Due credit to Dearborn Muslims for sending the right message on Terry Jones

Pointing out the recent stories concerning Terry Jones’s plans to protest outside Dearborn, Michigan’s largest mosque—and noting that a local CAIR leader, Dawud Walid, among others, rightly and admirably criticized the legal attempts to shut down Jones’s speech—commenter BSK invites me to defend my argument that American Muslims have a “messaging” problem.  As readers will recall, I previously pointed out that many Americans harbor suspicions whether “moderate Islam” bears any problematic underlying connection to the “radical Islam” or “Islamism” practiced by our shadowy ideological enemies.  I argued that, even if we assume no such connections exist in reality, one of the reasons connections do exist in perception has to do with a “messaging” problem and, further, that moderate Muslims might be able to take steps to address it.  Given Dearborn Muslims’ apparently unequivocal message supporting Jones’s First Amendment right to voice his message—even while they strongly condemn that message—BSK and James Hanley suggest that those critical of Muslim messaging should at least acknowledge that Mr. Walid and other moderate Muslims got the messaging basically right here.  (See also here, here, and here.)

It’s a good point, and it deserves a response on a few different levels.

First, as to the Dearborn controversy in particular, I agree that the responses from CAIR and other members of the Dearborn Muslim community to Terry Jones generally have been correct and fairly well stated.  This certainly needs to be acknowledged.  And while acknowledging Muslims got it right with respect to Dearborn, it should further be acknowledged that Muslims also get it right with respect to most issues of public concern that touch on Islam generally.  In other words, it should not be suggested that the example of the Muslim response in Dearborn is an outlier.  To the contrary, moderate Muslims provide a consistent voice of reason that generally reflects a sound grasp of American principles of free speech, free exercise of religion, traditional moral values, and personal responsibility.  Thus, with respect to the content of Muslim “messaging,” American Muslims certainly do a much better job than Muslims in other parts of the world.  (E.g., I still say that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad’s response to the Itamar settlement attacks was cagey and backhanded.)

On another level, however, it might be said that while moderate Muslims often do get the messaging right, their ability to get that message out to a wide audience has been unfortunately limited.  I have heard this argument made in conjunction with the observation that American Jews, for example, have by contrast been very successful at messaging to a wide audience.  This is a corollary to the thesis of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby, panned by several critics as a conspiracy theory based on anecdotal evidence.  At any rate, I understand that many Muslims harbor frustration that, despite having roughly the same numerical population in the U.S. as Muslims, American Jews have a much greater and more favorable presence in the media and politics.  BSK points out other factors that have generally aided broader Jewish acceptance in the U.S., such as that Jews are often identified as “white,” and thus more palatable to white America; Americans have sympathy for Jews as victims, whether directly or indirectly, of the Holocaust; and that Judaism has not been ideologically associated with acts of terrorism like Islam has.

The generalization related to me by one Muslim, on the other hand, is that American Muslims, for whatever reason, tend to prefer to “keep their heads down” by focusing on their own families, businesses, and private communities, and generally do not seek to draw attention to themselves. That is certainly not a wrong position to take—quite the contrary.  But perhaps it is naïve under the circumstances, and perhaps more moderate Muslims should seek to get involved in media and politics and think tanks and the like.  Then again, perhaps BSK is also right that more people who complain about American Muslims’ “messaging” problems should spend equal time pitching in, underscoring how Muslims share our core values, and acknowledging where Muslims get the messaging right.  To that end, I appreciate and accept the invitation to so acknowledge.

To circle back around to just a couple more points about the substance of Muslim messaging, this segment from Fox’s Dearborn affiliate shows Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini responding to Terry Jones’s concerns over the spread of Sharia.  In that response, Imam Al-Qazwini points out that Jones does not have a sound understanding of Sharia (which Jones admitted), and that Sharia does not mandate “stoning” as Jones claimed.  Fair enough.  But the response fails to address the broader concern about Sharia, which really involves two questions:  What is it?  And do American Muslims want it imposed in this country?  These are both complex questions, so I don’t fault Imam Al-Qazwini for not engaging them in depth.  But there does seem to be a generally sense of avoidance of these questions by the moderate Muslim community.

