Archive for Halacha

Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by loonwatch

By ELIYAHU STERN

MORE than a dozen American states are considering outlawing aspects of Shariah law. Some of these efforts would curtail Muslims from settling disputes over dietary laws and marriage through religious arbitration, while others would go even further in stigmatizing Islamic life: a bill recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly equates Shariah with a set of rules that promote “the destruction of the national existence of the United States.”

Supporters of these bills contend that such measures are needed to protect the country against homegrown terrorism and safeguard its Judeo-Christian values. The Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has said that “Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.”

This is exactly wrong. The crusade against Shariah undermines American democracy, ignores our country’s successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority.

The suggestion that Shariah threatens American security is disturbingly reminiscent of the accusation, in 19th-century Europe, that Jewish religious law was seditious. In 1807, Napoleon convened an assembly of rabbinic authorities to address the question of whether Jewish law prevented Jews from being loyal citizens of the republic. (They said that it did not.)

Fear that Jewish law bred disloyalty was not limited to political elites; leading European philosophers also entertained the idea. Kant argued that the particularistic nature of “Jewish legislation” made Jews “hostile to all other peoples.” And Hegel contended that Jewish dietary rules and other Mosaic laws barred Jews from identifying with their fellow Prussians and called into question their ability to be civil servants.

The German philosopher Bruno Bauer offered Jews a bargain: renounce Jewish law and be granted full legal rights. He insisted that, otherwise, laws prohibiting work on the Sabbath made it impossible for Jews to be true citizens. (Bauer conveniently ignored the fact that many fully observant Jews violated the Sabbath to fight in the Prussian wars against Napoleon.)

During that era, Christianity was seen as either a universally valid basis of the state or a faith that harmoniously coexisted with the secular law of the land. Conversely, Judaism was seen as a competing legal system — making Jews at best an unassimilable minority, at worst a fifth column. It was not until the late 19th century that all Jews were granted full citizenship in Western Europe (and even then it was short lived).

Most Americans today would be appalled if Muslims suffered from legally sanctioned discrimination as Jews once did in Europe. Still, there are signs that many Americans view Muslims in this country as disloyal. A recent Gallup poll found that only 56 percent of Protestants think that Muslims are loyal Americans.

This suspicion and mistrust is no doubt fueled by the notion that American Muslims are akin to certain extreme Muslim groups in the Middle East and in Europe. But American Muslims are a different story. They are natural candidates for assimilation. They are demographically the youngest religious group in America, and most of their parents don’t even come from the Middle East (the majority have roots in Southeast Asia). A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Muslim Americans exhibit the highest level of integration among major American religious groups, expressing greater degrees of tolerance toward people of other faiths than do Protestants, Catholics or Jews.

Given time, American Muslims, like all other religious minorities before them, will adjust their legal and theological traditions, if necessary, to accord with American values.

America’s exceptionalism has always been its ability to transform itself — economically, culturally and religiously. In the 20th century, we thrived by promoting a Judeo-Christian ethic, respecting differences and accentuating commonalities among Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Today, we need an Abrahamic ethic that welcomes Islam into the religious tapestry of American life.

Anti-Shariah legislation fosters a hostile environment that will stymie the growth of America’s tolerant strand of Islam. The continuation of America’s pluralistic religious tradition depends on the ability to distinguish between punishing groups that support terror and blaming terrorist activities on a faith that represents roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

Eliyahu Stern, an assistant professor of religious studies and history at Yale, is the author of the forthcoming “The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism.”

(source: The New York Times)

Salon: Jews and Muslims united for sharia?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on May 7, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon.com)

Jewish groups mobilize against anti-sharia bills that would also bar arbitration under Jewish religious law

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

We’re a bit late to this one, but Ron Kampeas of JTA has a fascinating recent piece on fears that anti-sharia initiatives brewing around the country could also threaten observance of traditional Jewish law, or halachah.

You don’t hear much about halachah, or rabbinical courts known as beit din, even though both have been a feature of observant American Jewish communities for years.

But some Jewish groups are now lobbying against anti-sharia bills that have been drafted — possibly as a way to preempt constitutional challenges — to bar any and all foreign or religious law in U.S. courts, not just sharia:

“The laws are not identical, but as a general rule they could be interpreted broadly to prevent two Jewish litigants from going to a beit din,” a Jewish religious court, said Abba Cohen, the Washington director of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group. “That would be a terrible infringement on our religious freedom.”

