Friday, January 29, 2010

Jews, Muslims can defeat common enemies

See the entire article here.

By Imam Mohammad Shamsi Ali
and Rabbi Marc Schneier

American Jews and Muslims can defeat a common enemy by working together. That common enemy is prejudice - and if one needed statistical evidence for it, stark proof was revealed this week.

A Gallup poll found that 43 percent of Americans admit to at least "a little" prejudice against Muslims, and that such self-reported feelings are strongly linked to the respondent's views on Jews. Remarkably, those who say they feel "a great deal" of prejudice toward Jews are about 32 times more likely to report feeling a "great deal" of prejudice toward Muslims, according to the polling company.

Such numbers should serve as a call to action for both the Jewish and Muslim communities: We must work together as individuals on the grass-roots level to promote tolerance and reduce anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Barriers start to crumble when rabbis, imams and the members of their houses of worship take the time to learn about each other -- and then show the rest of the country that they share a common value system.

Of course, Jews and Muslims don't agree on everything, but there are many more areas of agreement. Gallup also noted this week that compared with other religious groups in the United States, Muslim Americans and Jewish Americans are most similar in terms of political ideology, education and political party identification, according to previous research. And a poll of Israelis earlier this month found a plurality of voters in Israel would oppose a ban on the construction of minarets on mosques built in Israel. The poll was taken after Swiss voters approved a resolution banning the construction of minarets late last year.

Jews and Muslims can use such common interests to forge and strengthen relationships and build an agenda that works for the betterment of a society as a whole. Sharing common roots as children of Abraham, Jews and Muslims can talk about their similarities in theology, as well as the times during history when their two peoples co-existed successfully. And they can forge bonds by talking about their similar interests in such issues as saving the environment, fighting poverty and reforming the U.S. immigration system.

For example, last November, Jews and Muslims in Buffalo turned those views into action. Doctors and dentists worked together to provide joint health screenings for people without health insurance in their community, and the success of that program has encouraged other mosques and synagogues to put similar programs together. Such a project not only builds relationships among Jews and Muslims, but also shows those who may still harbor some bias toward the two faiths that our similarities override our differences.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Muslims and Security

This is the second interview I've heard with Salam Al-Marayati. Always very impressive.

See the video here.

BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: In the wake of the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing, the Obama Administration took new steps this week to improve airline security. President Obama ordered US agencies to move faster and more accurately to prevent future terrorist attacks. He said while the vast majority of Muslims reject al-Qaeda, the US must develop a strategy that addresses the challenges posed by lone recruits. Under new TSA [Transportation Security Administration] procedures, passengers traveling from 14 nations, most of them predominantly Muslim, are facing enhanced screenings. Many American Muslim groups say while they are concerned about security, they are still worried that their community is being unfairly targeted by what they call “religious profiling.”
Joining me is Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles. Mr. Marayati, welcome. What’s the matter with tougher airline security?
SALAM AL-MARAYATI: Nothing wrong with tougher airline security, but when we stigmatize and profile a population, that divides our country, making it more difficult to counter the threat. We have to be united against extremism and united against hate.
ABERNETHY: Well, for instance, are head scarves a problem? Shouldn’t—and certainly somebody who, a lone guy gets on an airplane and pays cash for a one way ticket, shouldn’t those things raise alarms?
AL-MARAYATI: There’s a difference between behavior profiling and religious profiling. If someone buys a one-way ticket with cash only without baggage, flying from Africa or Asia to the United States, of course that should raise suspicions. But going after women with head scarves is ineffective.
ABERNETHY: So are you saying that you and other Muslim leaders come down more on the side of individual freedom that you do on security?
AL-MARAYATI: No I think we have to have both. If you are going to stigmatize or isolate a population, that feeds into radicalization. Part of the radicalization problem is when a community feels isolated, and when one person—and we’re talking about now the concern over lone wolves or lone recruits, if that person feels desperate, depressed, then he becomes prey for extremist recruiters, and we should do anything and everything to help accelerate integration of Muslims into American society.
ABERNETHY: After the Christmas Day near-disaster in the air near Detroit, and some other recent events, too, do you sense a growing backlash against Muslims in this country?
AL-MARAYATI: There’s a rise of the mob mentality. You read the comments on a number of stories, you get the emails, you get the phone calls, and I feel, unfortunately, that the level of hostility against Islam and Muslims is at an all-time high, and I’m very concerned.
ABERNETHY: Many Americans think that Muslims leaders in this country and in the Middle East should be doing a lot more to combat and condemn the interpretation of Islam that is so popular among many young radical extremists. Do you agree with that?
AL-MARAYATI: Well, I think that we as Muslims have done a lot in terms of the message against extremism. Our problem is that we have not been able to develop an effective way to get the message out. We don’t have the capacity in terms of public relations, if you will, in terms of making our message of moderation more newsworthy than the sensationalist message of extremism.
ABERNETHY: Do you think there is a role for the Unites States government in combating the ideology of radical Islam?
AL-MARAYATI: The Unites States government will not be able to defeat ideology of radicalism. It needs the Muslim American community in partnership, for those people unfortunately who are being recruited by extremists, they don’t regard the United States government as an authority, but they regard Muslim leaders as authorities. So it is our task, Muslims, who will help win the victory against radicalism and extremism
ABERNETHY: Many thanks to Salam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
AL-MARAYATI: Thank you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

