Pluralist Sharia?



Hadith - Mishkat, Transmitted by Abu Dawud and Darimi

The Prophet said, "Were dogs not a species of creature I should command that they all be killed; but kill every pure black one." [Muslim, Narrated AbuDharr: "...The black dog is a devil."]

Sharia could soon be introduced in Canada, but it's not as bad as you think. A recent proposal by Ontario's former AG to allow Sharia courts to operate in Ontario has drawn a lot of fire from women's rights groups, and I sympathize, but I would argue that this is a net positive if done right.

The proposal is to allow Islamic law courts to settle civil and marital disputes. There are already Catholic and Jewish courts for the same purpose. When I gave the caveat that the proposal could work if done right, I meant that it could not be compulsory, but I believe I would have heard about compulsory Catholic or Jewish courts by now.

Rationalist liberals would rightly point out that Islamic law has much less respect for women than we in the West generally find acceptable. This being so, Ontario should not allow these courts. (Conservative Muslims might respond that their conceptions of men and women are different and that Sharia actually respects women more, but I am not sympathetic to this claim. Still, it should be remembered that they don't have their beliefs out of malice but for what they think are good reasons.)

The rationalist liberal viewpoint would be fine except that the courts are voluntary. Someone women really do believe in Islam, and believe that the laws that should govern their conduct are its laws. If they believe they should be subject to Islamic law before being subject to Canadian law, I don't see why allowing them to be subjected to Islamic law should be forbidden.

Allowing the courts has many benefits. The first is that it allows devout Muslim women a chance to exercise their beliefs. The second is a more pragmatic approach: if you give women the choice, it will be significant statements to their communities when they commit to the Western way. And I believe they will. The longer these communities are the in West, the greater is the chance, ceteris paribus, that they will choose our ways.

The weakness of my position is that some women will be pressured into choosing Islamic courts that are newly available. This is a real fear that I can't neglect. Community pressure is a powerful influence and it's very often negative. [Enter standard rationalist vs. pluralist debate.] But I don't see why women who might be in marriage courts are not pressured under the existing system into not going to courts in the first place. Community pressure might say that you shouldn't go to a court if your husband beats you, and it already exists. For the worst-case women, it would be better to have your day in a Sharia court—where your husband is still not allowed to beat the hell out of you, not anywhere civilized anyway—than to stay at home with the abuse.

I would prefer, of course, that all women should choose the court that affords them the greatest amount of respect as individuals as I conceive respect and individuality. And I believe that in 99% of cases this would mean choosing the secular court over the religious. But if their conceptions are different, it would be greatly overstepping my bounds to prevent them from exercising their own backward beliefs. Much better to give them another choice and convince them they should take it.

The effect such a choice would have on their communities is far greater than anything I can say or do as a rationalist liberal. As a pluralist liberal, I both hope and believe that the best ideas will come out ahead in the end.

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Perhaps if some slavers

Perhaps if some slavers manage to convince some people to be willing slaves they can set up their own courts too. Exactly how often does someone have to "volunteer" to be represented in such courts? If one doesn't "win" then can one then retract ones submission to the court. How about half way through the trial when you realized that none of your witnesses are not allowed to testify because they are not slavers and so cannot be trusted to give "valid" testimony.

I remember reading the furor

I remember reading the furor over the proposed Sharia courts in Canada at the militantly secularist (and yes, I'll back up the use of that term if need be) BUTTERFLIESANDWHEELS.com site. It maintains the "rationalist liberal" viewpoint you describe, but with a statist and Social Democratic EU bent to it.
The challenge is that of supporting pluralism - and in my mind to the extent of outright secession - while hoping to maintain a semblance of basic human rights (in the strictly libertarian, non-invasive sense).
Let's take the idea of allowing Sharia courts even further. Should Muslims be able to form their own state inside of Canada? And if so, what is the likelihood that abuses will take place? Would the Canadian government be justified in intervening in the events of another country?
A potentially autonomous community should be considered innocent until proven guilty I say.
Just food for thought...

Some forms of Sharia law

Some forms of Sharia law permit slavery, stoning, chopping off the hands of thieves. I don't know the exceptions, perhaps they all do. They also require four male witnesses to prove rape and allow for polygamy. Nor does it allow for the testimony of non-muslims. I could go on.

The religion itself teaches much false information. The followers are indoctrinated from a young age. In the case of women they are allowed no contact with outsiders.

