Ismail Belghar, a 36-year-old Muslim man living in Australia, assaulted, abducted, and nearly killed his sister-in-law. The victim, a 25-year-old Moroccan named Canan Kokden, had dared to take her older sister, Mrs. B, to the beach without Belghar’s permission. This heinous effrontery was amplified, Belghar later recounted for police, when Mrs. B thereupon “displayed her body,” sustaining the shoulder sunburn that tipped him off.
To Australians, this may have been, well, just a day at the beach. For Belghar, though, it was an “abhorrent” offense against sharia, Islam’s legal code and comprehensive societal framework.
The telltale burn is also starting to show on the West’s shoulders, our courts of law. Australia has not changed Belghar, but the Belghars are changing Australia.
Innately, Islam is not moderate — just ask Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, who rejects as “ugly and offensive” the very term “moderate Islam.” Instead, Islam can be moderated, but only by a culture that is self-confident and self-assertive. Alas, that is no longer Western culture. So, the more Muslims immigrate, the less the West is moderating Islam. It is Islam that leaves its mark.
In the usual endearing family way, Belghar telephoned his sister-in-law to convey that he was a tad rankled: “You slut, how dare you take my wife to the beach!” Afterwards, happening upon Ms. Kokden at a shopping mall in New South Wales, he angrily confronted her, slapped her face, and dragged her to the railing of an over-ground parking lot. As he seemed ready to hurl her to the traffic below, her brother (Kokden’s chaperone at the mall) finally stirred himself to intervene, tackling the assailant. Belghar was charged with attempted murder, among other crimes.
As night follows day, Belghar’s defense counsel argued that his client could not get a fair trial because Australians are too Islamophobic: Once informed about the nature of the allegations and the fact that he is a Muslim, jurors would surely leap to the crazy, bigoted conclusion that Belghar was probably guilty of this “honor beating” — which, in fact, he was. Just as he was, precisely, motivated by his Islamic beliefs.
Enter the jurist assigned to the case, the pitch-perfectly named Ronald Solomon. He ruled that, yes, Belghar would be compelled to stand trial, but also that the case would have to be decided by a factfinder Judge Solomon could trust. No doubt you’ll be stunned to learn that this reasonable, objective, and culturally sensitive factfinder turned out to be . . . Judge Solomon himself. After all, ordinary citizens with nothing but their common sense to fall back on lack the juridical acumen needed to weigh what Solomon gently called Belghar’s “attitude,” “based on a religious or cultural bias,” that he had absolute authority over his wife.
This Solomon was splitting not just the baby but the country. As the Australian government contended on appeal, if the judge were correct, an entirely separate system of due process would be required just for Muslims. Every Islamic defendant would be entitled to evade the judgment of the community — that judgment being the whole point of having a judicial system. Muslims would instead get their own system, bringing to bear not the judgment of the community but that of trained lawyers, specially attuned to Islam’s various eccentricities.
This is the dream, of course. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the renowned Muslim Brotherhood jurist and “Arab Spring” maestro, brags that Islam will “conquer” the West. He maintains, however, that the conquest will be achieved not by force of arms but by dawa — Islam’s hyper-aggressive proselytism that pushes on every cultural cylinder. While the ultimate goal is to impose sharia standards on a society, “an immense barrier” can be “traversed,” Qaradawi instructs, if Western nations can be “convinced . . . of our right to live according to our faith — ideologically, legislatively, and ethically.”
There are two very effective ways to go about this. The first is voluntary apartheid: Muslims move into neighborhoods and, once there is a critical mass, live ostentatiously and defiantly by their own mores. Life becomes sufficiently unpleasant for other habitués that they flee. Pressure to moderate and assimilate ebbs. In effect, it is the gradual assertion of Islamic sovereignty over territory — without exploding a bomb or firing a shot.
But not all territory is physical. The law, too, is susceptible to Balkanization, and is thus the second dawa target. Here, Muslim supremacists find a willing partner: the Lawyer Left, so sympathetic to claims that Western justice systems are inherently unjust, and that the law is an instrument for social change, not an expression of the society’s unifying principles.
Increasingly, sharia-based claims are finding hospitable audiences. The Australian case mirrors one in New Jersey, where a judge denied a protective order to a woman who was being serially raped and beaten by her husband. The judge’s rationale? The couple was Islamic, and under sharia a woman is required to submit to her husband’s authority and sexual demands. It would be unfair, the judge decided, to hold the husband accountable when he was really just adhering to his cultural norms.
In Dearborn, Mich., Christian missionaries were arrested on “disorderly conduct” charges after handing out copies of St. John’s gospel on a public street outside an Arab festival. The arrests were outrageous enough, but, worse, the authorities actually went ahead with a prosecution.
To point these cases out, some argue, is to overreact. After all, the system usually works. The Australian case was reversed on appeal, and Belghar ended up pleading guilty to abduction and assault charges. The New Jersey ruling, too, was reversed. And in Dearborn, the missionaries were acquitted. But the vast majority of rulings in lower state courts do not get appealed, and criminal charges are overwhelmingly settled by plea bargains. Generally, it is only trials and appeals that break into the public consciousness. However, trials and appeals, being expensive and burdensome, are rare.
That means we really have no idea how much sharia is seeping into Western law and jurisprudence. A year ago, without breaking a sweat — i.e., by just looking at published appellate decisions — the Center for Security Policy found 50 cases across the United States in which Islamic law factored into rulings. Most of these involved domestic relations — issues involving marriage and child custody. Yet, as a practical matter, there is no telling how extensively sharia has encroached on Western law; we know only that its reach grows as Muslim enclaves multiply.
How could it be otherwise? When not inveighing against the label (some might say the oxymoron) “moderate Islam,” Prime Minister Erdogan can be found bewailing the pressure on Muslims to assimilate in the West. “Assimilation,” the prime minister says, “is a crime against humanity.” For his trouble, Western chancelleries hail Erdogan as a visionary Islamic leader — President Obama’s most trusted friend, with whom he finds so much common ground that Erdogan has become his go-to guy on everything from solving Syria to raising teenage daughters (or, as they are known around the White House, “senior staffers”).
When the administration is not taking its cues from Ankara, it is making common cause with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. This 57-member bloc of Muslim governments (including the “State of Palestine”) sees itself as the global caliphate under construction. Echoing Erdogan — Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood having become two of the OIC’s most influential voices — the OIC’s 2010 report on “Islamophobia” warned (at page 30): “Muslims should not be marginalized or attempted to be assimilated, but should be accommodated. Accommodation is the best strategy for integration.”
Yes, but best for whom? Sharia’s integration into Western law is not apt to be very accommodating for women and non-Muslims.