US Lifts Visa Ban on Two Muslim Scholars

Taken from here.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lifted a controversial travel ban on two prominent Muslim scholars. Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib had been barred from entering the US because the Bush administration claimed they had connections to terrorist groups. But the academics said they were being discriminated against for their political views. They gained support from many religious and civil liberty groups when Ramadan was unable to accept a tenured teaching position at the University of Notre Dame because of the ban.

Survey: Americans Admit Prejudice toward Muslims

Taken from here.

A new poll on attitudes toward Muslims finds that many Americans acknowledge having prejudice against Muslims and the Islamic faith even as a majority says it is unfamiliar with Islam. The Gallup poll reports that 43 percent of respondents admitted to harboring at least some prejudice against Muslims. Fifty-three percent reported an unfavorable view of Islam, but 63 percent said they had little or no knowledge of Islam.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

....for the first time in 25 years....

One of my friends is a marine in active duty. He has served in Germany, Iraq and is now in Afghanistan. Every so often he'll send me an email with updates on how he is doing. I thought this last email was very touching.

"Seriously, we went on a patrol up the Nawa Valley, Afghanistan, which has a road that leads into Pakistan. We met up w/ Afghan Border Patrol and met their counterparts in Pakistan. At first, they wouldn't let us cross over in Pakistan ( it was a small strand of c-wire dividing afghanistan from Pakistan), but once they found out I was born in Karachi, they let us cross over and we drank chai and ate rice w/ goat. True story. I got a cool Pakistani 14th Mountain Corps Patch. Pictures to come later.



-Khanimus Maximus"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Speaking Truth to Power

Quick note... Didn't the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) say that the greatest jihad is to speak truth to an oppressive ruler? Anyone know?

This article was taken from Chapati Mystery

by Kathy Kelly
January 8, 2010

There’s a phrase originating with the peace activism of the American Quaker movement: “Speak Truth to Power.” One can hardly speak more directly to power than addressing the Presidential Administration of the United States. This past October, students at Islamabad’s Islamic International University had a message for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One student summed up many of her colleagues’ frustration. “We don’t need America,” she said. “Things were better before they came here.”

The students were mourning loss of life at their University where, a week earlier, two suicide bombers walked onto the campus wearing explosive devices and left seven students dead and dozens of others seriously injured. Since the spring of 2009, under pressure from U.S. leaders to “do more” to dislodge militant Taliban groups, the Pakistani government has been waging military offensives throughout the northwest of the country. These bombing attacks have displaced millions and the Pakistani government has apparently given open permission for similar attacks by unmanned U.S. aerial drones. Every week, Pakistani militant groups have launched a new retaliatory atrocity in Pakistan, killing hundreds more civilians in markets, schools, government buildings, mosques and sports facilities. Who can blame the student who believed that her family and friends were better off before the U.S. began insisting that Pakistan cooperate with U.S. military goals in the region?