However, there might be a good reason for this.  For example, it may be that Imam Al-Qazwini calculated, probably correctly, that it would be imprudent at this time to put Americans to a choice between their religious principles and their constitutional principles.  That is, whatever values Sharia involves, surely American Muslims would be entitled to enact them into law according to the same democratic process that American Christians, for example, believe entitle them to democratically express their own values—such as the definition of marriage.  Bringing such questions to the fore would stir up a lot of moral, legal, religious, and political passions, thus potentially subjecting American Muslims to more ill will rather than less.  Thus, caution on the Sharia question is probably wise.

Along the same lines, Tom Van Dyke points out another detail about the Dearborn story that helps illustrate why more “messaging” is still needed.  According to the Detroit Free Press,  Imam Al-Qazwini “cautioned the Dearborn Police chief that some Muslims in his mosque feel that the burning of a Quran is worse than 1,000 deaths,” and “expressed concern about how some young members of his mosque might react to Jones.”  These statements were offered in support of the county’s request to enjoin Jones’s demonstration on the basis that Jones’s speech, combined with the beliefs of local Muslims, would reasonably lead to violence.

Again, it is not Imam Al-Qazwini’s duty, or any other Muslim’s duty to predict or explain how other individuals might act upon their religious beliefs.  But the fact that such statements are being made in our courts, and relied upon in court rulings, suggests there is still some real work to be done to dispel the perceived connections between Islam and violence.  Attempts to dismiss these perceptions as nothing more than bigotry are woefully inadequate and fail to advance the cause of American Muslims or civil discourse generally.

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at gmail.com.


  1. Tim,

    If I may correct a minor misunderstanding. I wasn’t pointing toward those who those who think American Muslims have a messaging problem. I actually agree with you that they do. I was pointing toward those who keep demanding that moderate Muslims speak up then keep ignoring the moderate Muslims who do. That is, I agree with you on the messaging problem issue, but I agree with BSK that those who focus on the messaging problem are too often one-sided, failing to take note of the moderate Muslims who do speak up clearly. To that point, I do think you are incorrect when you claim that “there does seem to be a general sense of avoidance of these questions by the moderate Muslim community.” I think to say so is an indicator in itself that a person is choosing to focus on the messaging problems and to downplay the public voices of moderate Muslims.

    And it’s worth pointing out that a messaging problem is not solely one of speaker, but of speaker and listener. The more vigorously the listener refuses to hear, the harder it is for the speaker to overcome the messaging problem. To that end, it’s just as important to criticize those who refuse to acknowledge those public moderate voices that are working hard to be heard.

    • James,

      I think I understand the distinction you’re making. I suppose I disagree with you and BSK as to the extent or nature in which Americans fail to absorb the messaging of moderate Muslims. There is probably enough to say on this disagreement for separate post, but here goes a very brief and very undeveloped summary. I think there is a meaningful difference to be drawn between “bigotry” and mere bias, and I gather that you and BSK might be either conflating the two, or defining them too closely together. I would agree that very many Americans are biased against Muslims — bias is hard to get away from, and it’s the very reason groups need strong and consistent and pervasive messaging. Bigotry, I would argue, is a different category, and carries a greater degree of active closed-mindedness and ill-will, something I believe (or at least really hope) is not as widely pervasive as some, perhaps such as you and BSK, might argue. Bias is something that society tends to work out on its own. Bigotry is something that often requires coercion by the state. This is one reason I think the distinction is important.

      • Tim,

        I don’t want to move toward a bias/bigotry analysis. I know there is a meaningful distinction there, but to apply it I would have to make claims about the motivations of people I don’t know, which is always risky. My point is just that there are people out there who are making demands that moderate Muslims speak up, but when moderate Muslims do speak up those folks don’t acknowledge them. And by continuing to ask “where are all the moderate Muslims,” while ignoring the evidence of them, they reinforce–for themselves and others–the belief that there aren’t any, or many, moderate Muslims.

        Whether that’s done from bias or bigotry, from malice or ignorance, is, I think, beside the point, which is that messaging problems are exacerbated when you’re trying to reach people who will not–for whatever reasons–even acknowledge that someone is trying to message them. My point isn’t about motivations–it’s about the messaging problem not being wholly Muslim’s fault or failure (which is not to claim it’s solely the failure of those who have ears but refuse to hear, either).

