Posts Tagged ‘racial politics’


Sharia Presents a Liberal’s Paradox

   Posted by: Robert    in Law

Recent legal news has begin to cover a troubling change beginning to play at the edges of American law.  In New Jersey, the state’s court of appeals set aside a shocking ruling from one of the state’s trial courts which would have held that a man who abused and sexually violated his wife because “he was operating under [Islamic religious] his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to.”  The court of appeals, in no uncertain terms, properly held the trial court’s opinion to be inconsistent with both New Jersey and federal law.  This case, however appropriately it appears to have turned out, appears, to me, to raise a significant problem for the left.

It goes virtually without saying that the interest in merging Sharia law with US law is an exercise being undertaken exclusively by leftists.  Britain, of course, has actual Sharia courts, established as arbitration tribunals, which hear cases and issue rulings which have the force of law.  In other European nations, national courts have occasionally ruled consistent with Sharia principles despite national laws which point in the opposite direction.  France, though they haven’t got Sharia courts, do have a Sharia tax code which aims to deal with some of the peculiarities of Islamic financial management.  The US, so far, has only rogue judges in liberal states.

So far, Sharia courts and Sharia-related court decisions have all been based on one of three general legal categories: probate, equity, and domestic violence.  It is the cases of domestic violence which are most troubling, and the case in New Jersey illustrates precisely why.

In the New Jersey case, as mentioned, a man raped his wife on multiple occasions under the belief that it was his right, as her husband, to do so.  Had he done that even 35 years ago, it would not have been a crime in the US.  However, as of 1993, spousal rape became a crime in every corner of the United States at the urging of the feminist movement.  In addition to US law, spousal rape is identified in the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, Article 2(a) as a form of violence against women.  There is, I think it is safe to say, a solid consensus which sweeps broadly against ideological lines that cannot tolerate the behavior that took place in New Jersey.  As the self-declared champions of women’s rights, women’s equality, and the fight to end violence against women, it would seem that the left has a vested interest in making sure that no woman is ever raped by her husband ever again.

The stakes, however, go even beyond the question of spousal rape in Islamic marriages.  From what I have been able to find of the trial judge’s logic, it appears to be relatively unbounded.  If the touchstone of the judge’s ruling is the “belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to,” what about that is so closely bounded to Islam that it could not be applied elsewhere?  After all, that was everyone’s belief — and the law — until 1975, meaning most of America grew up in a country where there was no such thing as spousal rape.  And even further, what if I find that it is my belief as a man my “desire to have sex when and whether [I want] to” with anyone that I please?  There would be no such thing as rape, if only I didn’t believe in it.

Rulings like one in New Jersey place the left on a collision course with itself.  It is simply not possible to champion women’s rights and a culture which systematically represses and does violence to women at the same time.  But perhaps the thought that they might even try is part of the reason that the left, right now, has a woman problem.  I, for one, would rather see them win some women back than bury the rest of us under Islamic law.

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Rand Paul, Libertarianism, and the Tea Party

   Posted by: Robert    in News, Philosophy

Ever since his interview with Rachel Maddow, Rand Paul’s comments about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have been the centerpiece of an unfortunately predictable one-sided conversation that the media appears to be having with itself about how thoroughly racist Paul’s comments are.  Even more unfortunate (though just as predictable) has been the media’s effort to discredit the tea party as racist by emphasizing that Rand Paul is, in some sense, their champion from Kentucky.  Whatever the merits of his position, the entire episode has left us with two important points which even conservative commentators have been tending to ignore.  The first is that nobody who understands Libertarianism will be able to find a racist motive in what Rand Paul said.  The second is that what Rand Paul said had nothing to do with the Tea Party.

Even if nothing else comes of his comments, what Paul has given us is an interesting starting point for a serious discussion about what it means to be a Libertarian.  To begin with, Libertarianism as a political concept is one that we know from Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign is a philosophy which Liberals can’t stand, and Conservatives tend to have difficulty swallowing.  In a nutshell, Libertarians believe that the government should do no more than it absolutely must.  In support of their philosophy, Libertarians tend to be skeptical of any government institution, even those with long and highly praised histories.  Libertarians also tend to be a bit irreverent when it comes to government institutions.  The skepticism certainly grates on the Left, and the irreverence tends to make the Right nervous.

Both traits, however, were certainly on display during the interview with Rachel Maddow.  In this case, the institution is the Civil Rights Act itself — in particular, the bits that make private sector discrimination illegal.  Even the most simple-minded understanding of the interview reveals that Paul has absolutely no love of discrimination in any form.  I find it inconceivable that he would allow discrimination to go on in any business that he owned, and I think it would be interesting to ask if he would frequent businesses which he knew to have discriminatory practices.  Yet, in his skepticism he clearly sees something improper about outlawing private sector discrimination, and in his irreverence he’s actually willing to say so.

However understandable his statement may be within the realm of Libertarian thought, what has been clear for a very long time is the fact that Libertarian thought does not dominate Conservatism, even the “radical” sort expressed by the Tea Parties.  Indeed, from what I’ve observed, the Tea Parties have been willing to mostly gloss over the deep divide between Republicanism1 and Libertarianism by uniting on the common ground issue of fiscal responsibility in government.  Whether willful or not, the Tea Parties have done an excellent job of staying away from social issues and focusing intensely on the government’s role in the economy.  Were the Tea Parties a social-issues movement rather than an economic-issues movement, I doubt Rand Paul would have enjoyed much success.

In sum, most of the mainstream commentary about the Maddow interview has gotten the core issue predictably wrong.  However, I hope that Conservatives, at least, will look past the immediate spin from the mainstream commentators and use Rand Paul’s comments to think a bit more deeply about the role of government in society.  After all, we will only be able to put off for so long the evil day on which the Republican/Libertarian divide comes to a head.  The Civil Rights Act provides an outstanding starting point for having an adult conversation about the duties and obligations of our government.

  1. For lack of a better term.  Think about the kinds of things Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, and other prominent Conservative commentators might say to get a feel for what I mean. []

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