Is a 'Little Bit of Sharia' Okay?

Some Americans argue that U.S. civil and criminal legal codes and courts should recognize Islamic law (sharia), as applied to Muslim families, at least.  But sharia critics need point no further than Australia to show the utter incoherence of that contention. 

Polygamy is illegal in Australia, as is marriage of underage women and children.

Nevertheless, Australia accepts

"valid Muslim polygamist marriages, lawfully entered into overseas,... with second and third wives and their children able to claim welfare and other benefits," according to The Australian legal affairs editor Chris Merritt. Australia accepts them, even though in many such marriages a woman is "under [Australia's] lawful marriage age."

In effect, Australia has allowed a parallel legal system -- operating against its own statutes as a sort of illegal "shadow system" -- to take hold.

Courts and attorneys down under may be largely "oblivious," but sharia has taken root there, according to legal research by academics Ann Black and Kerrie Sadie to be published Jul 25 in the New South Wales Law Journal.  In a 2008 survey, they found that 90% of Australian Muslims adhere to its civil laws and reject sharia.

Yet the researchers also found that, under the radar, many Australian Muslims have also long observed Islamic traditions and sharia, particularly in family matters.  Not all Australian Muslims register new marriages taking place there, for example.  Since Islamic law endorses polygamous and underage marriages, some families seal marital vows solely with religious ceremonies, breaching Australia's Marriage Act.  A man may take multiple wives (marry polygamously) -- or take a wife or wives below the age at which Australia confers majority, allowing men and women to marry with "informed consent," of their own volition.

The Australian Muslim push for broad acceptance of sharia has not occurred in a vacuum, however.  In North America, U.S. and Canadian Muslim organizations and leaders likewise advocate for adaptation of sharia laws in as many venues as possible.

Jamal A. Badawi -- a onetime board member of the U.S. arm of the global Muslim Brotherhood, naturalized Canadian, self-styled Christian-Islamic relations expert -- and director of the MB's Consultative Council of North America (CCNA) and the U.S. Hamas arm, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted Holy Land Foundation co-conspirator -- seeks Western legalization of polygamy for Muslims.

Islam does not require second wives, so Muslims in the West must "follow the laws," Badawi wrote in a May 2005 Islam Online fatwa.  Yet he claims that Western prohibition of second wives for Muslims denies "a particular right according to [our] own sharia."  Western democracies should "reciprocate" what Badawi considers Islamic tolerance of religious minority worship, teachings, family law, and estate division with equal "autonomy in [Islamic] issues ... , including marriage."  They should except their own laws to legalize Muslim sharia, making Islamic polygamy "quiet [sic] legitimate," and superior to Western secular laws allowing homosexual marriage.  Often, he claims, no "solution would be better than polygamy" -- for men with barren wives "instinctively aspir[ing] to have children or heirs," for example, or whose "chronically ill" wives they must divorce or forever "suppress ... instinctive sexual needs" and secretly take "one or more illicit sex partners."  Forget women's wants or needs.  Polygamy is an "optional solution," Badawi claims.

Clerics at the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) -- an offshoot of the North Imams Federation (NAIF), describing itself as "a fiqh council, basically" -- likewise extol sharia-endorsed polygamy.  AMJA currently encourages Muslim Americans to engage in polygamous marriages in the U.S., where polygamous marriages, in every state of the union, remain completely and totally illegal.

In early Aug. 2007, a Muslim questioner of AMJA clerics stated that "as long as you don't register your marriage to the registrar, it is okay to have more than one wife here in the states[.]"  A friend argued that "the law prohibits marrying more than one is against shaariah so, it is okay for us to break it[.]"  In essence, he asked whether Islam makes it legal or forbidden ("haram") to abide by U.S. law.

Al-Haj replied in favor of Islam (emphasis added)

Polygamy is halal [permissible] in Islam and may be highly recommended when the number of females is bigger than that of males to afford all females a decent life that suffices their physiologic, emotional and other needs. The US law about polygamy is against the Islamic law, for no one can make prohibited that which Allah specifically made allowable.

A Muslim should respect U.S. laws on polygamy, al-Haj also suggested, only so as not to harm the reputations of either polygamy or Muslims, or harm his community or family, including "the second partner and her children from him."  Since "many celebrities hav[e] extramarital affairs," who are not prosecuted, al-Haj concluded, the Muslim man should perhaps consult "a legal expert" on the lawfulness of entering an "undocumented marriage" (as in "undocumented worker," i.e., illegal alien).

In Oct. 2007 AMJA cleric Main Khalid Al-Qudah also approved a Muslim's request for Islamic validation of polygamy in another religious ruling (fatwa 2134).  Polygamy, he wrote:

is permissible for different reasons, like:

1- The sexual energy of men is more than that of women in general. So, in some cases, one wife is not enough to fulfill the conjugal desire of her husband

2- Pregnancy and delivery negatively affect the shape and physical attraction that women have.

3- World wide, the percentage of females is always more than that of males, eventually, there must be a solution, either to permit adultery and prostitution, or to allow polygamy

4- One husband could take care of more than one wife at the same time; socially, financially, and even sexually as I mentioned above. However, the opposite is not right because of the physical and psychological capability that Allah the all mighty gave men.

Anyone who thinks a little bit of sharia is a-okay should reconsider.  A little bit of sharia is akin to being "a little bit" pregnant.

A nation must consider whether all its citizens should be governed by secular law -- or not.

Once sharia is "a little bit accepted," there is no going back.  That explains, moreover, why Muslim clerics would like nothing better than to introduce a little bit of sharia at a time.

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