Archive for Juan Cole

Seymour Hersh Reveals that MEK Terrorists Were Trained in the USA by the Pentagon

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2012 by loonwatch

As Glenn Greenwald noted in his book “With Liberty and Justice for Some,” equality before the law is an illusion in the United States. If you are wealthy and have political clout you are most likely to get away with breaking the law and committing crimes, such as “material support” of terrorism.

We reported in July of last year that many politicians from both parties were working with and receiving money from a US State Department designated terrorist organization, the MEK. A group Islamophobes are also quite fond of at the moment.

It was then revealed that the US and Israel have been supporting the MEK to carry out terrorist missions in Iran. Now it has been revealed by the trailblazing investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh that the Pentagon has been training the MEK in Nevada for years, starting in 2005:

US Pentagon Trained Iranian terrorists in Nevada: Hersh

Posted on 04/07/2012 by Juan Cole

The intrepid Seymour Hersh reports at the New Yorker that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) of the US military gave members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK or People’s Holy Jihadis) training in signals intelligence at a facility in Nevada during the Bush era. The MEK was then and is now on the US State Department’s terrorism watch list, so the Pentagon’s deployment of this group was quite illegal.

The MEK was given a base in eastern Iraq by Saddam Hussein, who used the some 4,000 guerrillas who gathered there to harass the Islamic Republic of Iran. The MEK had its origins in an Islamic-Marxist guerrilla group of the 1970s that fought the forces of the Shah. It joined in the revolution against the Shah in 1978-79 but broke with the Khomeini regime and turned to a massive campaign of bombing and sniping against it. In return, the regime killed some 10,000 suspected MEK members, many of whom it just shot down in the street. The group evolved into a political cult, with insistence on glaze-eyed absolute obedience to the leader, Maryam Rajavi, and cult-like practices such as forced marriages and divorces (not to mention the long history of violence inside Iran).

When the US occupied Iraq, some in the Pentagon adopted the MEK at Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border for use against Iran. The MEK has bought a lot of big American politicians and seems to have promised the Israelis it would recognize Israel if it ever came to power in Iran; figures connected to the Israel lobbies have hypocritically campaigned to have the MEK delisted as a terrorist organization, despite it long and bloody record of attacks on civilians. As recently as this year, NBC quoted unnamed US government officials alleging that the MEK has been assassinating Iranian scientists in Iran.

Hersh reveals a trail of blatant hypocrisy on the part of the US government. “Our” terrorists are not terrorists even if they have blown up non-combatants, but national liberation groups such as Hizbullah in Lebanon are designated terrorists. Government officials have even brandished the word “terrorism” to describe perfectly peaceful protesters and dissidents inside the US, while JSOC was flying dyed-in-the-wool terrorists to Nevada for training.

The USG Open Source Center translated a report in the MEK newspaper regarding the hobnobbing of Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton and others with the MEK leadership in Paris recently:

“– On 24 March, the NCRI secretariat website published a report on an international conference held in Paris to address MEK concerns and issues, which was attended by NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi as well as former high ranking officials from the United States and Europe including Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, John Bolton, Patrick Kennedy, and Colonel Wesley Martin.. According to the report, the issues raised included the adoption of a “decisive policy” against Iran’s regime, protection of the rights of Camp Ashraf and Liberty residents, and the elimination of MEK’s “terrorist label.” Rajavi said that “the only way to prevent an Iranian atomic bomb or the occurrence of an unprecedented conflict” was “regime change” by the Iranian people and resistance. On the issue of Camp Liberty, Rudy Giuliani said: “Let us go there. Let us see it with our own eyes.” He added: “Currently the enemy of stopping Iran becoming nuclear is appeasement. This wrong perception has made Iran more determined in becoming nuclear. Let us stop appeasement. Let us stop the efforts for negotiations. Stop writing letters to the ayatollahs. Let us rise up and say as Americans that we are for regime change in Iran and we will take every step necessary to stop Iran becoming nuclear” (National Council of Resistance of Iran in Persian — Website of an exiled political umbrella coalition of Marxist and Islamist organizations — Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO), National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA), People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and Muslim Iranian Students Society (MISS); on US State Department’s list of terrorist groups since 1997; URL: http://www.iranncr.org/).”

