Sooners Scared of Sharia

It’s just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen. Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to ban courts in the state from considering Islamic sharia law when considering cases. It also forbids courts to look to the legal precepts of other nations or consider international law when deciding cases.  Each of these provisions is so idiotic that I don’t even know where to start.

State Question 755 (ominously called the Save Our State Amendment) added this to the Oklahoma Constitution (italics mine):

The Courts…when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution, the United States Code, federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, established common law, the Oklahoma Statutes and rules promulgated pursuant thereto, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia Law, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international or Sharia Law. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.

This whole thing started because an Oklahoma state representative heard about a case in New Jersey where a trial judge ruled against a woman seeking a restraining order because her husband was acting on his religious beliefs. The trial judge was promptly reversed by an appellate court, but the matter did not even involved sharia. In the New Jersey case, the trial judge did not say that since sharia allows the husband to force himself on his wife, he is entitled to do so. The trial judge said that the man’s sincere religious belief prevented him from forming the necessary mens rea to constitute marital rape. The judge was wrong and justice prevailed.

Another sponsor of the measure fretted because England has embraced 85 sharia courts, “while Oklahoma is still able to defend itself against this sort of hideous invasion, we should do so.” The only problem is that England has not embraced 85 sharia courts. England has 85 sharia courts (or at least the Daily Mail tells us so), but that’s like saying Oklahoma has 111 Rotary Clubs. Has Oklahoma embraced the Rotary Clubs?  Are Oklahoma courts bound to consider the decisions of Rotary Clubs which have hideously invaded the state, unless a constitutional amendment is passed?

People can voluntarily be a part of any organization. The only thing the sharia courts offer that is different is a forum for alternative dispute resolution. ADR is an increasingly popular thing. The idea is that litigants can chose a mediator or arbitrator to help them settle their differences. This saves the courts time and the parties money. Often lots of money. If both of the litigants are Muslims, there is no reason they cannot choose to have a dispute abitrated by other Muslims. If it is a matter which requires court approval, they can then enter a consent order with the court. As long as the agreement between the parties is consistent with the law, the court will usually approve the order. That is what some courts in England have done with sharia court decisions.

But this is nothing new. Courts in both England and the United States have often approved consent orders that are the results of beth din rulings. A beth din is the equivalent of a sharia court for Orthodox Jews. If both parties are Orthodox Jews and want to have their dispute settled in accordance with Jewish law, they come before the beth din judges following accepted rules of legal procedure and the judges decide the case, which is then submitted to the state court, particularly in family law cases. Perhaps someone needs to amend the Oklahoma amendment to forbid the consideration of Jewish law, in case there is an invasion of Orthodox Jews into the Sooner State.

But here’s the kicker. Muslims who submit their disputes to a sharia court and Jews who submit their disputes to a beth din are only doing what Christians should have been doing. Most Christians ignore the first half of I Corinthians chapter 6. I’ll just quote the first verse to refresh your memory and you can go read the rest: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?”

But what about this “The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures” bit? This is very interesting. Let’s look at it in reverse order. What is another culture? Clearly for the authors of the proposal, it is any culture where Islam is the dominant religion. But that’s not what the amendment says. And what constitutes a “legal precept” of that culture?

But it’s that “other nations” bit that will cause an interesting problem. The whole idea of the common law and the rules by which it operates did not originate in the United States. They come from England, which is, according to my red passport, another nation. Having lived within it for over a decade, I can assure you that it is another culture as well. It is fortunate that Oklahoma, unlike its neighbors Texas and New Mexico, is not a community property state, because it would then be looking to the legal precepts of Spanish law as well. Nonetheless, it appears that the authors (and is must be said, 70% of Oklahoma voters) imagine that American law just sprang up sua sponte.

And finally there is that bit about international law. This is bizarre because regardless of the amendment, Oklahoma courts will have to consider international law. Treaties to which the United States is a party are the supreme law of the land. So says Article VI Section 1 of the US Constitution. Treaties to which the United States is not a party are irrelevant and would never be considered by a court in Oklahoma. The relevance of international law is a federal matter, because only the federal government has any legal interaction with other countries.

State Question 755 was written by ignorant people to be voted upon by ignorant people.  Somehow a lot of people see the words “Islam” or  “Muslim” and their brain function just shuts off. Muslims are bad, so if something is against Muslims it must be good. It doesn’t have to be good law or even make logical sense. It will probably do something to help stop the great Muslims invasion (they must be massed at Fort Smith and Siloam Springs just waiting to pour over the border) and that’s all that matters.

Lord, save us from ourselves.

Quadruple Jeopardy

John Demjanjuk ought to be left alone. For the last 32 years, this 89 year old man has been fighting allegations that he was a Nazi collaborator and prison guard. First it was US federal prosecutors. When they couldn’t make it stick, the Israelis had a go. When that didn’t work, the US authorities had another shot. Now he is being sent to Germany.