        • OK, we’re (unusually) on the same page then. And I am generally in agreement with your post here.

          • It’s not that unusual, I hope! As between many conservatives and libertarians, I think we probably share a robust mix of both agreement and disagreement. I’m glad we could engage this time around on a point of general agreement.

      • “I suppose I disagree with you and BSK as to the extent or nature in which Americans fail to absorb the messaging of moderate Muslims.”


        Just as American Muslims are not a static homogenous body, neither are “Americans.” You are no doubt correct that there are great swaths of people who get and hear that Muslims in America are not pro-terrorism, or whatever. But, (and I say this as a Burkean conservative, but a conservative nonetheless), there are ALSO a great number of vocal Americans that get all of their news through Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh and others (read: FOX) that will tell you that they have never, NEVER, heard this, and that even the most moderate Muslim is quiet about such issues as they secretly wish (or plot) for America’s collapse.

        Put simply: we conservatives who know better than to buy into the cynical populist button pushing for hysteria must also acknowledge that it exists, and that it is both flawed and immoral.

        (note: All obligatory comments about misspellings and typos that are iPhone and martini-lunch driven apply to this post.)

        • RTod,

          This seems to be a pretty common sentiment in a lot of comments in the previous posts. Frankly, I’ve never much liked cable news, Fox included, and rarely watch any of it. So I don’t feel I’m in a position to agree or disagree very strongly either way. Do you watch it much? Is that the impression you get? Perhaps I should experiment and watch Fox over the next month or so and see if it rings true.

          • I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio, not because I agree with it, more because of a morbid curiosity with the absurdity of it all. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the term “conservative” because the folks I listen to (Savage, Levin) would be more accurately described as parodies if they weren’t so dogmatic about their nonsense. Anyway, these folks are flat out liars who will twist, connive, or fabricate stories to suit their pre-determined agenda du jour, which lately have been almost solely to vilify Muslims/Islam and/or President Obama (and they have no problem concluding that the latter is a member of the former). Now, while it would be easy to simply dismiss these fringe nutjobs as just that, Savage has the 3rd (8-10 million listeners per week) most listened to show in the nation and Levin has the 4th (8.5 million listeners per week). I would recommend you watch cable news and listen to talk radio since these are sources that many Americans get their news and opinions from.

            *FWIW, I don’t think the buffoonery is limited to the right in these areas, though I’m yet to come across anyone as absurd as Savage or Levin. I fully submit that may be my bias, but I think it is more a function of fundamental differences in the ideologies (extremist liberals are likely to be smoking weed in tree houses somewhere or blogging about Whole Foods; extremist conservatives take to the air waves).

  2. Sharia? Think of it this way. Imagine there was a concept called “Christian Law.” I’m capitalizing it for clarity.

    Christian Law includes Roman Catholic canon law, Anglican canon law, Orthodox canon law, and Jean Calvin’s Ordinances.

    Christian Law includes the law of the French Old Regime. It includes the English common law. It includes Rushdoony’s Reconstructionism.

    Notable Christian Law thinkers also include Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and James Madison.

    Some people are convinced that Christian Law is a dire threat to their civilization. Others would like to use it, on a voluntary basis, to regulate divorce and child custody proceedings, which otherwise take place only when and how the civil law of the United States will permit them.

    Mutatis mutandis, that’s Sharia.

    • No. Shari’a is merely customary and is always the product of a ulema, a conference of Islamic scholars. There is no one thing called shari’a and it is not codified. What you describe is called qudat in Arabic.

      • Blaise P.;
        “There is no one thing called shari’a and it is not codified” sounds an awful lot like what Jason just said.

        • It’s not. as-shari’a is only a concept. Even English common law, which is as close as you’re going to get on that list, is more advanced than shari’a is. Think the ancient Writ system and you’re getting close.

          • Blaise,

            But Jason’s point is that there’s no single thing, no one clear legal doctrine, that can be called sharia and be comprehensively representative. I think you and he are arguing in parallel, just taking slightly different angles toward making the same overall point.

          • I’m a pedant when it comes to Law. Insofar as Christian Law was codified, it’s qudat, not shari’a. What he describes in canon law is called fiqh in Arabic.

