Sharia Court in Texas: What Could Go Wrong?

Yesterday I was interviewed by the Glenn Beck Program on Blaze TV following up on Glenn's interview on Monday with two of the imams responsible for the sharia court that is opening up in Dallas, Texas.

A sharia court in Texas? What could possibly go wrong? Well, I can think of a few things...

In this segment of Glenn's interview with the imams, Taher El-Badawi claims that cutting off heads is not just something they do in Islam, but it's practiced everywhere, including the U.S. (!!!), and that cutting off hands for theft in America would be economical:

Taher : We are ready for any point to discuss with, but the main point here, the reason we are here to discuss this issue what kind of cases Islamic tribunal handle, and you start with the sharia. Why the people afraid from sharia? I’m sorry to say it, one point related to this, cut head is not just in sharia law, just in Islamic law. It’s everywhere. Who said that just in Islamic law? That’s even another sharia, in Jewish sharia, in Christian sharia, in American here, we cut we cut head for some reason.

So, I’m asking you an easy question, if anyone kill another, he should get killed by law, by Islamic law, by government. He should get killed. What is wrong with that? If a thief jump, I’m sorry, to your house, scare your wife, scare your children, scare your neighbor, and they did that with our stores, this is the law, the law to cut his hand because if he feels my hands were cut because of that, he will think about this 100 times. He will never do it. If he do that one time, he will never do it again.

Look how many millions of dollars American here or other states or other states outside spend to keep the criminal in jail, a lot of millions of dollars. We can save that, just let him go, and that’s it, because he did something wrong in the whole community and this kill the whole community. Why not?

OK, then...

One of the other important issues covered in my interview was about the claims that the court will only handle "family issues, includes manners, behavior characters, including marriage divorces, including inheritance law…."

Contrary to what sharia apologists say, these courts are not just about whether you pray five times a day or which foot you enter a bathroom with. It is precisely where U.S. family law conflicts with Islamic law that is one of the greatest concerns some have with the establishment of sharia courts in the U.S.

In 2013, the BBC program Panorama went undercover in sharia courts operating in the UK and found systematic discrimination against women in these courts and advice being given to women suffering from domestic violence not to go to police against UK public policy.

You can view the full Panorama program here:

When Glenn asked whether divorces by U.S. courts would be recognized, one imam admitted that a woman would also need to get an Islamic divorce, and that her U.S. court divorce would not be recognized if she traveled to Islamic countries (the imam specifically mentions U.S. ally Jordan). So U.S. civil law, even by their own admission, isn't recognized by Islamic law, here or abroad.

And what about the testimony of women in Islamic court? The imams tried to brush it off by saying that it only related to financial transactions, but you only need to go to the IslamQA website where they defend the principle that the testimony of women isn't the same as that of men.

As I noted in my own interview, a 2011 survey of Middle East countries by UNICEF found that only in Tunisia and Oman (one could also add here Israel) is the testimony of women fully admitted in all judicial proceedings. In most Middle Eastern countries, a woman's testimony is regularly limited in family and financial matters. This is hardly a secret.

I recall the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Barack Obama's favorite U.S. Islamic group, used to publish a ruling on their website by one of the top Islamic jurists in the U.S. expressly forbidding Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, saying: "It is better to get married to a slave, bondsman than get married to a non-Muslim."

After the ruling was pointed out by sharia critics, ISNA removed it from its website, but it still can be found at Web Archive.

FCNA - Women not allowed to marry non-Muslim men2Among the more laughable claims the imams made in their interview is that you need an Islamic state led by a caliph to implement penal "hudud" punishments (meaning therefore that no one is actually implementing Islamic law anymore), and that Saudi Arabia is not governed by Islamic law.

One only need look at the implementation of sharia in Islamic-majority countries around the world, and the enshrining of sharia as the ultimate source of their law codes in their respective constitutions, to see they have no problem implementing sharia in the absence of a recognized caliph or an Islamic state.

And Saudi Arabia isn't governed by Islamic law? Really? [Insert laugh track.]

In my interview I noted that you can walk into practically any mosque or Islamic bookstore and pick up books like Mohamed S. El-Awa's Punishment in Islamic Law, which is published by American Trust Publications, the publishing arm of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which owns and operates hundreds of mosques around the country. In El-Awa's book, you find helpful advice on "How the hand should be cut off (Makan al-Qati')," "Stoning as punishment (al-Rajm)," "Flogging (al-Jald)," and "The Death Penalty (al-Ta'zir bil-Qatl)."