In 1977,  Demjanjuk was accused by the federal authorities of having been a guard at Treblinka, after being identified as “Ivan the Terrible” in a photo during an investigation into someone else. After four years, they eventually could only get him for lying on his naturalisation application, so they stripped him of his citizenship. When he appealed and they couldn’t get rid of him, he was extradited to Israel. Under their Nazi-hunter law, the Israelis have entitled themselves to take anyone from anywhere in the world and put them on trial for their life.

An Israeli special tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to death. It took seven years, but fortunately the Israeli Supreme Court overturned that in a 400-page ruling. After he was returned to the US, the Court of Appeals ruled that federal prosecutors had deliberately withheld evidence and they gave back his citizenship. A little thing like prosecutorial misconduct that’s not going to stop the Justice Department, so they turned around and made new allegations. It took another five years, but they got him stripped of his citizenship again. This time they tried to deport him to Ukraine, since that’s where he was born. He’s been fighting that since 2005.

Now the Germans have filed 29,000 counts against him for being a guard at Sobibor, a prison camp that closed 66 years ago, run by a regime that ceased to exist 64 years ago, on soil that it occupied illegally, and of which he was not a citizen. The basis of their jurisdiction is that he briefly lived in Munich – not at any time when any offense is alleged to have occured. He just lived there once. He is being deported this week and will be held in prison awaiting trial, unless he is too ill, in which case he will be held in a clinic. It is expected to take several months after his incarceration before his trial begins.

As trial courts seem very willing to convict Demjanjuk, even with prosecutors who have no qualms about doing whatever they have to do to get that conviction, there will no doubt be a lengthy appeal process. He could be well into his 90s before this round of prosecution is resolved, though obviously the chances of him surviving it are slim.

This once again highlights one of the problems with current developments in international law, the over-extension of criminal jurisdiction. Nations feel free to pass legislation saying that even non-citizens can be prosecuted for acts committed outside that country. This has most recently been used by the US  to detain people at Guantanamo Bay and by the British to stop sex tourism in Thailand, though it was also used by Spain to arrest Pinochet in Britain for things he did in Chile as president of Chile. The justification is that these are bad people, so it doesn’t matter how you get them, as long as you get them.

The only country that should be trying anyone for anything done at Treblinka or Sobibor is Poland. Both were on Polish soil, both then and now. If the Poles aren’t interested interested in pursuing quadruple jeopardy againt Demjanjuk, the whole thing should be left alone.

Germany Legally Invades Britain

The case of Dr Gerald Toben is extremely disturbing. Dr Toben is accused of publishing materials “of an anti-semitic and/or revisionist nature”. This is a crime in Germany. The only problem is that Dr Toben wasn’t in Germany at the time.

Actually, another problem is that Germany has a law like this at all. Free speech or a free press are not particularly valuable commodities with the Germans. While I have no sympathy with Dr Toben’s views concerning the Holocaust, I have less sympathy with the Germans, who say that any discussion of history which suggests anything other than the officially approved story must be punished with imprisonment. Dr Toben already did a nine-month stretch in 1999 for being a denier.

Now he has been arrested in the UK and is being held – not for anything done in the UK, but simply for passing through Heathrow Airport on his way from the US to Dubai with a German warrant for his arrest, issued for being a Holocaust denier outside of Germany. That’s the impact of a 2003 agreement signed by EU member states.

In essence, this means that any law passed by any EU country can create a crime that can be committed anywhere in the world which has to be enforced by any member state. Theoretically, the Reichstag Bundestag can pass a law that any criticism of Germany, at any time in any place, is illegal and every other member of the EU will have to be on the lookout for anyone crossing its borders to deport them to Berlin.

It is just me, or does this disturb anyone else?

Dealing with Russian Aggression

With all that’s been happening here in Texas, I haven’t had a chance to comment on the the situation in Georgia.

Bad Russia! Bad, bad Russia!

In an earlier blog identity I posted flags of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the right column, as I generally support the idea of ethnic self-determination. You may notice that I have now posted the flag of Georgia.

While I understand the desire of the Abkhazians and Ossetians for political autonomy, I also appreciate the principle in international law that is it vital to respect the territorial integrity of sovereign states. While Saakashvili made a tactical error in using military force on Ossetian rebels, it was not lawful for Russia to then invade, not just South Ossetia, but the rest of Georgia.

Unfortunately, the Russians will continue to violate the territorial integrity of Georgia for some time, thanks the to deal brokered by the French president. The only way to get the Russians out would be for a military force bigger than the Russians to kick them out. There’s only one military big enough to do the job and they are mired in a couple of other situations. \

Truth be told, this situation is not unlike the cause of the First Gulf War – one sovereign state invading another. And even the goal of controlling the energy supply is not dissimilar. Saddam wanted Kuwait’s oil fields and Russia wants to further it’s ambition to control the flow of energy into Europe.

