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July 28, 2010


Brendan again misstates the OK ballot proposition -- omitting the fact that it bans the use of all foreign precedents.

The Economist is a fine magazine, but the cited article reads like a bad editorial. Consider this quote:

He cites Britain, and the alleged readiness of its courts to consider sharia (though in fact it is only applied in some civil and family cases when both parties agree, and the primacy of the law of the land remains paramount in all cases) as an example of how prevalent Islamic law might become.

That parenthetical phrase shows the writer's bias. The application of sharia law in the type of case mentioned should be a concern in Britain. I believe something like that has been considered (or possibly adopted) in Canada.

Consider how women are treated in Islamic societies. E.g. wikipedia says,

Saudi women sometimes face discrimination in many aspects of their lives, such as the justice system. Although they make up 70% of those enrolled in universities, for social reasons, women make up just 5% of the workforce in Saudi Arabia,[7] the lowest proportion in the world. The treatment of women has been referred to as "Sex segregation"[8][9] and "gender apartheid".[10][11]

Is the Economist really not concerned that women might be treated unfairly under sharia law? I think they should be.

Subsection C of Section 1 (the "Save Our State Amendment") specifically mentions Sharia law twice. In the first instance it says that the Oklahoma courts will only uphold the laws of another US state if that state does not include Sharia law in its legal code. So yes, they want to make specific contingency plans for when and if other American states adopt Sharia. Does that sound like anti-Sharia paranoia at all, not to mention a fairly bizarre paranoia about the proclivities of other US states that aren't Oklahoma? Second, it says "The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law." This is basically saying that unless the the people restrain them, the courts might go considering Sharia law. The point here is neither the legal technicalities nor the undesirability of Sharia law, it's the blatant scaremongering, the idea that we should now be so worried that other American authorities (like the courts or governments of other states) are going to introduce Sharia law that we need specific legislation banning it. The ballot proposal is here: https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/755.pdf?2,5

Brendan does a psychological analysis, although he criticizes the practice when others do it. He diagnoses panic among Oklahomans. In response, I'm considering the motivations for Brendan and for the Economist.

Why did the Economist go out of their way to downplay the risk of Sharia law, even in the UK where it can be used in some circumstances? In reality, nobody knows what the use of sharia might develop into. Why did Brendan, who is usually so precise and accurate, misrepresent Oklahoma's ballot propostion as if it applied only to sharia?

Even accepting their inaccurate respresentations, their level of concern needs explaining. That is, suppose sharia law were the only aspect of the OK proposition, and suppose we could somehow be absolutely certain that sharia law could do no possible harm. Why would it be so important to a British magazine and to a Political Science blogger that OK might ban its use? Harmful laws are passed all the time. Why would a merely useless law merit comment?

My armchair diagnosis is that Brendan and the Economist may be affected by a combination of political correctness and a desire to deny the possibility that some aspects of a foreign culture might have to be actively opposed.

That's a good analysis, David. Still, actual court decisions sometimes use surprising reasoning. E.g., Justice Breyer based one US Supreme Court decision in part on the rulings of the supreme courts of Zimbabwe and India and the Privy Council of Jamaica.

These countries had made no attempt to get their law used in the US. OTOH there are people actively working to get aspects of sharia law used in western countries. They have made some progress in the UK and Canada. I don't see how one can absolutely rule out the possbility that they'll have some success here in the US.

Fascinating chart from the "Trends in support for presidential candidates" tweet.

Interestingly Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama were all strong candidates recently for President (or VP) when this poll showed over 90% support for Jews, Females or Black candidates, but JFK was elected in 1960 when support for Catholic candidates was only about 70%.

Also interesting is that the positive opinion of Black Presidential candidates rose from about 40% in 1960 to 80% in 1980, which might suggest that the vast majority of America was over it's overt racism in this regard over 20 years ago. Of course the stigma for racism grew incredibly during this period also, so that probably impacted the increase.

Do the survey results in "self-rated ideology vs. two parties" link provide some support to the idea that the US is a "center-right" country?

Seems to me that it does, as "about half of all voters (53%) view the Democratic Party's ideology as more liberal than their own. A smaller percentage (41%) says the Republican Party' ideology is more conservative than their own ideology."

The graphic makes this more explicit with the average voter placing himself closer to Republican party than the Democratic party.

Thanks for the interesting links, Brendan.

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