A number of recent beit  din arbitrations that were taken by litigants to civil courts — on whether a batch of etrogim met kosher standards; on whether a teacher at a yeshiva was rightfully dismissed; and on the ownership of Torah scrolls — would have no standing under the proposed laws.

A spokesman for the Orthodox Union explained that a prohibition on religious law would be a problem in situations when Jewish law comes up in civil courts:

Such laws “are problematic particularly from the perspective of the Orthodox community — we have a beit din system, Jews have disputes resolved according to halachah,” Diament said. “We don’t have our own police force, and the mechanism for having those decisions enforced if they need to be enforced is the way any private arbitration is enforced” — through contract law in the secular court system.

Some prominent Jewish groups seem to be putting some real lobbying muscle into this issue in state legislatures, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Sharia, by the way, did not come up in last night’s GOP presidential debate.

Shocking Stoning in Philadelphia of Homosexual, What if they were Muslim?

Posted in Feature, Loon People, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2011 by loonwatch

Oh no it looks like a Sharia’ takeover!! Hide your kids, hide your wife and your gay neighbors too because they’re coming to get you!! A 70 year old man was stoned to death by 28 year old MuslimChristian, John Thomas. What was his motivation? Could it be the Quran? Sharia’ Law?

No it was THE BIBLE. Does this mean that the Bible should be banned? Do we need to enact laws which ban the creeping spread of Biblical Law in the United States? This underscores the fact that the greatest theocratic threat to our Constitution does not come from a bunch of Muslims who make up roughly 1% percent of the population but in fact the Bible Thumpers who wish to re-cast the USA as a Christian nation.

Philadelphia Man Blames Bible for Stoning Death

by Candace Chellew-Hodge (Religious Dispatch)

A 28-year-old Philadelphia says he stoned a 70-year-old friend to death “because the Bible refers to stoning homosexuals.” John Thomas said he killed Murray Seidman with
stones inside a sock after the older man made “unwanted sexual advances.” From the APreport:

According to the complaint, “John Thomas stated that he read in the Old Testament that homosexuals should be stoned in certain situations. The answer John Thomas received from his prayers was to put an end to the victim’s life. John Thomas stated that he struck the victim approximately 10 times in the head. After the final blow, John Thomas made sure the victim was dead.”

But the full story reveals that Thomas’ “the Bible made me do it” excuse may just be that. Thomas had another, far older, motive for the killing: money. He was the sole heir to Seidman’s estate.

Yet Thomas’ excuse that the Bible supposedly sanctioned his horrific act should not be taken as a reason to dismiss the Bible wholesale. Gay blogger John Aravosis — like Thomas, not a theologian – agrees with the confessed killer that the Bible orders death for gay people and wonders: “How Christians get away with selling the Bible with those quotes still inside is beyond me.”

Both Thomas and Aravosis are right that the Bible (Leviticus 20:13, to be precise) prescribes death for homosexual acts between two men (never between two women because women, being property, were pretty much ignored). However, Thomas is incorrect about the method of death. The Bible never mentions stoning gay men.

Both arguments, though, miss the point. Bibles don’t kill people, ignorant Bible readers kill people.

Aravosis may find some solace from theologian Stanley Hauerwas who wrote a few years ago in his book Unleashing the Scripture, “The Bible is not and should not be accessible to merely anyone, but rather it should only be made available to those who have undergone the hard discipline of existing as part of God’s people.”

Which is to say that many people, like Thomas, who justify their conduct with a single quote from the Bible frequently don’t know what they are talking about. When one reads the Bible and takes the English version at face (and literal) value, they do terrible violence to the text. The Bible is not meant to be a book of answers where you can just open it up and find out exactly what to do next. It is not a Ouija board or a divining rod. Instead, it is a collection of writings from wildly different times, cultures, and points of view. In fact, it contradicts itself from book to book, and sometimes from chapter to chapter. To say, “the Bible says …” as if it settles an argument once and for all is a terribly naïve way to read a very complicated text. Instead, one must be trained to actually read the Bible in a responsible manner – preferably, as Hauerwas states, within a community dedicated to taking the Bible seriously.

As Jennifer Wright Knust writes in her latest book, Unprotected Texts, “The only way the Bible can be regarded as straightforward and simple is if no one bothers to read it. The Bible was not a collection of policy statements that had to be obeyed or a weapon designed to enforce particular views about morality, but an invitation to think about who God might be and what it means to be human.”

