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Palin Fear-Mongers On Iran, Sharia


Republican gadfly Sarah Palin said in an interview with Newsmax Tuesday that Russia should be warned against helping Iran because if Iran got a nuclear weapon it would bring about Armageddon.

 

She also warned against the imposition of what she called Muslim sharia law on Americans and said they would never put up with it.

 

Give me a break. No one is working harder to impose a religious law code on Americans than Palin herself. Palin is one of those people who says she would like to forbid abortion even in cases of rape or danger to the mother’s life. Palin’s hostility to pro-choice positions derives from her belief in the supremacy of Christian law, which she wants to impose on all Americans. For more see my classic Salon essay on how many of Palin’s stances track with sharia or actually are more rigid.

 

Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, and says it does not want one and would not accept one. There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly certified that no nuclear material is being diverted to military purposes from Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment facilities in Natanz near Isfahan.

 

In contrast, the United States and Russia each has thousands of nuclear warheads, and smaller nuclear arsenals are possessed by Britain, France, China, and Israel.

 

It is difficult to see how Iran, a poor weak state with virtually no air force to speak of, and which is defenseless against a nuclear-armed superpower, could possibly cause an ‘Armageddon’ or show-down battle ushering in the Last Days

 

As for sharia, this allegation that Muslims are conspiring to impose their religious law on the United States is just propaganda from an American right wing that has destroyed the US economy and weakened the constitution, and has no one to blame for it but themselves. So they have nothing to run on but fear. They tried making Americans afraid of Latinos, but there are so many Latino voters that the tactic caused them to crash and burn. They needed a small group to position as threatening to middle America. They really miss the Communists. You could always run against the Communists, and there were hardly any in the US, so there was no down side.

 

So now they are coming after the some 6 million American Muslims.

 

Sharia does not have a fixed meaning. It is the living tradition of Muslim religious law. It is analogous to Roman Catholic canon law. What Palin is doing is similar to raising an alarm that the country’s 80 million Catholics have a secret plan to make canon law the law of the land and impose it on clueless Protestant Americans.

 

Ooops. The one place where attempts are being made to make the US conform to canon law is law around abortion, which is forbidden in Roman Catholic law but allowed in American law.

 

And guess what. Sarah Palin agrees with the imposition of canon law in that area of forbidding abortions.

 

US law already overlaps with Muslim sharia in the essentials. Sharia law forbids murder. It forbids theft. Etc.

 

Most of the elements of sharia to which Americans might object are traditional and are being reformed by Muslims themselves. Thus, sharia traditionally allowed a man to take up to four wives. But in many Muslim countries that practice has been curtailed. Or people think about harsh punishments such as stoning for adultery. But the Qur’an does not mention stoning anyone, and stoning adulterers is actually a feature of Jewish law or halakha that was probably brought into Islam by rabbi converts in the 8th or 9th century. Egypt has made the age of marriage 18, even though Muslim legal tradition allowed marriage at a much earlier age. But then Roman Catholic canon law in the medieval era set the marriage age at 12, as did Jewish religious law. All religious systems of law in the medieval period tended to allow marriage with the onset of puberty. Americans who get all high and mighty about sharia should remember that 18th century British law prescribed hanging for minor theft.

 

There is no mechanism whereby Muslim religious law could be imposed on Americans (it would have to be legislated by Congress, which is much more likely to make us live by Leviticus). The US Supreme Court has ruled that a law may not be passed if it does not have a secular purpose (that is why we can work on Sundays now; blue laws don’t have a secular purpose.

 

But since the United States has an Anglo-Saxon, common law legal system that privileges custom as a source of law, it is inevitable that judges will occasionally have to take sharia into account when adjudicating disputes among American Muslims. US judges can take precedents from anywhere, and have occasionally cited rulings of, e.g., the Indian Supreme Court. The only way to avoid this situation would be to adopt the Napoleonic code and give up on custom and precedent as contributors to law. That would be a much bigger break with American legal traditions than merely occasionally citing Muslim legal practice in settling disputes among Muslims.

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