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Salon: Jews and Muslims united for sharia?

(cross-posted from Salon.com)

Jewish groups mobilize against anti-sharia bills that would also bar arbitration under Jewish religious law

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

We’re a bit late to this one, but Ron Kampeas of JTA has a fascinating recent piece on fears that anti-sharia initiatives brewing around the country could also threaten observance of traditional Jewish law, or halachah.

You don’t hear much about halachah, or rabbinical courts known as beit din, even though both have been a feature of observant American Jewish communities for years.

But some Jewish groups are now lobbying against anti-sharia bills that have been drafted — possibly as a way to preempt constitutional challenges — to bar any and all foreign or religious law in U.S. courts, not just sharia:

“The laws are not identical, but as a general rule they could be interpreted broadly to prevent two Jewish litigants from going to a beit din,” a Jewish religious court, said Abba Cohen, the Washington director of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group. “That would be a terrible infringement on our religious freedom.”

A number of recent beit  din arbitrations that were taken by litigants to civil courts — on whether a batch of etrogim met kosher standards; on whether a teacher at a yeshiva was rightfully dismissed; and on the ownership of Torah scrolls — would have no standing under the proposed laws.

A spokesman for the Orthodox Union explained that a prohibition on religious law would be a problem in situations when Jewish law comes up in civil courts:

Such laws “are problematic particularly from the perspective of the Orthodox community — we have a beit din system, Jews have disputes resolved according to halachah,” Diament said. “We don’t have our own police force, and the mechanism for having those decisions enforced if they need to be enforced is the way any private arbitration is enforced” — through contract law in the secular court system.

Some prominent Jewish groups seem to be putting some real lobbying muscle into this issue in state legislatures, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Sharia, by the way, did not come up in last night’s GOP presidential debate.

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  • Cynic

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why you would regularly contribute to a site like JihadWatch that is run by an intellectual fraud and teeming with hatred and bigotry.

    My sentiments exactly. Something I’ve wondered for quite a while myself.

  • Khushboo

    Ronald, since majority are Christians, don’t you think they would’ve changed the constituiton and make this country follow Christian law by now?

    I’ll answer that. They can’t because there will be no changes to the Constitution to which this country was founded on.

    So if Muslims become majority, which I seriously doubt since there are now many restricitons on immigrants, then the Constitution will still remain the same.

  • RonaldB

    NassirH and JN,

    Thank you for your responses.

    NassirH. I would like some clarification to your reply, although I absolutely accept your statement as to your personal preferences.

    “Furthermore, Muslims jurists have already dealt with the issue of Muslims residing in non-Muslim countries. Some stipulated that Muslims must emigrate while others said that Muslims can reside in the country as long as they are free to practice their religion. None said that they should subvert the government of their country of residence and establish Islamic law.”

    Are you saying that no Muslim jurist advocated a peaceful change to a government that backed Sharia law, even if Muslims became a majority? Remember, there is a constitutional process to change the Constitution. Strictly speaking, the Constitution could be changed peacefully to change the nature entirely of US law. Now, I’m opposed to any group that wants the government to take part in religious observances, Muslim, Christian, or Jewish. Also, I would not allow such people to immigrate into the United States. If a Christian said he wanted the US government to enforce Christian ethics, I would not admit him as an immigrant. Similarly to a Muslim. You get the idea.

    JN,

    As to my participation in JihadWatch, with all due respect, I think I’ll defer a discussion of that, although I take no offense at your commenting on it. I’ll just say, I hope to say the same things on both sites. I think it’s better to be truthful than to try to paper over differences. Also, having heard of Loonwatch, of course I come here to get the other side of the story.

  • JN

    I would also strive to keep religion and state as separate as possible. I’ve had some disagreements with other Loonwatch posters over this, but I think a good deal of the people here agree with me, as would the majority of American Muslims. Some might support a mixture of religion and state, but most likely not unless Muslims constitute a majority, which will probably never happen. I don’t know how many would support this, but from what I’ve seen of the younger generations of American Muslims, support for it will likely continue to disappear. On the other hand, plenty of conservative Christians are already seeking to blur or completely remove the line between Church and state. That’s the real threat, as far as I’m concerned.

    RonaldB, you come across as a fairly reasonable person. I actually kind of enjoy this sort of exchange. I can’t for the life of me figure out why you would regularly contribute to a site like JihadWatch that is run by an intellectual fraud and teeming with hatred and bigotry.

    Frankly, if your tone and demeanor here are sincere – and I hope that they are – a site like that should be well beneath you.

  • NassirH

    @RonaldB

    I would keep the Constitution, something undoubtedly most American Muslims would also do. The evidence shows that Muslims in the United States are “largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.” [1] This is despite being generally more religiously conservative than their non-Muslim neighbors (and being relenlessly attacked by rightwingers 24/7). Furthermore, Muslims jurists have already dealt with the issue of Muslims residing in non-Muslim countries. Some stipulated that Muslims must emigrate while others said that Muslims can reside in the country as long as they are free to practice their religion. None said that they should subvert the government of their country of residence and establish Islamic law.

    1. http://pewresearch.org/assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf

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