What if they Were Muslim?: Creeping Halacha in Orange County?

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2010 by loonwatch

Imagine if Muslims had put up a similar sign, or if Muslim women were scowling at visitors who dressed in daisy dukes and halter tops. Islamophobes like Bikini Vlogger Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer would be howling to the moon about how Muslims are trying to take over America andimpose Islam on the masses. (hat tip: ELi)

 

 

Welcome to Kiryas Joel: Please Dress Accordingly

KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. (CBS 2) – You may never see a more unusual “Welcome” sign in Orange County.

A sign in Kiryas Joel, the Hasidic Jewish enclave, is evoking mixed reaction.

Monroe resident Jessica Pantalemon stopped to cash a check in Kiryas Joel wearing a bright pink tank top and white shorts. She said she noticed scowling faces.

“Just from the women, mostly,” she said. “The guys let me walk by, the women stop and stare, start whispering to each other…I just ignore them.”

The tradition in the village of Satmar Hasidic Jews is modesty. Even on the hottest of days, most residents cover up from head to toe. But visitors don’t necessarily follow that tradition, and now the main synagogue is asking them to comply.

Congregation Yetev Lev posted signs at the village’s entrance – in both English and Spanish – asking outsiders to cover their legs and arms, use appropriate language and maintain gender separation in public.

“It’s a way of respect,” said one resident.

In fact, most residents say it’s simply a polite reminder to respect the local culture, and many visitors take the signs in that spirit.

“It’s nice to request that people behave in a way respect to their beliefs,” said Barry Kaufmann of Wantagh.

But the sign struck a sour note with some.

“They’re telling us that we can’t come into their community unless we dress a certain way,” said Adia Parker, an Orange County resident.

“I feel like my constitutional rights are being violated,” said Tyrone Wheeler, a day laborer in the village seeking work.

A village trustee pointed out the signs said nothing about consequences for violating these guidelines – because there are no consequences.

“We’re not threatening anyone,” said Rabbi Jacob Freund. “Everybody is free to come in and be the same, like all other places in the United States.”

So dressing like Jessica Pantalemon may elicit a scowl, but it won’t earn you a summons.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said because the signs were paid for privately and are not on public land and they pass constitutional muster.

 

What if they were Muslim?: Israeli Lashed 39 Times by Rabbi for Singing

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , on August 31, 2010 by loonwatch

Can you imagine if this happened in a Muslim country? This actually happened in “secular” Israel, not Saudi Arabia or Iran and at the hands of a Rabbi.

If a Muslim cleric had done it you can be sure that Spencer and company would be wailing about how oppressive Shariah is and how there is no fun in Islam. Will we hear a peep from Spencer about this? Don’t hold your breath.

‘Sinner’ singer given 39 lashes by rabbis

A singer who performed in front of a “mixed audience” of men and women was lashed 39 times to make him “repent,” after a ruling by a self-described rabbinic court on Wednesday.

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, founder of the Shofar organization aimed at bringing Jews “back to religion” (hazara betshuva), has made it his recent mission to fight against musical performances for both men and women.

His “judicial panel,” with Rabbi Ben Zion Mutsafi and another member, sentenced Erez Yechiel to 39 lashes in order to “rid him of his sins.”

In a video clip of the court posted on the Shofar Web site, Ben Zion said that those who make others sin (mahtiei rabim), such as artists who make men and women attend performances or dance together, have no place in the world to come.

He displayed a leather strip he said was made by his father from ass and bull skin, with which Yechiel was to have been whipped.

Yechiel, who said, “I accept upon myself the lashing for my sins,” was ordered to stand by a wooden poll with his head facing north (“from whence the evil inclination comes”), his hands tied with a azure-colored rope (“a symbol of mercy”), and served his “sentence.”

 

Christians Must Obey God’s Law Over the Constitution

Posted in Feature, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2010 by loonwatch
God's Law vs the laws of manGod’s Law vs the laws of man

Shortly after the Fort Hood Shooting, I published an article entitled Muslim Americans Must Obey U.S. Laws; Major Nidal Hasan Violated Islamic Doctrine, in which I detailed how Islamic doctrine dictates that Muslims  are religiously obligated to obey the laws of the land.  (This is similar to the Jewish concept of dina d’malchuta dina.)  The article generated an interesting discussion, with Islamophobes struggling to prove that Major Nidal Hasan’s treason was sanctioned by the Islamic religion.

