In other words, tolerating all cultural practices to the point of sacrificing foundational human rights and gender equality is wrong, and this is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali's message means. Tolerance that bargains for approval from all parties undercuts objective standards of justice, individual liberty and self-determination. In America, our consent to be governed by the rule of our laws means that both the democratically driven laws and the uniquely empowering liberties apply to all. Validating cultural practices to the degree that American notions of justice and equal protection are denied is accommodation gone too far.
Many Muslims do not want sharia rules imposed in America. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali notes, this system of laws “arose from an honor and shame culture.” As divinely inspired, and clerically interpreted, sharia does not recognize democratic participation or rule of secular law. It certainly does not allow for the expressive rights, equal treatment, and choice of religion that Americans hold so dear.
A very recent confirmation of this comes from news last week that a German journalist has concluded what France and Great Britain have already publicly acknowledged; that is, that sharia communities operate outside the law and do not respect national law as legitimate. The German study by Joachim Wagner revealed that German law and evidence standards were not a part of the sharia arbitration process. Rather, he learned that Islamic dispute compromises often turn on violence and threats and which family is more powerful.
In Great Britain, Baroness Caroline Cox has proposed an initiative in the House of Lords to stop parallel legal, or quasi-legal, systems from taking root. Her goal is “that discrimination against women shall not be allowed within arbitration” and her coalition intends “to make sure [Muslim women] are free from any coercion, intimidation or unfairness.” She notes that many women say, “we came to this country to escape these practices only to find the situation is worse here.”
Yesterday, constitutionally-oriented Muslim leaders in America and Canada endorsed the Michigan initiative called American Law for American Courts. This legislation has passed in four states and would establish American law as the transcendent authority over sources of foreign or sharia law. The American Islamic Leadership Coalition supports this initiative for the purpose of “protecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike from extremist attempts to use the legal instrument of shari'ah (also known as Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh) to incubate, within the West, a highly politicized and dangerous understanding of Islam that is generally known as ‘Islamism,’ or ‘radical Islam.’”
Last month, the Pew Center released a study showing that 60% of American Muslims are “very” or “somewhat” concerned “about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the United States.” American Muslims responded to other survey questions to show overwhelming support for women’s participation in business and politics. Significantly, 48% of American Muslims said that “Muslim leaders in the United States . . . have . . . not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.”
At this time when Americans remember a devastating attack on our very way of life, there is momentous opportunity to speak with one voice against the forces of terror and extremism. We must not only focus on the threat from terrorists who would instantly change the way we live -- but also the equally alarming threat from radical Islamists who seek to incrementally change the culture in which we live.
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