Based on the realities of the religion I have many problems with the concept of "choice" here. Many questions arise.
1) Given their isolation and indoctrination I don't believe that Muslim women can be considered competent enough to make such a choice. In fact Sharia law itself does not consider women competent, and for example requires the testimony of a woman to be considered as less than a man. If some parents had locked their child in a closet and fed them through a slot would we consider such a person competent to "choose" their own parents as final legal authority treatment of the child?
2) Assenting to a legal process that is biased against the assenter is direct evidence of the incompetence of the assenting individual. No competent individual would choose a legal process that is biased against them.
3) Cutting an individual off from their friends and family unless they assent to the truth of an entire system of philosophy is tantamount to extortion. Islam has such rules. The injustice of some particular aspect of a religion may be discovered too late by the individual for them to be able to cut their losses. Imagine a Muslim woman who has been indoctrinated her whole short life of twelve years before being married off to some forty-five year old man with whom she now has several children with. At age thirty-five the husband decides she is getting a little old for his tastes so he decides to either divorce her or obtain a new wife. It finally dawns on the Muslim woman that her husband has used her, or that the Islamic system itself is not just. In either case she has too much invested at that point to be able to put up a fight about specific aspects of Islamic belief. Choosing not to use a Sharia court might not be an option for her.
4) Islam is rife with bigotry against outsiders. Sharia law does not allow for the testimony of non-believers. There is bound to be interaction with non-Muslims in a Muslim minority country like Canada. There will be cases where testimony from non-Muslims will make the difference between a just and unjust ruling. Thus Sharia law is inferior in this regard. The inferiority of Sharia law will influence Muslims to treat their dealings with non-Muslims as risky. Their interactions will no longer be on an individual basis since they will have to take into account the inferior status of non-Muslims in sharia courts. For instance, they would have an incentive not to hire non-Muslims since they would not be able to rely on their testimony in a civil suit. A non-Muslim cashier would not be able to help in the conviction of a Muslim business partner in a civil suit even though the cashier was witness to the embezzlement of funds from the business.
5) Islam itself is fraudulent. It teaches untruths that are claimed to have their source in an all knowing, all-powerful and just being. Many of these untruths are about non-believers. Jews are called swine, greedy, etc. It instructs Muslims not to take non-Muslims as friends. Such teachings are a fraudulent interference in the right to freedom of association. Not only that but Islam has false teachings about women. The whole point of fraud is that the victim is made to act in a way that is against their own best interests by feeding them false information (and it can be more subtle than that). People have the right to interfere on the behalf of others when they are being victimized as they are under Sharia. Islam has many false teachings about women. Muslim women are in the predicament of being defrauded without even being aware of it.
6) Everyone is free to associate with any individuals given their informed consent. By teaching falsehoods about others the religion of Islam trespasses against the defamed individuals freedom of association. If in fact the information being claimed against those individuals were true this would not be a trespass, but that is not the case.

Humans are fallible and it is possible to make such errors innocently. However this must pass a test of reasonableness. Gross overgeneralizations have been shown to be an unreliable and therefore unreasonable way to judge the character of others. Teaching untruths such as "all Jews are greedy", or that non-Muslims are liars, or that unbelievers are evil is defamation precisely because a reasonable person should know they are untrue. When defamation has occurred this interferes with the ability of that individual to freely association. If I were to stand in front of a store and claim to individuals trying to entering the store that there was cockroaches inside, or that the scales were biased and that were untrue then I would be committing a fraud against both the owner of the store and the customer which interferes with their freedom to associate.

If an Islamic cleric hands a book that contains printed claims that falsely accuse me and tells someone that every word of that book is true then he is defaming me. I should be able to sue him. This would not be true if the book were fiction, or was being sold as such. One can sell and print Mein-Kampf as being the teachings of an evil man, or just sell it with no claims without defaming Jews. However there is a line you cross when you pass this kind of information on as the truth.

I could go on about Sharia but I think I’ll wait to see what ridiculous claims are made against me at this point. Some idiot is going to chime in that I will have to ban Christianity. Which isn’t true. Of course, Micha Gertner, will make insinuations that I am a racist, or just outright claim that anyone who takes such and such a stand must be a racist because he can think of any non-racist argument for being against the policy.

I am against Islam purely because of it’s stated rules, beliefs, and philosophy. You know the ones in the Koran. It is an evil anti-libertarian religion/cult. I don't give a damn about the skin color of those who profess it.