Jonathan Chait

Hysteria at Heritage

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[Guest post by James Downie]

Cully Stimson, one of the Heritage Foundation's "leading" legal experts, wants to educate the internet about "The Real Impact of Sharia Law in America." I think there are some problems with his opening example, though:

Does Sharia law allow a husband to rape his wife, even in America? A New Jersey trial judge thought so. In a recently overturned case, a “trial judge found as a fact that defendant committed conduct that constituted a sexual assault” but did not hold the defendant liable because the defendant believed he was exercising his rights over the victim.  

Sounds insidious! Except, as the part I've bolded makes clear, the case was overturned. Stimson not only admits as much, but later on uses the appellate court's decision to strengthen his own case:

Fortunately, the New Jersey appellate court refused to tolerate the trial judge’s “mistaken” and unsustainable decision. The appellate court chastised the trial judge’s ruling, holding among other things that he held an “unnecessarily dismissive view of defendant’s acts of domestic violence,” and that his views of the facts in the case “may have been colored by his perception that…they were culturally acceptable and thus not actionable – -a view we soundly reject.” Although appellate courts typically defer to findings of fact by trial judges, under the circumstances, this appellate court correctly refused to do so, and reversed the trial court and ordered the permanent restraining order to issue.

Surely, then, this is just an aberrant case of a judge making a wildly incorrect decision? Not so, warns Stimson. "Make no mistake about it," he writes, "this is no isolated incident."

"The truth is that imposition of Sharia law in the United States, especially when mixed with a perverted sense of political correctness, poses a danger to civil society. Just last year, a Muslim man in Buffalo, New York [named Muzammil Hassan] beheaded his wife in what appeared to be an honor killing, again using his faith to justify his actions."

Stimson neglects to mention that Hassan was described by relations and former employees as "not devout," and that, since his arrest, Hassan has in fact argued that he suffered from "battered spouse syndrome."

The truth, obviously, is that America isn't in any danger from Sharia law. The supposed threat is yet another bogeyman created by the right-wing hysteria machine; no conservative commentator would harangue us about "the danger from Christian law" if one or two Christian husbands used their faith to justify beating their wives. (Although for decades conservatives warned about Catholic immigrants and politicians imposing the "law of Rome.") What's truly pathetic about Stimson's post, though, is that it isn't from a two-bit nativist blog, or even from the shoutfest over at The Corner. Instead, it sits on the blog of a supposedly respectable think tank, whose fellows seem to have no problems with thoroughly dishonest arguments. In April, the foundation trumpeted its new advocacy organization; maybe they should've splurged instead on some fact-checkers.

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