            The word shari’a is the same triliteral SHR as the word for a road, a path. Think of it more like SCOTUS rulings: based on codified law and precedent, but it emerges in qiyas rulings. Theoretically, these extend fiqh but in modern times this is no longer true.

            The closest you will get to shari’a and qiyas in modern times is a rabbinic ruling on whether or not kids can rollerblade on Shabbos. It’s hard to describe in English, Islamic jurisprudence is vastly different than in the West. Suffice to say this is not mere distinction without difference, the West has no equivalent to shari’a.

          • So when Muslims speak of institutiong sharia, they are saying nothing intelligible? No, that doesn’t add up.

            At some point, one must actually look at what they’re saying had what it might mean, in other words, discuss the applicable specifics of sharia instead of treating it in the abstract, as if one size fits all when it comes to religions and their tenets.

            BlaiseP continues to provide a level of specificity and therefore clarity, and again, a tip o’the brim.

            For instance, as “moderate” Muslim—whatever that means, it could be taken as insult by someone who considers himself a devout Muslim—Dr. Muqtedar Khan points out here


            that one facet of the sharia tradition [and it is more a tradition than a code] is Hudud laws, “the stringent punishments for fornication (flogging), theft (amputation), and adultery (stoning).”

            these are not coming to the Western world anytime soon.

            Now, when Dr. Khan refers to sharia, he’s referring to something, not a meaningless abstraction. We must listen, and listen to closely, to what it means to a moderate Muslim such as Dr. Khan.

            The full graf:

            ” Most non-Muslim critics and often ignorant Muslim advocates of the Sharia (the Islamic Way) equate the Sharia to Hudud laws, the stringent punishments for fornication (flogging), theft (amputation), and adultery (stoning). The maqasid (objectives) of the Sharia is to establish social justice, equality, tolerance, and freedom of religion in societies. The Hudud laws are a tiny part of the Sharia. Some of these laws are not even Qur’anic; they are taken from the Old Testament, such as stoning the adulterer (Deuteronomy 22:24). Yes, I believe that when the Sharia is interpreted and implemented by educated, enlightened, and compassionate people it will establish social justice and coexist harmoniously with a democratic polity. But if uneducated, angry, and bigoted people take the law in their hands and presume to speak on behalf of God, then tyranny is the most likely outcome.

            It’s not improper to ask moderate Muslims—in fact it is necessary—what this Sharia “interpreted and implemented by educated, enlightened, and compassionate people” might look like. And why discussing sharia in the abstract gets us not very far.

          • So when Muslims speak of institutiong sharia, they are saying nothing intelligible? No, that doesn’t add up.

            It doesn’t. They are using a cipher, just as Christians do when they speak of “family values.” (What the hell is a ‘family value’ anyway? On its face, this too is unintelligible.)

            I’d say you have to be very specific and ask which Muslims you’re talking about, and where. Nigerian Muslims in Nigeria will have a different Sharia than American Muslims in New York, of this we can be sure. As long as it remains a private, voluntary system of civil dispute resolution, and in no sense a substitute criminal code, I’m okay with it. Let them experiment. Polycentric legal orders are often a good thing.

          • I’m going to agree with both Tom Van Dyke and Jason Kuznicki here. Jason is right that “shari’a” in the abstract, without specification, is, at least potentially, as unintelligible as “family values.” At least as used by that subset of right-wingers who get frantic about the concept, or use it (perhaps cynically) as a tool to whip people into a frenzy it is certainly no more than a simple shibboleth. But both are right that we have to look at specifics–both specifics of some claimed imposition, or preference for imposition, of some aspect of Shari’a, or the specific group that is advocating it.

            I hypothesize that close inspection would find that most American Muslims are not interested in implementing Shari’a in the sense of Hudud, are not interested in codifying legal restrictions on everyone in the society based on their interpretations of Shari’a. As Ed Brayton has repeatedly demonstrated at Dispatches, each of the alleged cases so far of “creeping Shari’a” have really just been dispute resolution cases, where the parties voluntarily agreed to using principles of Shari’a in dispute resolution.

            As a serious threat in the U.S., there’s no there there.