In neighboring Afghanistan, 2009 was the deadliest year for Afghan children since 2001, according to the Afghanistan Rights Monitor. In a January 6 statement, the group noted that in 2009 about 1050 children had died in suicide attacks, roadside blasts, air strikes and the cross-fire between Taliban insurgents and pro-government forces, both Afghan and foreign. The group’s director, Ajmal Samadi, noted that this figure amounted to nearly three children per day. It’s estimated that nearly one third of these children’s deaths were caused by US/NATO coalition forces. This week, hundreds of Afghans have taken to the streets in protest after the Afghan government said its investigation has established that all 10 people killed by U.S. led forces on January 3rd, in a remote village in Kunar province, were civilians and that eight of those killed were schoolchildren, aged 12-14. The London Times reports that the U.S.-led troops were accused of dragging the innocent children from their beds, handcuffing several of them, and then killing all eight of them.

Stories of carnage, horror and impoverishment aren’t new in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan. Ten years ago, each of these countries suffered under severely repressive governance and extremes of poverty. In the case of Iraq, these conditions were made immeasurably worse by U.S.-imposed economic sanctions that punished innocent Iraqi citizens for their inability to rise from under Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, all the while rendering them completely dependent on Hussein’s regime to meet their basic survival needs. Yet in all this suffering that preceded the U.S. invasions of the region, there were very few accounts of suicide bombings in the lands where the U.S. is now at war. The “kidnapping and torture for ransom” industries, now rife in all three countries, had not developed, and their entire economies had not been hobbled by blatant official corruption.

What has U.S. invasion and occupation unleashed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? And how are these wars creating security for U.S. people?
The New York Times reported on November 14, 2009 that, according to internal U.S. government estimates, it costs one million dollars to keep one soldier in Afghanistan for one year. Consider this sum in light of the fact that, in Afghanistan, district governors earn 70 dollars per month. Their operation budget is 15 dollars per month, and half of them have no dedicated office. Or, in light of the UN estimate that the Gross Domestic Product, per capita, in Afghanistan, is less than $1,000 per year. Or that The United Nation’s Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF, says Afghanistan is the worst place in the world to be born, having the highest infant mortality rate in the world with 257 deaths per 1,000 live births. Only 70 percent of Afghans have access to clean water.

Kai Eide, the outgoing Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Afghanistan, briefed the UN Security Council on January 5, 2010. With regard to military activities, he bluntly stated that “civilian casualties, house searches, and detention policies are sources of recruitment for the insurgency.”
President Obama’s administration is soon expected to request another “emergency” supplemental expenditure for the Iraq and Afghan wars, this time for between 40 and 50 billion dollars. If (some would say, when) this figure is approved, it will make 2010 fiscally the most costly year of the ongoing War on Terror, surpassing President Bush’s expenditures by a significant margin. Before the year is out, President Obama will also have submitted a budget item to fund the wars in 2011, with military services already planning to request something in the range of $160 to $165 billion.

The U.S. Constitution states that Congress shall make no law to abridge the right of people to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance. We are deeply aggrieved by the folly of these wars. Our right to free speech is irrelevant if we don’t exercise it, and so we intend to raise the lament of those who bear the brunt of our wars but whose voices seldom reach U.S. government figures.

For two weeks this January, leading up to the date when President Obama is due to submit his budget for Fiscal Year 2011 to Congress, Voices for Creative Nonviolence and friends will gather in Washington D.C. for a “Peaceable Assembly Campaign” project. We’ll be meeting with elected representatives to raise questions about the folly and the crime of war, holding daily vigils at the White House, and engaging in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to emphasize our refusal to cooperate with the war makers.

We urge you to join us in this year-long campaign, whether in Washington D.C. this month, or participating locally where you live. Please make sure to visit the Voices website,, to learn more about ways to become involved, both locally through this coming summer and in the Days of Resistance in Washington. We’ll be there from January 19th through February 2nd.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rumi Really is the best-selling poet in America!

I always heard that Rumi was the best selling poet in America. So I did some "research" and found this article. Just more proof of Islam's influence on America even to this day!

This Time magazine article was taken from here.

What does it take to become a successful poet today? Basically, a miracle. Books of poetry, after all, rarely sell. A few thousand copies are considered more than respectable by most publishers. A few hundred thousand? Only the rarest and luckiest of American poets have seen such numbers. Just ask the best-selling poet in the U.S. today. Then again, don't bother. A Muslim mystic born in Central Asia almost eight centuries ago, he is no longer available for comment.

