Resistance to a new bill aimed at limiting foreign law in Pennsylvania courts serves as a case study of how Islamists and their allies operate: peddling falsehoods about Shari’a, painting Muslims as victims, and denying that anyone seeks to institutionalize aspects of Islamic law — even as they vigorously promote that very agenda. With similar legislation being debated across the U.S., understanding their tactics is critical.
At issue in Pennsylvania is House Bill (HB) 2029, which stipulates that “a tribunal shall not consider a foreign legal code or system which does not grant … the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges” as guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions. Introduced in November, it follows the American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) model and makes no mention of Shari’a. A preliminary memo sent to legislators last June in the name of Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, HB 2029’s chief sponsor, does highlight Islamic law, but she later said that it had been circulated accidentally. Regardless, concerns about Shari’a are warranted due to its many provisions that conflict with the standards of American jurisprudence. For example, it disadvantages women in terms of inheritance, divorce, child custody, and other areas of family law. Shari’a already has shaped numerous cases nationwide, including in Pennsylvania, where one state court decided how assets should be distributed according to Islam.
Pushback against HB 2029 has been led by the Philadelphia office of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-PA) and was punctuated by an interfaith press conference (video here) at CAIR-PA headquarters on December 14. The overall campaign reflects CAIR’s usual recipe of distortion, victimology, and contradiction between words and deeds.
Attacks on bills like HB 2029 begin by sowing confusion about Shari’a. Because Islamic law encompasses virtually every facet of life — governing personal activities such as eating and worship, but also forming an oppressive social and legal structure — suit-and-tie Islamists work to emphasize its unthreatening pieces whenever possible. CAIR-PA executive director Moein Khawaja’s suggestion that Shari’a should worry Pennsylvanians no more than halal gyros is a fine example of this technique.
Others brazenly misrepresent the unsavory components, as Haider Ala Hamoudi, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, did when he was interviewed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Hamoudi insisted that women and children would suffer if judges could not consider Shari’a — a stretch, given how it discriminates against women, including in disputes over children. Moving beyond the types of cases that are adjudicated in U.S. courts, he depicted the requirement of testimony by four male witnesses to convict someone of adultery as an exemplar of Islamic enlightenment that protects against false accusations. In practice, however, it can be a nightmare for women in those Muslim countries where the same scriptural passages are interpreted as mandating four witnesses even to prove rape. Robert Spencer further explains, “If the required male witnesses can’t be found, the victim’s charge of rape becomes an admission of adultery,” too often leading to her imprisonment.
Hamoudi also contended that harsh punishments used in Iran and elsewhere, like cutting off hands for stealing, have little to do with Shari’a and are “more a matter of identity politics” in response to Western influence. The man deserves credit for artful misdirection, as it is not every day that brutal penalties prescribed by the Koran itself are chalked up to blowback from cultural imperialism.
When distortion of Shari’a is insufficient, Islamists and their collaborators characterize Muslims as the targets of a shadowy cabal of “Islamophobes.” Hence, Pennsylvanians were treated to Marwan Kreidie, a major figure in the Philadelphia Islamist scene, describing Swanger’s faith-neutral bill as “an exercise in discrimination” and claiming that “there’s a conspiracy afoot here.” CAIR-PA’s Khawaja followed up by taking the ad hominem route, trashing HB 2029 as the brainchild of “anti-Muslim, white supremacist David Yerushalmi.” See Yerushalmi’s recent article for a reply to the typical assaults on his character.
Yet no hyperbole topped that of Rabbi Linda Holtzman, who played the Nazi card at CAIR-PA’s press conference. “The echoes for me are strong of Germany in the 1930s,” she said, “when repeatedly Jewish law was brought forward and defamed in the courts as a means of defaming all of Jewish tradition.” Aside from the sheer ugliness of the analogy, Shari’a could be “defamed” only by spreading inaccuracies about it. HB 2029 does not reference Islam or Islamic law, while the memo correctly labels Shari’a as “inherently hostile to our constitutional liberties.” Sometimes the truth hurts.
Islamists also maintain that bills such as HB 2029 are unnecessary because, they say, there is no attempt by adherents of Islam to undermine the American legal system, but their actions away from the cameras inevitably belie their soothing words. Indeed, not long after it issued a press release dismissing concerns about the advance of Shari’a as “conspiracy theories” to be “mocked,” CAIR-PA announced that its 2012 banquet will be headlined by two men who have expressed support for transforming the U.S. into a Shari’a-run state: Siraj Wahhaj and Sherman Jackson.
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