  3. “If you burn an American flag in front of that Marines hangout, I’m n0t going to be responsible for the consequences”.

    The fact that such statements are being made in our courts, and relied upon in court rulings, suggests there is still some real work to be done to dispel the perceived connections between US servicemen and violence. Attempts to dismiss these perceptions as nothing more than bigotry are woefully inadequate and fail to advance the cause of American servicemen or civil discourse generally.

  4. Tim-

    Thanks for engaging this conversation. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here and elaborated upon your conversation with JH.

    “But there does seem to be a generally sense of avoidance of these questions by the moderate Muslim community.”

    My question, how often has the “Muslim community” or, more appropriately, a legitimate representative or leader from that community, been asked these questions in a platform that would allow for a full and fair response? Most of the conversations about Shariah I’ve heard on platforms large enough to be meaningful were held by non-Muslims. Some of this has been legitimate conversation but much of it has been fear mongering. So maybe the issue has been less of Muslims’ avoidance and more a refusal to genuinely engage them.

    My conclusion is that Muslims have done more than enough to engender good will. As you’ve said, American Muslims have demonstrated themselves to be largely compatible with America values (just like all other faiths or lack thereof). American Muslims are largely opposed to terrorism (just like all other faiths or lack thereof). American Muslims are largely interested in living peacefully with their neighbors (just like all other faiths or lack thereof). Are there unsavory elements of the Muslim faith in America? Certainly. Just like all other faiths or lack thereof. If we tallied up all the good will and bad will that Muslims have engendered and compared it to other faiths, would everything be precisely equal? Of course not. But have they acted in such an egregious manner that our standard for their acceptance should be so high that their leaders standing up and defending the rights of a man who has burned their holy book is not enough? Hell no.

    I realize you are not necessarily arguing on behalf of this last point. That is simply where I stand. Personally, I think true Americans who believe in acceptance and tolerance and open-mindedness, who denounce bigotry and bias, would be well-served to look at themselves in the mirror and address their role in the persecution that Muslims experience and let the Muslim community have their own reflection on their role in their perception in America.

    Thanks again for engaging this.

  5. By the way, this was brilliant:
    “That is, whatever Sharia involves, surely American Muslims would be entitled to enact them into law according to the same democratic process that American Christians, for example, believe entitle them to democratically express their own values—such as the definition of marriage.”

    I know how many folks would respond in opposition to this, none of which I would agree with, but this would be a fascinating topic to engage further.

    • Yes, it’s a pretty good consistency check, I think. I touched on it here, although a bit crudely. Though he’s a polarizing figure, Robert Bork penned an answer that I’m fond of citing:

      Once, after I had given a talk on the Constitution at a law school, a student approached and asked whether I thought the Constitution prevented a state from abolishing marriage. I said no, the Constitution assumed that the American people were not about to engage in despotic insanities and did not bother to protect against every imaginable instance of them. He replied that he could not accept a constitutional theory that did not prevent the criminalization of marriage. It would have been proper to respond that in any society that had reached such a degenerate state of totalitarianism, one which the Cambodian Khmer Rouge would find admirable, it would hardly matter what constitutional theory one held; the Constitution would long since have been swept aside and the Justices consigned to reeducation camps, if not worse. The actual Constitution does not forbid every ghastly hypothetical law, and once you begin to invent doctrine that does, you will create an unconfinable judicial power.

      • I’d just like to say that as with most things Bork ever said about law, I disagree with him. Bork’s approach essentially was to very narrowly define the role of the judge to determining if there was a clear and unambiguous constitutional prohibition against a government action, so that everything that is not expressly forbidden is allowed. A contrary approach, closer to that favored by, for example, Randy Barnett, is to ask whether there is or is not a clear and unambiguous constitutional authorization for a government action, so that everything not expressly allowed is forbidden. That hardly creates an unconfinable judicial power.

    • Help me out. Are you saying if enough Muslims got together in a community and democratically got it passed that all civil issues needed to be resolved by sharia law or whatever the hell it is, they could actually do that and not have it be unconstitutional?

      And this is the same parallel as saying that if enough American Christians, specifically because of their religious beliefs, want to get together and pass a law that says that marriage is between one man and one woman that this, too, is not problematic?