Jalaluddin Rumi was, among many other things, a lover of irony, of the odd and absurd juxtapositions that life creates. So it may be that he would have savored the fact that Madonna set translations of his 13th century verses praising Allah to music on Deepak Chopra's 1998 CD, A Gift of Love; that Donna Karan has used recitations of his poetry as a background to her fashion shows; that Oliver Stone wants to make a film of his life; and that even though he hailed from Balkh, a town near Mazar-i-Sharif situated in what is today Afghanistan, his verse has only become more popular with American readers since September last year, when HarperCollins published The Soul of Rumi, 400 pages of poetry translated by Coleman Barks. September 2001 would seem like an unpropitious time for an American publisher to have brought out a large, pricey hardback of Muslim mystical verse, but the book took off immediately. It has a long road ahead, however, if it is to catch up with a previous Rumi best seller, The Essential Rumi, published by HarperCollins in 1995. With more than 250,000 copies in print, it is easily the most successful poetry book published in the West in the past decade.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates

Why would a former Guantanamo Bay prison guard track down two of his former captives - two British men - and agree to fly to London to meet them?

"You look different without a cap."

"You look different without the jump suits."

With those words, an extraordinary reunion gets under way.

The last time Ruhal Ahmed met Brandon Neely, he was "behind bars, behind a cage and [Brandon] was on the other side".

He would say, 'you ever listen to Eminem or Dr Dre' and... I thought how could it be somebody is here who's doing the same stuff that I do when I'm back home
Brandon Neely (above, centre)

The location had been Camp X-Ray - the high-security detention camp run by the US in Guantanamo Bay. Mr Ahmed, originally from Tipton in the West Midlands, was among several hundred foreign terror suspects held at the centre.

Mr Neely was one of his guards.

The scene of this current exchange of pleasantries couldn't be more different from where they last met - a television studio in London. Also here is Shafiq Rasul, a fellow ex-Guantanamo prisoner, without whose Facebook page the reunion would never have happened.

The journey of reconciliation began almost a year ago in Huntsville, Texas. Mr Neely, 29, had left the US military in 2005 to become a police officer and was still struggling to come to terms with his time as a guard at Guantanamo.

He felt anger at a number of incidents of abuse he says he witnessed, and guilt over one in particular.

Highly controversial since it opened in 2002, Guantanamo prison was set up by President George Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to house suspected "terrorists". But it has been heavily divisive and President Barack Obama has said it has "damaged [America's] national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda".

Mr Neely recalls only the good publicity in the US media.

"The news would always try to make Guantanamo into this great place," he says, "like 'they [prisoners] were treated so great'. No it wasn't. You know here I was basically just putting innocent people in cages."

Hip-hop tastes

The prisoners arriving on planes, in goggles and jump suits, from Afghanistan were termed by then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld as the "worst of the worst". But after getting to know some of the English-speaking detainees, Mr Neely started to have doubts all of them were fanatical terrorists.

He recalls how when he and Mr Ahmed chatted through the bars at Guantanamo, they had a surprising amount in common.

Detainees at Camp X-ray
First inmates arrive at makeshift Camp X-Ray January 2002
Detainees refused rights of prisoners of war and right to a trial
Camp Delta, with more permanent facilities, opens April 2002
Some 700 prisoners eventually transferred to site
Many since been released or handed to national governments
By 2009, 215 men of various nationalities remain
President Obama concedes in 2009 his deadline for closing - January 2010 - will be missed

"It was no different from me sitting at the bar with a friend of mine talking about women or music," says Mr Neely. "He would say, 'you ever listen to Eminem or Dr Dre' and he threw off a little rap and it was just funny. I thought how could it be somebody is here who's doing the same stuff that I do when I'm back home."

Mr Neely was 22 when he worked at the camp and left after six months to serve in Iraq. But after quitting the military his doubts about Guantanamo began to crystallise. This led to a spontaneous decision last year to reach out to his former prisoners.

