Tancredo’s “Jihad Prevention Act”

The perennially preposterous Tom Tancredo is moved to propose a new law:

Amid disturbing revelations that the verdicts of Islamic Sharia courts are now legally binding in civil cases in the United Kingdom, U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton) moved quickly today to introduce legislation designed to protect the United States from a similar fate.

…Tancredo’s bill, dubbed the “Jihad Prevention Act,” would bar the entry of foreign nationals who advocate Sharia law. In addition, the legislation would make the advocacy of Sharia law by radical Muslims already in the United States a deportable offense.

So what counts as a “radical” Muslim? What counts as “advocacy” of Sharia law – would a non-polemical historical survey bar the author? What about US citizens who adopt such positons? What about other advocates of alternative, and repressive, religious-based legal systems (such as Christian Reconstructionists, to give the most obvious example)? etc. etc. Presumably we’re not supposed to ask about such details, lest we find ourselves accused of sympathy for Islamism.

The legal recognition of Sharia courts in the UK has inevitably been presented by the right as evidence of British “appeasement” of Islam; in fact, however, the courts’ new legal status is simply due to an already-existing legal provision concerning third-party arbitration. As the Daily Mail reported:

Islamic sharia law courts in Britain are exploiting a little-known legal clause to make their verdicts officially binding under UK law in cases including divorce, financial disputes and even domestic violence.

A new network of courts in five major cities is hearing cases where Muslims involved agree to be bound by traditional sharia law, and under the 1996 Arbitration Act the court’s decisions can then be enforced by the county courts or the High Court.

It should also be pointed out that the courts have no power to prescribe criminal penalties, although reports of the courts’ activities are certainly unencouraging: inheritances doled out unequally between male and female relatives, and women “persuaded” to drop complaints to the police about domestic violence. The obvious – and reasonable – fear is some women are agreeing to be bound by the courts’ decisions as a result of community and family pressure rather than giving true consent.

However, while the undesirability of this is being widely decried, what exactly should be done is less clear. Of course for Tancredo all that’s needed are some new repressive laws targeting immigrants, but that’s hardly a serious proposition in a free society. Perhaps in some cases anti-discrimination legislation can be brought to bear, but the simple truth is that undesirable things cannot be avoided in a free society.

13 Responses

  1. Muslims Against Sharia praise Congressman Tancredo’s initiative. We advocated similar measures in the past and fully support “Gihad Prevention Act”

    “Any person from a country where a substantial part of the population is pro-Sharia should not be allowed in the West, not only as an immigrant, but even as a visitor with a few exceptions, i.e., political asylum or as a diplomat etc. … Every legal immigrant should be allowed to stay only if he/she did not display desire to establish a Sharia state in a host country. Any naturalized citizen who displays a desire to establish a Sharia state in a host country should have his/her citizenship revoked and promptly deported. I think the latter two groups is where the real danger lies.” Linda Ahmed, FrontPage Magazine, July 24, 2008

    “Anyone who proclaims Islamic extremist views should be tried for sedition, since we are at war with radical Islam, or at the very least, promptly deported.” Khalim Massoud, FrontPage Magazine, September 9, 2008


  2. Again, foolish and transparent appeals to anti-immigrant authoritarianism that are of little practical use in combating terrorism.

  3. It strikes me that this would be struck down as violating the First Amendment.

    I find the opposition to shariah-compliant arbitration at least as unpleasant as the arbitration itself. The word I would choose is Islamophobia – an unwarranted and irrational fear of Islam. This, coupled to the worrying precedent set by the Bush administration of restricting the protections offered by the US Constitution to non-citizens within the US and, it would seem, US citizens outside the US.

    It comes down to, strangely, negative and positive conceptions of liberty. Mr Tancredo seems to be advocating a positive conception whereby ‘the good life’ consists in living in accordance with ‘Americanism’. A similar process is happening with the side that traditionally advocated a negative liberty in the UK. The result is that people cannot peacefully oppose the system that they live in.


  4. Good post, Bart. It should also be pointed out that any Sharia court in the UK would be subject to the ECHR and must be compatible with European human rights law, particularly with regard to not discriminating between individuals on grounds of sex, race, religion or lack thereof or sexual orientation.


  5. If I’m not mistaken, Shairah doesn’t even apply to no-Muslims, except in rare cases where public order is involved, or where Muslims/non-Muslim issues arise.

    This is why for most of Islamic history, Christians and Jews had their own courts or some similar institutions.

    But ofcourse, pointing out such things would not help Mr.Tancredo’s, and his supporters’, hate- and fear-mongering.

  6. I have to agree with Dave Cole that such a law would almost certainly be struck down on first amendment grounds. I’m unsure as to which provision of the first amendment would be used but it seems such a law would violate both the free speech and the establishment of religion clause. Depending on how such a law were to be enforced it might also violate the freedom of assembly provision as well.

    It is frightening, however, that a handful of Western countries are not prosecuting crimes against women committed in Muslim communities. While the freedom of religion is acknowledged in much of the industrialized world, no morally acceptable interpretation of that idea should allow for the mutilation of children or the abuse of women. In the US we decided long ago that even the first amendment does not protect all religiously motivated acts. Polygamy, ritual sacrifice and the use of many ritual drugs have been excluded from this protection.

  7. Tancredo is simply grandstanding for the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim right. Perhaps in anticipation of a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

  8. […] Christians, however else such courts may be undesirable? (Shariah courts have gained some power by using a clause in the 1996 Arbitration Act, which allows for private  third-party arrangements in civil […]

  9. […] there are a number of unofficial shariah courts in operation in the UK. Further, it was reported last September that several courts have sought to have their decisions recognised by county courts,  using the […]

  10. […] make judgements on civil disputes that can then be upheld by the county courts. And as I’ve noted previously, reports of the courts’ activities are certainly unencouraging: inheritances doled out unequally […]

  11. […] does not repudiate his or her religion’s legal traditions in toto as being an extremist (see here and […]

  12. […] He’s doubtless refering to the overegged issue I blogged on here. […]

  13. […] that there is a genuine problem, the bill’s approach could provide a useful contrast to the posturing and pointless “anti-Shariah” bills that are being proposed in various US states. Cox’s bill can […]

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