      Can I assume than that if they, Muslim or Christian, got together to say that to get the benefits of citizenship, one must be circumcised, this is gonna be OK, too?

      Am I being obtuse or is this just about the argument you’re making there?

      • Unless it is constitutionally prohibited, the majority is generally empowered to enact the laws it deems most meet and convenient for the general good. That goes for Christians, Muslims, and anyone else. Of course, what is “constitutionally prohibited” is the battleground of constitutional law, so the set of things I might argue are constitutionally prohibited for a democratic majority to enact might be very different from yours. With respect to your question about circumcision, I would respond just as Bork did to the question whether the state could criminalize marriage. It would be a ghastly law, but once we start pretending to find in the Constitution proscriptions of every ghastly law we can imagine, we have no way to limit what else we can find there. To find solace against these ghastly imagined acts, we must look elsewhere than the Constitution. The virtue of the people must pick up where the Constitution leaves off. As John Adams said, “Our constitution is only fit for a moral and religious people. It is wholly unsuited to the governance of any other kind.”

        Although I intend to reprise the argument in the near future, my approach to same-sex marriage is roughly set forth in these two posts here and here.

        • Perhaps the Constitution doesn’t protect us against every ghastly law. But I think if we have a choice of two equally reasonable interpretations, and if only one of those interpretations protects us against a ghastly law, then that’s obviously the interpretation to take.

          BlaiseP may correct me on this, but voting in Sharia law for everyone (rather than allowing it as a private arbitration venue) would be tantamount to establishing a religion. No majority gets to do that under our Constitution.

          • Yeah. To me, it seems that the sharia example is much more black and white than even the marriage example, but to say that if enough people get together and vote on something makes it OK just seems bizarre.

            And maybe the issue isn’t so much if enough people vote for something that makes it OK simply by virtue of it being a majority but that this thing they voted on may ultimately come before judges who decide the constituitonality of the matter. But then we’re back to “activist” judges and all, I suppose.

            So if enough Muslims got together in a state to decide the definition of religion and voted that only Islam fell under that definition and all other “religions” were just belief systems like utlitarianism or businesses like an auto shop and thus, were no longer exempt from taxes, then what?

            When the matter went before a judge and that judge said, “No way. Unconstitutional” is this, too, judicial activism?

          • Mark,

            I doubt sharia in its entirety could be enacted into law without offending fixed constitutional guarantees. Same with the example of changing the definition of “religion,” a word fixed in the Constitution, and thus out of the purview of majority whim. It would not be “judicial activism” to overturn an act of the legislature that said all other “religions” but Islam will henceforth not be respected as such.

          • I don’t know what “voting in Sharia law for everyone” means. If it means enacting specific provisions that derive from Sharia, none of which violate superseding laws (i.e. the state and federal constitution), how would it be invalid?

  6. So this is the same CAIR who have had five of their high-ranking officials convicted of supplying aid and money to terrorist groups.

    Whose spokesman says he wants the US taken over by an “Islamic” government.

    Who were founded as a HAMAS front group.

    Of whom the FBI says, “a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants” and the FBI counterterrorism chief said “CAIR, its leaders and its activities effectively give aid to international terrorist groups.”

    Excuse me if I take their newfound “tolerance” with an entire Sam’s Club-sized salt lick.

    • Mike, some clarifications:

      Those Muslims who want a level of sharia in the US are no different than that Dominionists who are often caracat5ured by the anti-religious left.

      If one bothers to read Rushdoony & Co., their “dominionism” is not the establishment of a coercive theocracy. They want the US to choose to live under the Bible.

      So too with Muslims. It’s more an eschatology than a political program, in theory and theology at least. Both Islam and Christianity envision an “end times” or destiny for man, that he will freely choose to live under God’s perfect law and not man’s corrupt one.

      So when you hear a Muslim talk about sharia, or the Muslim way, or whatever, read carefully on whether he’s speaking eschatology or politics.

      In the US, it’s often eschatology. As for Egypt, or the establishment of ecclesiastical courts as a parallel system to the civil system in the West, well, that’s a political story, and a necessary distinction.

      • I disagree on two points. First this:

        If one bothers to read Rushdoony & Co., their “dominionism” is not the establishment of a coercive theocracy. They want the US to
        choose to live under the Bible.