"I was pretty new to Facebook and decided to type in their names to see if their profiles popped up and I came across Shafiq's Facebook page. I decided to send him a little e-mail," says Mr Neely.

Released in 2004, after being held for two years, Mr Rasul and Mr Ahmed and another friend from Tipton had been captured in Afghanistan on suspicion of links to the Taliban. The three said they were beaten by US troops although this was disputed by the US government at the time.

After all that, the Facebook communique was a shock to Mr Rasul.

Last-minute nerves

"At first I couldn't believe it. Getting a message from an ex-guard saying that what happened to us in Guantanamo was wrong was surprising more than anything."

To Mr Neely's astonishment he received a reply and the pair began an exchange of e-mails. It was at this point that the BBC asked if both sides would be prepared to meet in person.

They agreed.


Guantanamo: Jailer and jailed remember opening

Several months later the ex-inmates were sitting in the TV studio waiting to be reunited with their former jailer. But Mr Rasul was having doubts. He was feeling conflicted.

"There's a few people in my family who have said what do you want to meet someone like that for, the way he treated you, you stay away from him," says Mr Rasul. "They say because if it was me, I'd want to beat him up."

Mr Neely had also been feeling uneasy.

He arrived at Heathrow airport ashen-faced, pensive and reluctant to speak much before the meeting.

Mr Rasul and his normally gregarious friend were notably quiet as they sat in front of TV cameras waiting for Mr Neely to enter. No-one knew what to expect, and the atmosphere was tense.

After an initially awkward exchange about caps and jump suits, the conversation turns to the reason for the visit. Mr Neely says he'd thought about the moment a million times. He'd wanted to say how he'd felt complicit in their detention, and acknowledge the wrong they were subjected to.

Smoking dope

But what were the pair doing in Afghanistan in 2001?

They explain that, being in their late teens and early twenties at the time, they had made a naive, spontaneous decision to travel for free with an aid convoy weeks before a friend's wedding, due to take place in Pakistan.

Mr Ahmed admits they had a secret agenda for entering Afghanistan, but it wasn't to join al-Qaeda.

"Aid work was like probably 5% of it. Our main reason was just to go and sightsee really and smoke some dope".

Does their former prison guard believe them? Yes, says Mr Neely, who says he thinks it was a case of "wrong place, wrong time".

Both sides are beginning to bond, yet towards the end, Mr Neely has a confession of his own. It threatens to destroy the mood of reconciliation.

He is deeply ashamed of an incident in which he "slammed" an elderly prisoner's head against the floor.

Mr Neely recalls that he thought he had been under attack because the man kept trying to rise to his feet. But weeks later he discovered the prisoner thought he was being placed on his knees to be executed and believed he was fighting for his life.

Mr Ahmed is speechless, then evidently conflicted as he wrestles in his mind with whether or not he can forgive. Eventually, he says he can.

But should Mr Neely be prosecuted for his actions? Mr Ahmed pauses again.

"He's realised what he did was wrong and he's living with it and suffering with it and as long as that he knows what he did was wrong. That's the main thing."

Afterwards, each say they had genuinely found some sort of closure from meeting. The sense of relief in all their faces speaks volumes, and they leave the meeting closer to one another.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Religious Realism and New Realities

This article was taken from here.

by Robin W. Lovin
One important thing that religion brings to politics is a certain kind of realism about human nature and human possibilities.
In private life, we all exaggerate our own virtues and expect too much from our own plans. Faith helps us to keep our pride in check, and we can depend on friends and family to do it if our faith falls short.

What is America?

Peeking Behind the Fears of the Burqa

A recent poll in the UK shows that following Switzerland’s minaret ban people in that country would be open to a similar minaret ban as well. In a related stream, France is reconsidering its proposal to ban the burqa completely, instead looking to prevent its use in public areas.

Posters supporting the minaret ban referendumAs with most political issues, there is a legal discourse that has occurred on this subject which preceded the controversy. Hafid Ouardidi, a resident of Geneva, has already filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasburgh.

The backdrop of xenophobia and misinformation within the European judicial forum itself has not received the scrutiny that is should have, and it may reveal the motivation behind these measures.

