Sharia in America – The Washington Post

Source: Sharia in America – The Washington Post

The final installment in Michael Broyde’s series on religious courts in America. The take-away is in a bolded paragraph:

The truth is that Islamic courts are not so scary. State court judges regularly order the enforcement of religious arbitration awards, as the previous four posts explained. The future of Islamic law and sharia courts could look like the present state of Jewish law and rabbinical courts.

The alert reader may well notice the modal — “could” — in that paragraph. And he’s right, Islamic courts certainly “could” look like the present state of Jewish law and rabbinical courts.  All it takes is…

These measures, which have been successfully adopted by rabbinical courts, can be implemented by Islamic panels too, if they wish to do so.

Of course, just because they can be learned and applied, does not mean that the Islamic community actually will do that: That is their choice and their choice alone. Either the Islamic courts can fit into the framework of religious arbitration in America and have their decisions upheld, or they can remain outside that framework, be a source of protest and not be acceptable to the legal system. The question is not whether American courts can adapt to Islamic arbitration — judges know no more Jewish law than Islamic law — but rather, the question is whether Islamic arbitration will adhere to the norms of American law.

Successful religious arbitration allows religious communities to be moderately self-governing. This sort of respect for legal pluralism is part and parcel of American legal culture and history: Federalism — the concurrent existence of multiple sovereigns (federal, state, local jurisdictions) — meshes well with the idea that for some people some matters are ecclesiastical, and that also is a “jurisdiction.”

Perhaps more importantly, by permitting Islamic communities to conduct private faith-based dispute resolution within certain legal limits, American law can bring Islamic and secular segments of society and culture into conversation with each other. Islamic communities will improve from these interactions with secular law, and secular law will advance as well.

And this is all quite true. That last paragraph may be the ultimate barrier: Jihadists probably also see this, and recognize that adapting Islamic courts to be compatible with U.S. law will wind up changing the practice of Islamic law.  So just as adopting the values that lead to success in Western culture is called “selling out” by certain minority groups, accommodating Western law may be called “infidelity” by certain minority religions.


In Morocco, the apostate no longer faces death

Source: In Morocco, the apostate no longer faces death

Cyclically, intellectuals, ulama, Muslim jurists and politicians go back to the question of whether the apostate deserves an earthly punishment or the punishment is the sole prerogative of God in the hereafter. While in many moments of history the first interpretation had prevailed, today other interpretations exist that question the traditionally imposed penalty for the apostate (murtadd), but also the very meaning of the term.

In this sense, the statements made a few days ago by the high scientific Council of the Moroccan Ministry of Habous (Religious Affairs) are unprecedented. In Sabīl al-‘ulamā’ (The way of ulama), a volume of over 150 pages, it distanced itself from the traditional meaning of apostasy and of the penalty given for this offense. According to this document, Murtadd would not be the one who leaves Islam for another religion, but the one who betrays the group he belongs to.

“The most correct understanding of the apostasy issue resides in the spirit of the tradition and of the biography of the Prophet, who, by apostate, means the traitor of the group (khā’in al-jamā‘), the one who reveals its secrets and hurts it with the help of its opponents, what is equivalent to high treason under international law,” the document states.

The commission in fact offers a new interpretation of the two hadīth (Prophet’s sayings) traditionally cited in support of apostasy, framing them within the historical circumstances in which they would have been revealed: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him,” and “He who abandons religion is the one who breaks away from the group.” In the context of endemic wars, as was the period when Islam was born – the document explains – abandoning Muslims meant joining the nonbelievers. Apostasy was therefore political, not doctrinal.

According to the ulama, this meaning of apostasy would be evident in some historical facts of the time. Abū Bakr, the first of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, according to the tradition used to wage war against the apostates, understood them as political traitors because, in refusing to submit to the imam, they were dividing the unity of the group and undermining the understanding of religion, destroying its pillars.

Religion is good for the poor, installment #1437 – Marginal REVOLUTION

Source: Religion is good for the poor, installment #1437 – Marginal REVOLUTION


Our results suggest that living in a state with a an extra clergy member for each 1,000 habitants increases the earnings of black workers by 1.7 to 3.6 percentage points relative to white workers.. In addition we show that this relationship is robust to different measures of exposure to religious density, and that these estimates increase to 7.6 percentage points when the change on religious density is defined exclusively increasing an extra black religious workers for each 1,000 habitants. Finally, we estimate a series of robustness tests that suggest that these results are not due to spatial sorting across states, nor to secular time trends associated with changes in labor market outcomes for black American workers.

G.K. Chesterton On AI Risk | Slate Star Codex

Source: G.K. Chesterton On AI Risk | Slate Star Codex

….And it is that contact which Mr. Ceglowski most fears. For he thinks that “if everybody contemplates the infinite instead of fixing the drains, many of us will die of cholera.” I wonder if he has ever treated a cholera patient. This is not a rhetorical question; the same pamphlet-forging doctor of my acquaintance went on a medical mission to Haiti during the cholera epidemic there. It seems rather odd that someone who has never fought cholera, should be warning someone who has, that his philosophy prevents him from fighting cholera.

And indeed, this formulation is exactly backward. If everyone fixes drains instead of contemplating the infinite, we shall all die of cholera, if we do not die of boredom first. The heathens sacrificed to Apollo to avert plague; if we know now that we must fix drains instead, it is only through contemplating the infinite. Aristotle contemplated the infinite and founded Natural Philosophy; St. Benedict contemplated the infinite and preserved it. Descartes contemplated the infinite and derived the equations of optics; Hooke contemplated infinity and turned them into the microscope. And when all of these infinities had been completed – the Forms of Plato giving way to the orisons of monks, the cold hard lines of the natural philosophers terminating in the green hills of England to raise smokestacks out of empty fields – then and only then did the heavens open, a choir of angels break into song, and a plumber fix a drain….