The law of the land: Adopting Shariah is no way to bridge cultures
06:37 AM CST on Friday, February 15, 2008
Mike Ghouse: I am pleased to hear that the North Texas Muslim leaders said that “their religious doctrine calls for Muslim migrants to abide by the laws of their host country. These are the words for everyone to live by.”
Sharia laws are derivatives from Qur’aan and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad on living a life of Justice and peace. As with every group, the extreme interpretations by certain institutions and individuals, and their perpetuation have become contentious. The conflicts are in the areas of divorce, apostasy and women where fine tuning of our understanding is needed.
The basis for Qur'aan is justice, when there is justice people feel secure and live in peace, harmony and prosperity. As far as the Sharia in public life is concerned, our civil laws are just and are good for every one. The rest of the Sharia is about one's devotion to God and how it is carried out, and it usually remains in the private domain.
American and Canadian Muslims value and trust our justice system and do not feel the need for any other laws.
It's hardly surprising that British politicians and tabloids are thoroughly roasting the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, for remarking last week that partially adapting Islamic Shariah law into the U.K. legal code "seems unavoidable."
A big surprise, though, was the ripple effect his comments had in North Texas. American Web sites and blogs, including that of Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, came alive with a bizarre discussion of Islamic law already being imposed in our courts.
First, let's debunk the myth: Shariah is not now and should never be a part of the Texas legal code. We live in a secular society where the laws are designed specifically not to be influenced by religion or reflect a religious preference.
The question arose when an Arlington Muslim couple, Rola and Jamal Qaddura, filed for divorce in 1999. After prolonged court battles, they agreed to arbitration by a private Richardson-based group, the Texas Islamic Court. The arbitration agreement wound up in the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, which upheld its validity in 2005.
Throughout the case, our courts never relinquished judicial control. And that's how it must always be. In the eyes of the law, the Texas Islamic Court has zero judicial authority and was brought in only as a private civil arbiter, a common practice.
The British and U.S. secular legal systems are rooted in the Magna Carta. The law of our land should never adapt to the ebb and flow of migrants from countries where other legal codes prevail – particularly not a religious code like Shariah, which authorizes harsh treatment of women and severing the hands of thieves.
Editors and reporters from this newspaper met 14 months ago with North Texas Muslim leaders, including, coincidentally, one of the arbiters in the Qaddura case. They said their religious doctrine calls for Muslim migrants to abide by the laws of their host country. These are words for everyone to live by.
Considering the rising tensions between Muslims and Christians across Europe, it's hard to criticize the archbishop of Canterbury for trying to strike a conciliatory tone. But adaptation to Shariah is no way to bridge our cultures.