The House of Lords in Begum, R (on the application of) v Denbigh High School [2006] UKHL 15, [2007] 1 Appeal Cases 100 dealt with Article 9 and Article 2 of Protocol 1 under the European Convention in the case of a schoolgirl who was prevented from a more extensive garb that had longer sleeves than the school uniform.

However, the court was careful to express,

…this case concerns a particular pupil and a particular school in a particular place at a particular time… The House is not, and could not be, invited to rule whether Islamic dress, or any feature of Islamic dress, should or should not be permitted in the schools of this country. That would be a most inappropriate question for the House in its judicial capacity, and it is not one which I shall seek to address.

In a split decision resembling a balancing similar to our Oakes test, the majority held that no infringement had occurred, largely due to alternative education facilities available to her (L Scott at para. 90). While the minority held that her human rights had been violated, it was done in a justifiable manner. The pressing justification in this case was the mere effect of peer pressure on other students (B Hale at para. 98).

Baroness Hale did note, however, in para. 94,

If a Sikh man wears a turban or a Jewish man a yamoulka, we can readily assume that it was his free choice to adopt the dress dictated by the teachings of his religion. I would make the same assumption about an adult Muslim woman who chooses to wear the Islamic headscarf.

The apparent contradiction within the House of Lords’ decision might be explained by the numerous Turkish cases they cite: Karaduman v Turkey (1993) 74 DR 93, KalaƧ v Turkey (1997) 27 EHRR 552, and most importantly, Sahin v Turkey (2005) 41 EHRR 8, which was heard before the ECtHR.

John Finnis, a University of Oxford Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy, states in Endorsing Discrimination Between Faiths: A Case of Extreme Speech,

To a far greater extent than the judgments disclose, counsel for the school had rested his argument about justification squarely and almost exclusively on Sahin, where both chambers of the Strasbourg Court had deferred, with little sign of strain, to the rulings of the Turkish courts and other authorities. It is in Sahin that the real premise and thrust of Begum can be found.
[emphasis added]

What exactly is this premise behind Begum and the current discourse on the hijab, niqab, burqa, and possibly even the minarets? According to Finnis, it is that the “intimidatory pressures for conformity…” are an “…early precursors of jihad.”

Yes, the public policy interest in controlling what women choose to wear is that they are the front-line soldiers for an all-out invasion. The only thing missing from this conspiracy theory of the highest order is a “Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.”

Finnis points to the submissions made by government of Turkey before the Third Section of the Strasbourg Court in Sahin,

In order to attain its ultimate goal of replacing the existing legal order with sharia, political Islam used the method known as “takiyye”, which consisted in hiding its beliefs until it had attained that goal.

Taqiyyah has even been cited by former CIA Director, James Woolsey and other supposed “experts” on the subject, including Dr. Andrew Campbell, who states,

Lawyers associated with defending Muslims charged with terrorist offences should, in many cases, be subject themselves to security-checking to ensure that their motives are bona fide and that they are not secret converts, under the control of a foreign intelligence service or devotees of taqiyya.

The problem here is that the taqiyya doctrine discussed here is almost exclusively Shi’a, and is not even used in this way by the Shi’a. It has no absolutely no relevance to terrorists, the (Sunni) parties in Sahin and Begum, or the majority of Muslims around the world.

Although Finnis concedes that the Third Section and the Grand Chamber made no ruling about taqiyyah in Sahin, he does point to broader statements on this point made in Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey [GC], nos. 41340/98, 41342/98, 41343/98 and 41344/98, ECHR 2003-II. If Finnis is correct about this, it does demonstrate to the lack of familiarity and knowledge that government lawyers, the ECtHR, the House of Lords, intelligence “experts” and legal academics have about other legal systems and beliefs.

Although these fears can and should be rejected and dispelled, there are other concerns that Finnis points to in Refah that are much more complex,

Even in the absence of threats of force, both sharia and plural religiously based legal systems are in themselves, even if democratically adopted, inherently incompatible (so the Court finds) with the European Convention on Human Rights and the conceptions of democracy and the rule of law which it enshrines.
[emphasis added]

Any broad and general blanket statements made about a complicated and diverse legal system should raise suspicions. But this is admittedly an area that has been neglected in academic study, which is why I am sharing a preliminary paper that outlines some of these issues,

The Role of Islamic Shari’ah in Protecting Women’s Rights.