The same is true for another manual of Islamic law from the Shafi'i school of jurisprudence published in America - translated in English and approved by many global Islamic authorities - called "Reliance of the Traveller (sic)." Book O is dedicated to "jihad," and they don't mean "internal struggle." Again, these are books marketed directly to American Muslims.

And let's not forget the imam last July, as reported by Reuters, who tried to cut off the hand of one of the mosque attendees accused of stealing. But this wasn't Cairo, Tehran or Riyadh. This happened in Philadelphia. Did this imam misunderstand Islam? Reuters - Philadelphia Mosque Leaders Try To Cut Off Man's Hands - Police2

When Glenn asked about the notorious Islamic hadith that says the rocks and trees will shout out to Muslims, "there is a Jew behind me, come kill him," they rightly said it was not found in the Quran. Yet when Glenn asked further whether it was found in the hadith, Bakhach falsely claimed it was fabricated/inauthentic:

Glenn: I mean, our president just accused Christians of slaughtering people, you know, during the Crusades, but there’s been a reformation. There’s no reformation in Islam. I mean, for instance, the Qur’an says that the trees and the rocks will cry out there is a Jew hiding behind.

Imam Bakhach: It’s not true.

Glenn: It’s not true?

Imam Bakhach: No, I challenge you to bring me that. What’s her name, Barbara Walters, she challenged the minister of education in Saudi Arabia in his palace. I remember that years back.

Glenn: It is in the charter of Hamas.

Imam Bakhach: I don’t know about Hamas. I’ve nothing to do with that issue, but here we are here as Muslim too. You are referring to me that the Qur’an as in the God mentioned in this book, what you are saying about, the cry, that’s not true.

Glenn: Is it in the hadith?

Imam Bakhach: I’m sorry?

Glenn: Is it in the hadith?

Imam Bakhach: This is fabricated.

Glenn: It’s fabricated? There is no place in any Islamic scripture that says that?

Imam Bakhach: No. You know, when you have every, let’s say the hadith sciences, I’m talking about, they have the sound hadith. They have weak hadith. They have a preferable hadith, so the ranking, more than 23 ranks and levels of hadith sciences that the scholars worked very hard on this to verify how many people added to what is not from. That’s the point.

But Imam Bakhach's claim that this hadith is "fabricated," or inauthentic, is a flat-out lie, Barbara Walters notwithstanding.

In Bukhari -- considered the "gold standard" for hadith -- he recounts (Book 4, Vol. 56, Hadith 791):

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:

I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The Jews will fight with you, and you will be given victory over them so that a stone will say, 'O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me; kill him!'"

And again, in Sahih Muslim, he recounts at length the chain of transmission related to Mohammed's saying (Book 41, Numbers 6980-6985).

Thaur b. Zaid has narrated this hadith with the same chain of transmitters.

Ibn 'Umar reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew (hiding himself behind me) ; kill him.

Ubaidullah has reported this hadith with this chain of transmitters (and the Words are):" There is a Jew behind me."

Abdullah b. 'Umar reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You and the Jews would fight against one another until a stone would say: Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.

Abdullah b. 'Umar reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: The Jews will fight against you and you will gain victory over them until the stone would say: Muslim, here is a Jew behind me; kill him.

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

And what about the treatment of non-Muslim minorities under Islamic law?

This past November, the Associated Press published a report about how sharia courts were being used in "moderate Muslim" Malaysia against Christians and other religious minorities to circumvent civil court rulings on custody and other related family matters.

Thus far gone unmentioned regarding the sharia court in Texas is whose authority this court is operating under, what sources of Islamic law they will be using to apply their brand of "justice," and what Islamic bodies they are accountable to.

As I noted in a two-part series of articles back in 2010, a number of leading Islamic authorities involved with groups like the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) are either in jail, have been deported, or have been the focus of attention by the FBI.

These include:

Perhaps the most authoritative Islamic scholar in America, having taught at the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, is the "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman, who is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison having been convicted of seditious conspiracy to plot acts of terror here in the US.

FCNA founding trustee Abdurahman Alamoudi is also sitting in federal prison, having been convicted for his role in a Libyan intelligence/Al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He was later identified by the Treasury Department as a top Al-Qaeda fundraiser.

