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An Excellent Argument, but a Poor Title
on January 23, 2011
Andrew McCarthy makes a telling case in this pamphlet that we should make a sharp demarcation between those Muslims who endorse Sharia law for society and those who are more attracted to the European Enlightenment. The latter accept a distinction between the secular and spiritual world while the former do not. Why should we make this distinction? McCarthy argues that our current understanding of the terrorist threat is to differentiate between those followers of Islam who advocate violence and those who do not. But this distinction is vague, especially insofar as some Muslims demonstrably would like to impose Sharia law but do not see violence as a very expedient means of doing so. And Sharia law, as McCarthy points out in great detail, is not overly compatible with western legal traditions that emphasize civil liberties and individual freedom.
While I agree with the main premise of the book, my problem with it lies in the title. I think the assertion that President Obama embraces the Sharia agenda is a bit overwrought. Certainly Obama does accept some variations of "multi-culturalism" which is itself a rejection of the western legal tradition. (In the western tradition, rights belong to individuals, not to groups.) But this is a far cry from endorsing Sharia law. Does McCarthy seriously believe, for example, that President Obama would endorse capital punishment for openly gay people? I doubt it. What McCarthy does claim is that some of the symbolism from the Obama regime would appear to lend sympathy to some Sharia sympathizers. For example, Obama spoke at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and the university has specialists in Sharia law. Indeed, McCarthy can even find a half dozen of its several thousand graduates who are terrorists. But this smacks me as guilt by association, not really a reasonable argument. And I say this as a person who is not generally prone to defending our current president.
But if the book makes sketchy ties to Obama, it does offer sound reason for rejecting multi-culturalism as a basis for public policy. The author notes dozens of examples in which law is subverted, if not by the adoption of Sharia law, then at least by silliness of those who do not have a good philosophical grounding in the concepts of individual rights and liberty. The state of Minnesota, for example, subsidizes the purchase of homes by Muslims since they are not allowed to pay interest! Where is the ACLU when you need them? Rest assured, even the slightest hint of subsidizing the faith of believers in any other religion, most especially Christianity, would not stand in our current court system. And what of the instance where four idealistic Christian missionaries were arrested for distributing tracts (Gospel of John) on a public sidewalk in a Muslim neighborhood. Free speech generally enjoys its strongest protections in public space with printed materials. Truly frightening was the argument actually made by a judge that a man can repeatedly rape his soon to be separated spouse if his religion allows for it. Happily, that particular argument was overturned on appeal.
But none of this nonsense shows that Sharia law is being imposed on the United States. It does show that multiculturalism is a hopelessly muddled concept and a poor guide for public policy. Insofar as Obama in particular, and the left in general, seem wedded to this sort of intellectual pabulum it is worth exposing them. I might have gone beyond exposure and added some much needed ridicule. But I worry when we seriously try to claim that Obama is embracing Sharia law. He clearly is not, and wild claims like this one undermine the more serious problems with this administration. This pamphlet makes a good argument about how to view Muslims in terms of foreign policy. It additionally makes a good case against multiculturalism. But I suspect much of its value will be lost by those who take its title a bit too literally.