I first presented this paper at the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Commission on the Status of Women’s 53rd Annual General Meeting, and further refined it after some comparative legal studies this summer.

The implications of blindly accepting Finnis’ proposition is somewhat disturbing,

Confronted by the grave warnings thus issuing from courts of great pan-European authority, citizens of countries whose Muslim population is increasing very rapidly by immigration and a relatively high birthrate may ask themselves whether it is prudent, or just to the children and grandchildren of everyone in their country, to permit any further migratory increase in that population, or even to accept the presence of immigrant non-citizen Muslims without deliberating seriously about a possible reversal – humane and financially compensated for and incentivised — of the inflow. Such thoughts, and the corresponding proposals that might be put forward for reflective deliberation, could not rightly be described as extreme, unless the judgments of both chambers of the Strasbourg Court in Refah are extreme.
[emphasis added]

That’s a chapter of Canadian history I’m glad is shut, hopefully for good.

Between Multani and Syndicat Northcrest, the subjective beliefs of an individual of a bona fide requirement is all that is needed to invoke s. 2(a). Even the limitations in Huterrian Brethren are unnecessary, as women wearing the niqab/burqa already believe in concessions for identification and security purposes (including voting).

Fears recently raised about bank robberies are just as absurd, and would likely result in Santa bans too. Poor children. Article 7 1.(d) of the Rome Statute might have something more to say about Finnis’ solution.

Unfortunately the debate is still out on America and Europe, but legal institutions should not continue to be accomplice to this ill-informed analysis. There were strong dissents in Sahin, which notably stated that the headscarf had no single meaning, and that the opinions of the women themselves were lacking from the analysis (Tulkens J). Judge Kovler expressed concern in his concurring opinion in Refah,

I also regret that the Court… missed the opportunity to analyse in more detail the concept of a plurality of legal systems, which is linked to that of legal pluralism and is well-established in ancient and modern legal theory and practice… This general remark also applies to the assessment to be made of sharia, the legal expression of a religion whose traditions go back more than a thousand years, and which has its fixed points of reference and its excesses, like any other complex system.

If law blogs really can influence the judicial process, let’s hope someone catches this post and offers some clarification to the legal discourse in Europe.

Prof. John Finnis will be teaching at UWO Law in the Spring term on the Moral Foundations of Law. Needless to say I will be avoiding that course, and I question greatly the moral foundations of the legal propositions raised above.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Essay: Onward Christian Zionists

by Rod Liddle
The Spectator

It being the new year and all, I thought I'd introduce you to some new mentalists, just in case you're getting bored with the old mentalists. These new ones are the people watching the disquieting events unfold in Gaza with what might properly be called rapture.

I use the word 'rapture' advisedly. As in 'for yea, the rapture cometh'. And those shells landing on Gaza are to be welcomed, of course, for they are bringing the day ever closer.

There was a trip to Jerusalem last week undertaken by a bunch of British Christian evangelicals -- by coincidence, just as the Israelis began lobbing rockets into Gaza. They hadn't planned it like that, although retrospectively they may claim to have seen it. The whole shebang was described as a 'New Year's Prophetic Summons' and the organisers were, in the main, American evangelical Christian Zionists, but there were plenty of Brits in attendance.

You may be familiar with this little by-way of religious fervour, this rather bizarre cul-de-sac of supernaturally imposed bigotry -- partly because it has helped determine US government policy towards the Middle East for 30-odd years. These are the militant end-time Christians who are, indeed, yearning for the end. It was all foreseen -- a final conflagration between the Antichrist in the blue corner (that'll be the Muslims, then) and the forces of Christianity in the red, with the Jews looking a bit askance in the middle, unless they have returned to the fold, in which case they're OK. The blurb for this latest trip -- which involved conferences, walking the ramparts of Jerusalem and urging hellfire upon the recusant Mohammedans -- reads as follows: 'The days are shortening as Messiah's coming approaches. Jesus' identity with His own people is a progressive national revelation as Israelis increasingly realise that Yeshua was one of them, that he died in identification with them as Lamb of God...' Then there's some Bible stuff explaining how and why the apocalypse is coming.

Read the complete story (Some news sites require registration)