse sharia law? His time would be better spent making an argument for the health advantages of typhoid.

  • gzuckier

    Sharia, fundamentalist Christianity, Haredi Judaism, Catholicism; if you don’t like the rules of the club, don’t join. If you want to join the club, then I guess you stick to the rules. Either way, I’m not really that interested, thanks.

  • Rublev

    The author has a very poor grasp of the reality surrounding Shariah. It is particularly disturbing how he overlooks the reality of those who allegedly “consent” to this in the West (How can it matter when you are a woman raised in such a profoundly patriarchical culture?). Another thing that completely destroys the author’s credibility is his quoting of the mendacious Ibrahim Hooper (president of CAIR) as a reference on Shariah law. It’s just as well I can never afford to send my kids to the ivy league!