Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Cautious Distrust

In my post about the Iraqi constitution, where I've been having a vigorous exchange with Mollpeartree, we've been going back and forth about what reliance on Islamic laws and Shariah courts in Iraqi life could bring. I fear the constitutional set up, with its vague references to undefined "appropriate judicial body" (which could easily be determined to be a Sharia court) and with exceptions to the various rights of, say, privacy "long as it does not violate the rights of others or general morality". I see those statements and see multiple red flags and loopholes that in the end do not reassure me that Iraqi citizens will enjoy the sorts of personal freedoms and civil rights implicit in our promise to "liberate" the citizenry; I am concerned that we have succeeded in delivering the people of Iraq from oppression by a crazyass dictator to a different kind of oppression by religious extremists.

We need look no further than our own government and the situation with Gitmo to see how creative definitions come into play: by labeling our prisoners as "enemy combatants" the US can claim the Geneva Convention doesn't apply or deny even US citizens constitutionally guarantees enumerated in the Fouth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Amendments. Loophole. Special circumstance. Exception. It can happen. It does happen.

So, why my mistrust of Sharia courts in particular? Am I just buying into a bunch of left-wing anti-Muslim bigotry? I don't think so. Take a look at the situation with the courts vs. the Sky Kingdom in Malaysia: people are joining this wacky religious cult in Malaysia; despite a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, Muslims who renounce Islam to join the Sky Kingdom are being hauled before the Islamic courts and suffering harsh penalties, including two years in prison in solitary confinement for four particular unfortunates. Another time the commune was attacked by a Molotov cocktail-throwing mob. None of the attackers were ever tracked down or arrested; instead 30 women and a handful of Sky Kingdom children were arrested and detained by the state religious affairs department.

There are also the infamous cases of the Nigerian women Amina Lawal and Hajara Ibrahim sentenced to death by stoning, eventually (and after much international pressure) overturned on appeal. Or the rising demand (from the ever-weakening mullahs in India) that Indian Muslims resort to the mullahs, rather than to the courts, to settle their personal disputes and going so far as to call those who don't "anti-Islamic" and "agents of the enemies of Islam." Or the court in Saudi Arabia that sentenced a journalist to 275 lashes, ignoring a Royal Decree that forbids sharia courts from matters concerning the media and writers.

I'm sure these sharia courts make thousands of minor-league rulings every year, keeping in line with Islam and only rarely breaking out into things that grab international attention. But there are enough examples of extreme and distasteful actions that I cannot shake the cautious distrust I feel. If that makes me a godless worshipper of the flesh who has lost my moral and ethical anchorage I guess I'll just have to live with that.


for this post

Blogger Alan Kellogg Says:

About Gitmo

They are enemy combatants, even under the Geneva Conventions. They are not members of any authorized military, thus the laws of war do not apply to them. If anything, our treatment of them at Gitmo and other detention centers is better than what they could expect if the laws of war were strictly applied.

In a word, they are extralegal agents. Outlaws in the original sense. By English common law they could be killed out of hand. The fact we take them prisoner and keep them locked up says much of our ways and traditions.

We are also in an emergency situation. Once the emergency is over, and it will end, things will return to normal. And if they don't you can bet our leaders will hear from us. The thing is, in an emergency much of what we take for granted, or assume as an eternal verity, goes by the board. That is the way of life. Once the emergency is over we can get back to normal. But until then you take what measures you can to insure you don't come to further harm.

Let me put it this way. You ever get caught in an isolated area with your daughter and an avowed child rapist, and you have the means to kill him, you kill him. No quibbles about his rights as a human being, no fretting about the law. So long as he is alive he is a threat to your child. To end that threat reliably he must die. And speak to me not of keeping a careful eye on him. That gives him many opportunities to harm your daughter, for you cannot be vigilant at all times.

Blogger Nikchick Says:

Again, Alan, you and I must deeply disagree on this issue. Your comments assume that everyone held at Guantanamo Bay is actually and verifiably guilty of being an enemy of the United States. I do NOT believe that it is constitutional for the United States to indefinitely detain, without charges, people that they deem "enemy combatants" as if that absolves us of all responsibility to determine whether they are legitimately threats to public safety (and to do so in a timely manner). At this very moment many innocent people are being detained, even though our own government has determined they are innocent!! Read this story about the Chinese Muslims, still in detention in Guantanamo, despite being confirmed as innocent back in 2003! That's just one tiny example, there are literally hundreds of others!

Please do not attribute to me the behaviors put forth in your "avowed child rapist" scenario. I would defend my daughter from an actual threat, but NO SIR, I would not kill a man who had not actively, actually attempted to harm her pre-emptively, just because I could and he *might* be a threat to our safety someday. That is NOT part of my moral make-up, and it's not because I'm some sort of pollyanna who doesn't understand what you're talking about: I have actual personal experience with both predatory pedophiles and with obsessive stalkers.

No. Rounding up Japanese immigrants and their American-born offspring was wrong in during World War II; rounding up Muslims and herding them into indefinite detention until some nebulous time when we can declare the "emergency" is "over" is wrong now. It offends my personal moral code and flies in the face of every good thing I was ever raised to believe the United States stood for.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

We've been told the detainees may be held until the end of the war on terror (which the president has said will likely last for decades) or until they no longer pose any threat to anyone anywhere (which could effectively mean death through old age). This "emergency" isn't a particulaly emergent one.

Spike Y Jones

Anonymous Dr John K Says:

More about Gitmo:

The main problem is that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were unilaterally declared so-called enemy combatants by the U.S. Under the Geneva Conventions, all prisoners are entitled to a hearing to determine if they qualify as prisoners of war and thereby gain the full protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Of course, the U.S. also roll-dodged its responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions while it was still an occupying power in Iraq, so at least the current administration is consistent...


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