Current FCNA chairman Muzammil Siddiqi served as translator for the Blind Sheik just two months before the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and after meeting with President Bush in 2001, a former Secret Service agent admitted that they knew at the time about his "association with terrorist organizations."

Former FCNA chairman Taha Jaber Al-Awani was named by federal prosecutors "unindicted co-conspirator number 5" in the trial of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian (who was deported by US authorities last week), and Al-Awani's institute shut down after authorities raided it in 2004 and revoked the visas of 16 members of his faculty.

FCNA member Mohammed al-Hanooti has the distinction of being named unindicted co-conspirator in both the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial and the 2007 Holy Land Foundation prosecution. A November 2001 internal Justice Department memorandum said that al-Hanooti was responsible for raising millions of dollars for the terrorist group Hamas.

Former FCNA member Fawaz Damra, head of the largest mosque in Ohio, was stripped of his US citizenship and deported by US authorities in January 2007 after his conviction for lying to authorities about his terrorist ties.

Former NAIF president Wagdi Ghoneim left the US in December 2004 in lieu of being deported, and agreed to not try entering the US again for a decade. Ghoneim has subsequently been banned from a number of countries. Upon his departure from the US, one US official explained that Ghoenim was forced to leave because, "Frankly, our task is not to sit around and wait for people to blow up buildings."

And what relation might this sharia court in Texas have with the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA)? Among AMJA's highlights are fatwas:

Calling for the death penalty as punishment for apostasy

Defending female genital mutilation (FGM), calling it "an honor"

Saying Muslims shouldn't work in U.S. law enforcement since we aren't governed by sharia

Prohibiting Muslims from assisting U.S. troops operating in Muslim lands (3rd item down)

And calling on U.S. Muslims to avoid the U.S. legal system and to "hate it in their hearts"

I could go on, but you get my point. The top practitioners of Islamic law and the top Islamic organizations dispensing it are already known to be highly problematic.

None other than Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who prosecuted the Nuremberg trials, wrote about the stark contrast between Western law and Islamic law, describing it as "an antithesis" which is focused on "duties, rather than rights":

In any broad sense, Islamic Law offers the American lawyer a study in dramatic contrasts. Even casual acquaintance and superficial knowledge—all that most of us at bench or bar will be able to acquire—reveal that its striking features relative to our law are not likenesses but inconsistencies, not similarities but contrarieties. In its source, its scope and its sanctions, the law [i.e., Islamic Law, Sharia] of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western Law…

Islamic law, on the contrary, finds its chief source in the will of Allah as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It contemplates one community of the faithful, though they may be of various tribes and in widely separated locations. Religion, not nationalism or geography, is the proper cohesive force. The state itself is subordinate to the Qur’an, which leaves little room for additional legislation, none for criticism or dissent. This world is viewed as but the vestibule to another and a better one for the faithful, and the Qur’an lays down rules of behavior towards others and toward society to assure a safe transition. It is not possible to separate political or juristic theories from the teachings of the Prophet, which establish rules of conduct concerning religious, domestic, social, and political life. This results in a law of duties, rather than rights… ("Law in the Middle East: Origin and Development of Islamic Law," Majid Khadduri, Herbert J. Liebesny (eds) Robert H. Jackson (forward) pp. vi-vii.)

So do you have to be an Islamophobe bent on discriminating against little girls wearing hijabs in order to be concerned about these two imams setting up sharia shop in Dallas telling us to ignore the beheading behind the curtain? Based on the duplicity shown in their own interview with Glenn Beck earlier this week, there are already reasons to be concerned.

That said, should Muslims be allowed to exercise their religious liberties as freely as any other religion, and even operate their own courts of mediation and arbitration as other religions do? Of course, just as all of those other courts are in compliance with U.S. law and don't violate public policy (e.g., by discriminating against women and other religions). All Americans should be free to express their views free from violence or any threat of violence. And we should say unequivocally that there is no carve-out exception for Islam, or any other religion or ideology for that matter, when it comes to complying with the Constitution.

But based on the explanations from these two imams already, the experience of how sharia courts are operating in other Western countries, how Islamic law itself is implemented throughout the Muslim world, and how virtually every school of Islamic jurisprudence at some points run counter to U.S. law and public policy, casting a skeptical eye on this enterprise seems warranted.