An Islamophobe who routinely comments on our site posted the following:

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 203:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:

The ‘Prophet said, “It is obligatory for one to listen to and obey (the ruler’s orders) unless these orders involve one disobedience (to Allah); but if an act of disobedience (to Allah) is imposed, he should not listen to or obey it.”

This hadith, and others similar to it, are used by Islamophobes to call into question the loyalty of Muslim Americans.  Muslims must obey the Sharia over and above the Constitution, they bellow. Yet, what these self-proclaimed defenders of the Western Judeo-Christian tradition fail to mention is that Christians believe in obeying God’s Law (the Christian Sharia) over and above the laws of the land.  If God’s Law and the Constitution were to be in conflict, the Christian would be religiously obligated to follow the former.

Let’s take a gander at some reputable Christian “fatwa sites”…The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry decrees:

[Question:] Shall we obey God’s Law or human law?

[Answer:] …The simple answer is that Christians are to obey human law except where that human law violates God’s Law.  Our supreme duty is to obey God.  Since God tells us to also obey human laws, we should.  But, when they come in conflict, we are to “obey God rather than men.”

GotQuestions.org says (emphasis is mine):

Question: “Do Christians have to obey the laws of the land?”

Answer: …We are to obey the government God places over us…

The next question is “Is there a time when we should intentionally disobey the laws of the land?” The answer to that question may be found in Acts 5:27-29, “Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’” From this, it is clear that as long as the law of the land does not contradict the law of God, we are bound to obey the law of the land. As soon as the law of the land contradicts God’s command, we are to disobey the law of the land and obey God’s law…

And the same site says elsewhere:

God commands us to obey the governmental authorities. The only allowance we have for disobeying the authorities is if they demand that we disobey something God has commanded (Acts 5:29)

And:

Romans 13:1-7 makes it abundantly clear that God expects us to obey the laws of the government. The ONLY exception to this is when a law of the government forces you to disobey a command of God (Acts 5:29).

In fact, the Christian apologist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)–who is called “the father of modern international law”–writes in his book The Law of War and Peace (as quoted on p.184 of William J Federer’s The Ten Commandments and Their Influence on American Law):

Among all good men one principle at any rate is established beyond controversy, thatif the authorities issue any order that is contrary to the law of nature or to the commandments of God, the order should not be carried out. For when the Apostles said the obedience should be rendered to God rather than to men they appealed to an infallible rule of action.

In Judaism as well, there are times when a Jew is obligated to break the laws of the land; Rabbi Israel Schneider writes:

Indeed, there are times when the civil law, in conflict with the halacha [Jewish Law], is not binding.

In fact, this has created problems for the peace process, with some Jews refusing to evacuate the illegal settlements, thereby breaking international law in favor of their interpretation of the Halacha.  The Jerusalem Post writes:

Ex-IDF rabbis: Halacha is above military orders

A group of seven former IDF rabbis, including the former chief rabbis of the air force, the navy and the IDF Educational Division, have declared that in situations where Halacha and military orders clash, Halacha takes precedence.

So this belief, of following God’s commands above man’s, is shared by all three of the Abrahamic faiths.  It is strange then that Islamophobes, the self-proclaimed defenders of the Western Judeo-Christian tradition, only fear monger when it comes to Islamic beliefs.  It is this huge double standard that we have come to expose on our site.

Addendum:

A Muslim is religiously obligated to obey the laws of the land he lives in.  But he is only religiously permitted to live in non-Muslim lands in which he is free to practice his religion.  If the laws of the land would compel him to sin, then the Muslim is commanded to emigrate to another land where this is not the case.  (He is advised to leave the land, but is not permitted to rebel against the authority.)  Muslim Americans feel comfortable living in the United States of America, because of the country’s dedication to maintaining the freedom of worship.  As such, they feel there is no conflict between being an observant Muslim on the one hand and an American citizen on the other.

Muslim Americans are naturally weary of fighting their coreligionists in foreign wars that they feel are illegal and immoral.  However, there is currently no draft, and there has not been one for over thirty years.  (The draft is unconstitutional.)  As such, Muslims are not forced to fight in wars they feel are religiously impermissible, and thus there is no conflict.  At the same time, Muslim Americans feel that they have a very important role to play, building lines of communication and understanding between Muslims and Americans.  Muslim Americans believe in using all legal and peaceful political means at their disposal to bring their country away from war and to the path of peace.