        Does the disobedient child choose to be stoned? How can you possibly argue that the public stoning of anyone presents us with a non-coercive choice?

        Second, where is your evidence that American Muslims want to enact any of the penal code-like aspects of Sharia in the United States? My understanding is that they’d be content with family law arbitration, much as Orthodox Jews already are content with the limited form of Halakha already practiced among them on a voluntary basis. You can be entirely certain that Reconstructionists wouldn’t stop there.

        • Jason, first, I explicitly stated that Islamic penal law—hudud—is a
          non-starter in the US.

          As for the Dominionist crowd, perhaps you’re correct. But I do know
          one will not get the proper nuance by quoting their critics. I did
          some digging, and the Reason.com or talk2action stuff is completely
          uncharitable reading.

          I make the same point as I did in defense of some of the Muslim sharia
          talk. These folks are speaking in the abstract, what a scripture-based
          legal system might look like in some far distant future, where the
          people have chosen it willingly.

          It’s eschatology, not current politics.

          Gary North wrote that explicitly of the reason.com hatchet job:

          “Olson conveniently neglects to mention Rushdoony’s conviction in Law
          and Society that the biblical civil codes are designed for a nation in
          covenant with God, not modern Western secular democracies which are at
          war with God.”

          No covenant, no Mosaic law. And a covenant is not forthcoming.

          We have to understand these religious types as they understand
          themselves, and frequently, secularist critics read uncharitably or
          simply uncomprehendingly of what’s actually being said.

          As for the problems of reinstituting ecclesiastical courts in the West
          as parallel to the civil system—and the West still had them as
          recently as the 1700s-1800s—that is another matter. Briefly, even if
          one were to submit to the arbitration of a religious court, it would be
          the civil authorities who would have to enforce the judgment.

          However—and specifically with sharia and the status of women
          here—if a woman disagreed theologically with the judgment, or just
          decided not to abide by it, in no contract or agreement to arbitration
          can waive one’s own unalienable rights under the Constitution or 14th
          Amendment. Such contracts or agreements are inherently illegal and

          The scheme is unworkable. [A side point is you can’t have a civil
          court deciding what sharia requires or doesn’t. This problem goes back
          to the Founding, Madison’s Memorial & Remonstrance, etc. We can’t have
          civil courts doing doctrine and dogma—that’s the very first
          fundamental violation of separating church & state.]

          • To Jason & Tim, sharia in US court, via Volokh.


            And per my point about Madison, etc., well one of you is a lawyer, so this comes as no news:

            [in] Presbyterian Church in the United States v. Mary Elizabeth Blue Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church (1969)), the Supreme Court held that secular courts may not resolve religious questions, such as which rival church group most closely follows orthodox church teachings. Some states had rules, borrowed from English law, under which the more orthodox group would get to keep the church property, presumably on the theory that this would be more in keeping with what was intended by past donors to the church. But the Court held that such rules may not constitutionally be applied by civil courts (paragraph break added):

            First Amendment values are plainly jeopardized when church property litigation is made to turn on the resolution by civil courts of controversies over religious doctrine and practice. If civil courts undertake to resolve such controversies in order to adjudicate the property dispute, the hazards are ever present of inhibiting the free development of religious doctrine and of implicating secular interests in matters of purely ecclesiastical concern. Because of these hazards, the First Amendment enjoins the employment of organs of government for essentially religious purposes; the Amendment therefore commands civil courts to decide church property disputes without resolving underlying controversies over religious doctrine. Hence, States, religious organizations, and individuals must structure relationships involving church property so as not to require the civil courts to resolve ecclesiastical questions.

          • I disagree with both T. Van Dyke and Volokh here. This case is little different from an agreement to abide by religious law in arbitration, which agreement the courts can obviously uphold. In this case, the requirements of religious law are simply the facts that the court must determine. Experts are available to help courts determine those facts. If the facts of what the religious law requires are fairly clear, the court can apply them. If they are too unclear–or what is equivalent, so disputed by experts that the court has to rule that there is no clear standard, so that the decedent’s wishes cannot be known with reasonable certainty, then the judge can toss aside that part of the will just as he would in any other case where the decedent’s wishes are unknown.