However, on top of this is Putin’s anger that so many countries bordering Russia and formerly conquered by Russia don’t want to have anything to do with Russia. Russia’s leaders see themselves as having a right to a sphere of influence in the region. Why? From whence to they derive this right? Why do sovereign states like Georgia, Ukraine, and others not have the right to choose their own alignment?

The Russians believe they have some sort of right to punish the Georgians for wanting to join NATO and strengthening ties to the US. Frankly, I think this is almost enough reason to go to Georgia and kick some Russian ass.

Now Russia has threatened Poland with a nuclear strike for hosting US missiles on its soil. I think Russia should be thrown out of the United Nations for that. How dare they. Again, Poland has the right to choose its allies. If the barrel of one Russian tank nudges across the Polish border – which it would have to do from it’s oblast around Kaliningrad – I think the US should just take Kaliningrad and split it between the Poles and Lithuanians. They should take all of Russia’s many nuclear warheads pointing at NATO, scrap them and send the remains to Moscow.

In the meantime, the US Navy should find a couple of spare aircraft carriers to park next to Russia’s Baltic Fleet. Put one at Klaipėda and one at Gdańsk. Then just line up a blockade between the two.

Sowing the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind in Kosovo

I’ve debated within myself whether to step into the morass that is the matter of Kosovan independence. After my post on the Rest of the Bible blew away all my previous stats on this blog and overnight became the most read post in the history of this incarnation of my blog and my daily stats doubled my previous high, the return to normal numbers is a bit of a letdown. If I alienate all of my Ortho-blogger friends, the numbers are likely to dry up even further.

Let me say from the outset, that I don’t think the Unilateral Declaration of Independence was a good thing for a least three reasons. First of all, Kosovo is Serbia. It is just one of a number of regions. It happens that ethnic Albanians have migrated there. Second, UDIs create a mess in international law. Invariably some countries recognise it and others don’t. It’s made an even bigger mess when members of the UN Security Council are on opposite sides of the matter. They can (and are perfectly will to do so in this case) block the emerging country from joining the club. Third, as Steve notes, Kosovo UDI is a triumph for terrorism.

The Serb minority in Kosovo have been, and will continue to be, subject to persecution. I think this is a bad thing. Yes, it is a statement of the obvious. So why do I bother?

Because I think was goes around comes around. Or to use biblical language, what you sow, you reap. As Orthodox, ever-persecuted, or at least in the West having a sympathetic persecution complex, we want to see Serbia as the victim – the victim of the Croats, the victim of Bill Clinton, the victim of the Muslims (whether Bosnian or Albania or Turk). Neither am I denying that Serbia and the Serbs have suffered in the past, both distant and recent. But neither have they been keen to turn the other cheek. They have been just as willing to perpetrate genocide when it suited them.

So you say, yeah, sure, but that’s those evil politicians and generals like Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. The Serbian Church has been pure as the driven snow over the mass graves in Bosnia.

Unfortunately, that’s not true either. The Serbian Church has behaved like the Russian Church when communism was overthrown there. It has immediately grabbed ahold of the leverage of the State to persecute other Christians. Like the Russian Church, it is nationalistic and ethnocentric. You can’t encourage violence and oppression against Protestant Hungarians in Vojvodina and then cry foul when Muslim Albanians start wrecking your churches and burning your icons in Kosovo.

Several bloggers have suggested that Russia will come to Serbia’s aid in this latest turn of the Kosovo crisis. Will that be in the form of fascist Putin Youth, fresh from the government-sponsored stadium rallies encouraging them to fornicate to make babies for Mother Russia? Are Orthodox in the West willing to decry American imperialism while supporting the resurgence of Russian imperialism, because it is the imperialism of an ostensibly Orthodox country?

Frankly, I think that rather than looking to them for spiritual guidance, Orthodox in the West need to start asking some hard questions about the “Orthodox homelands”. Let’s set aside the blatant Phyletism, if we can for a moment ignore the elephant in the room. Why is the abortion rate in Russia only exceeded in Europe by (you guessed it, another Orthodox country) Romania, that only legalised after the fall of Communism what the Church has always recognised as the intentional killing of an innocent human life, when the Church was once again free to proclaim and propagate the Tradition? Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine and Greece are not far behind.

I do not for a minute want a single person, Orthodox or otherwise, in Kosovo to suffer persecution in any form. I do not want to see the historic churches there to suffer even worse than the churches of this country did under Oliver Cromwell. But neither will I blindly support the Serbs just because they are Serbs or Orthodox, nor will I ignore the whole political and spiritual picture.