National Review Comes Out for Sharia
by Robert Spencer
Last week National Review published an article by Matthew Schmitz, deputy editor of First Things, claiming that “the anti-sharia movement in this country…endangers our national security by alienating loyal Muslim citizens and assaults religious liberty.” It’s unfortunate, but not surprising, that a publication whose editors Ann Coulter long ago famously labeled “girly men” would take such an ill-informed and wrongheaded stance – a stance that ultimately threatens the freedom of all Americans.
Schmitz takes issue with Kansas for passing a new law that “forbids courts and agencies to respect contracts drawn up under ‘any law, legal code or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including, but not limited to, international organizations and tribunals’ if the legal system does not grant the same ‘fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the United States and Kansas constitutions.’”
Sharia obviously does not grant those liberties, so what could possibly be wrong with that? Schmitz concedes that Islamic law “does not grant all the rights that the U.S. Constitution does,” but he goes on to claim that “neither does Christian canon law or Jewish Halakhic law (or English or French law, for that matter).” Islamic law mandates denial of basic rights to women and non-Muslims, severe restrictions on the freedom of speech, death for apostates, warfare against unbelievers, stonings for adultery, amputations for theft, female genital mutilation, and polygamy, while Catholic canon law, Jewish Halakhic law, and English and French law do not, but this does not seem to trouble Schmitz. His main point is not that other legal systems are just as restrictive and unjust as Sharia, but that Sharia should be allowed to figure in American legal decisions when to consider it would not contradict American law: why, he asks, should a court be prevented “from honoring a contract made under the provisions of one of these ‘foreign’ legal systems if the contract does not itself violate any U.S. or state regulations, laws, or constitutional provisions?”
Good question, but only if one accepts the talking points of Islamic supremacist groups in the U.S., such as the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). They claim that anti-Sharia laws would infringe upon Muslims’ First Amendment rights to practice their religion. As Schmitz puts it: “Under one reading of the Kansas law, a contract that makes reference to canon law or sharia — but is otherwise perfectly legal — would be thrown out, while an identical one that makes no such reference would be upheld.” The purpose of anti-Sharia laws, however, is not to stop Muslims from entering into voluntary contracts based on Sharia provisions that do not violate American law, but to stop the political and supremacist aspects of Islam that infringe upon the rights and freedoms of non-Muslims.
Schmitz does acknowledge that the Kansas law may be understood in a way that does not restrict Muslim religious practice that doesn’t conflict with American law: “The other possible reading of the law is that it only bars rulings based on foreign legal systems when the rulings themselves would violate constitutional rights. But in that case, as Professor Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia Law School has argued, the law is meaningless, for courts will not tolerate or enforce violations of constitutional rights in any case.”
If that were true, there would be no problem. But it isn’t. Several years ago a New Jersey judge declined to charge a Muslim with sexual assault on his wife because under Sharia, a woman may not deny sex to her husband at any time under any circumstances. This remarkable introduction of Islamic law into American jurisprudence was overturned, but the initial decision showed that at least one American judge was all too willing to tolerate and enforce violations of constitutional rights. Schmitz dismisses this case as a “judicial error,” and ignores its larger implications.
There have been successful attempts by Muslim workers at meat packing plants in Nebraska and Colorado to force their employers to restructure the work schedule to give them special breaks at times for Islamic prayer. These efforts initially met with protests from non-Muslim workers, who complained to no avail that the special breaks given to Muslims forced the non-Muslims to work longer hours, and thus discriminated against them. The result? Muslims in these plants have special privileges that other workers do not have – in accord with the privileged status Muslims enjoy over non-Muslims in Sharia societies. No court challenge has been mounted to this religion-based discrimination, and if one were, it would be unlikely to succeed, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has backed the Muslim employees.
Schmitz waves away concerns about such singular dispensations granted to Muslims in America and downplays the idea that “America faces a serious threat from ‘creeping sharia.’” Evidence for this, he claims, is “terribly thin,” although it is not surprising that he would think this, since he is indifferent to or unaware of the cases above and others like them. He also claims that Sharia “is not one rigid legal system but rather an immensely varied set of legal, cultural, and ethical understandings. It varies between countries and regions, encompassing social custom and dietary habits as well as what Westerners consider matters of law.”
This is a common assertion of Islamic supremacists in the U.S., but once again it founders on the facts: Sharia may be “immensely varied,” but no system of Sharia ever implemented at any time anywhere in the world has ever not mandated stonings, amputations, death for apostates, warfare against unbelievers, and all the other elements of Sharia that are incompatible with U.S. law and Western notions of human rights. Every time Islamic law has ever been implemented anywhere, it has these features. Only those ignorant of Islamic history and law, or wishing to deceive others as to their contents, could claim otherwise.
Schmitz worries that the anti-sharia movement “undermines our national security, in particular our ability to constructively engage peaceful Muslims and to take action against terrorists” and asserts that the movement carries the “implication that all Muslims are radicals.” His reasoning here is apparently that if one believes that Sharia contradicts human rights, because virtually all Muslims uphold Sharia, therefore “all Muslims are radicals.” In response, he claims that Sharia is endlessly variable and nebulous (it isn’t), and that no Muslims want to bring it here anyway (some do). And if we don’t join Schmitz in his denial of obvious facts, he tells us that we are amplifying “resentments” and fueling “hate,” and threatening “to turn our Muslim fellow citizens, and our Muslim allies abroad, against America.”
In other words, nobody wants Sharia here, and if they did, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because Sharia is nothing incompatible with American law, or if it is, those parts automatically won’t be able to gain a foothold here, despite activist judges who are openly enamored of foreign law and care little for the letter of Constitutional law. And if we try to stand up against Sharia, we risk turning peaceful, patriotic Muslims into jihad terrorists – so we better not stand up against Sharia, or else. The threat is clear, and monstrous.
Equally monstrous is Schmitz’s concluding characterization of anti-Sharia advocates as “anti-Muslim bigots.” It is not bigoted to stand up for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law. It is not bigoted to stand up against a political and social system that Muslim women successfully led resistance to its being introduced even as a matter of private arbitration in Canada. It is not bigoted to stand for the principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. National Review should have known better than to publish this anti-freedom piece. But the “girly men” obviously don’t.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Did Muhammad Exist?, is now available.