          • The “decedent’s wishes” is a workable trap door, if determinable. This does not address the larger problem of religious law when in conflict with civil rights, as limned above.

          • “This does not address the larger problem of religious law when in conflict with civil rights, as limned above.”

            Of course not, because your example doesn’t deal with any conflict between religious law and civil rights, since no-one has a civil right to receive any more inheritance than the decedent grants them. So if you want to object that this has nothing to do with such a conflict, then I am in full agreement with you. But that leaves hanging the question of why you brought this case up in the first place.

          • Actually, I brought Volokh’s post up not for the specific case itself but the larger issues it and its links touch on. Since this thread is dead, I thought I’d deposit the link for interested parties. That’s all.

          • Oh, yeah, just depositing a link. Not making a subtle editorial comment about it, eh? And not depositing a link to a simple news story, but to a very biased report on it.

            No, nothing but perfectly honest intentions on your part, eh? You’re still doing that “shall not bear false witness” thing wrong.

    • Lovely, Mr. Van Dyke. Just beautifully deceptive, as you so often are. The “riot” consisted of about 50 people who pushed down barriers and threw water bottles and shoes (compare this to any post-sports championship riot). Police had things under control very quickly, with minimal arrests. Oh, and the good PR, which you dishonestly ignored–Muslims leaders helped quell those people. To paraphrase you, “Unfortunately, most folks will never get wind of that.”

      And the website you linked to is exceptionally biased, demonstrating yet again that for all your subtlety that allows you to have plausible deniability about your intentions you really aren’t a very honest person. Because the point you delivered is “this looks bad for Muslims,” not “a small number of Muslims behaved badly but were quickly brought back into line by other Muslims, the majority of whom were acting peacefully.”

      That whole 9th commandment thing (or 8th, if you’re Lutheran or Roman Catholic)? You’re doing it wrong.

        • Two or three, and with no reports of what for. Show me a long list of arrests, and show me some for felony actions (not merely disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct) and I’ll take your concern seriously. Otherwise you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

          None of that excuses those who got out of control. They’re not better than Jones, and it would be easy to make a persuasive argument that they’re worse. But again, you’re subtly smearing a whole group for the actions of a few individuals.

          • Clever, Mr. Van Dyke, and classic. In lieu of being able to make a substantive rebuttal against the allegation of dishonest–which of course I stand by–simply accuse your interlocutor of not being calm and rational.

            If I thought you actually had any real awareness of the pervasive dishonesty in your mode of argumentation I actually might be inclined to be angry with you. But I’ve long since come to believe that you truly don’t understand how flawed your approach is. It’s more sad than offensive.

          • Heh, I’m not the only person who frequents this blog who’s commented on your slippery style, Mr. Van Dyke. You’re quite correct, sir, it’s so commonly noted that it is indeed a dog bites man story. My apologies to all for harping on the obvious.

    • Mr. Van Dyke,

      It’s curious how you think more dishonesty is a good tactical choice when you’re battling a charge of dishonesty.

  7. James, you charge dishonesty whenever you shoot an airball, which is usually. I’m not battling your charge atall; I trust the gentle reader to sort it all out.

  8. Mr. Van Dyke, why haven’t you been so quick to note the good PR for Muslims–Dearborn Muslims rejoicing at Obama’s Death? Perhaps it doesn’t fit your preferred story line, so you didn’t bother to see how they might be reacting?

    Of course it’s not clear from the news article how many people were rejoicing (~2o people at city hall and cars honking their horns–pretty vague). But like the Muslim leaders quelling the “riot” it’s good PR which is overlooked by you in your search for bad PR for Muslims.

    By the way, Mr. Van Dyke, you got very upset sometime back when I used your first name. Why the double-standard?

    • No. I said, don’t address me again as “Van Dyke” without “Mr.,” because it’s rude and disrespectful, James.

      I am happy for the good PR from Dearborn. I didn’t troll for bad PR, I simply ran across it and noticed how it was ignored by the national press.

      As perhaps the US’ largest Muslim enclave, Dearborn is very important to America’s future vis-a-vis Islam. I want only good to come of it, and any other interpretation is a misreading of my actual position.

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