As Sheila Musaji points out, lots of American Muslims are in jail for ‘material support of terrorism,’ but American politicians and pundits get a free pass for actively supporting the MEK– which, remember, is definitively on the terrorism watch list.

Note to the US government and the Neocons: George Orwell’s 1984 was a dark political satire, not a blueprint for how you should do things.

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Juan Cole: Basic Facts on Clothing and Murder for American Bigots

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2012 by loonwatch

Hard hitting piece from Juan Cole, addressed to the bigots (h/t:BA):

Basic Facts on Clothing and Murder for American Bigots

(Informed Comment)

Dear American bigots:

Basic Fact: Wearing a veil, as Iraqi-American Shaima al-Awady did before she was brutally murdered in her home as part of a hate crime, does not make a person a terrorist. You don’t mind it when pious Roman Catholic women wear a nun’s habit, and you recognize that dress as a sign of dedication to God. You don’t blame all the violence ever committed by Roman Catholics, or events like the Inquisition, on a nun in your neighborhood. Be as tolerant to pious Muslim women.

Basic Fact: Wearing a hoodie is not an invitation to murder, as Geraldo Rivera suggested it was in the case of Trayvon Martin. In fact, if you think about it, St. Francis of Assisi wore a hood, as did many other saints and monks. In the United States, we don’t kill people for how they dress, but how dressing like St. Francis is a crime is a special mystery.

Basic Fact: And, by the way, there is nothing worse than being both a bigot and a f*ck-up. So for God’s sake leave the poor Sikhs alone. Few Muslim men wear turbans, so if you see someone with a turban and a beard, he is likely from Indian Punjab and not a Muslim. I mean, you shouldn’t be bothering Muslims either, but your sad ass is definitely going to clown hell if you shoot down a Sikh because you mistook him for a Muslim.

Basic Fact: And by the way, all this emphasis on clothing as a motive for murder is just a smokescreen for sidestepping the real issue, which is that bigots shouldn’t be allowed to have hand guns. In fact, since you can’t hunt deer with a hand gun and most owners of a hand gun are not reservists in the National Guard of their state, it is unclear why the US tolerates so many hand guns. In countries like Britain, which do not, the murder rate by gun is vanishingly small compared to the annual carnage in the US.

Juan Cole: God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , on January 19, 2012 by loonwatch

Prof. Juan Cole notes that in a poll taken a few years ago, three-quarters of Americans couldn’t find Iran on a map and another two-thirds couldn’t find Iraq.  This fact didn’t stop a majority of Americans from supporting the invasion of Iraq by a ratio of two-to-one.  What does it say about a people when they support bombing a country before even knowing where it is?  But anyways, why are those Muslims so violent and warlike?

God’s Way of Teaching Americans Geography

by: Juan Cole

With all the talk of Iran and Israel among the GOP presidential candidates, it is worth remembering that in this poll of a few years ago, three quarters of Americans could find neither Israel nor Iran on a map. Despite the US being at that time the occupying power in Iraq, some two-thirds couldn’t recognize that one, either.

A few more did recognize Iraq than the others, reminding one of Ambrose Bierce’s dictum that “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

I suggest a new regulation on war. If a majority of your country cannot find the enemy country on the map, they aren’t interested enough to justify making war against it.

As for why Americans cannot find countries on the map, I personally think this unfairly maligned contestant got it right:

Reply to Prof. Juan Cole

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by loonwatch

Prof. Juan Cole was kind enough to link to my article Eye-Opening Graphic: Map of Muslim Countries that the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed.

He reproduced this image I created:

(Note: Image quality has improved, thanks to a reader named Mohamed S.)

However, he wrote:

(I generally agree, but there are a couple of problems here, see below)

Prof. Cole’s first problem with my article was with regard to shading Iran red (red = countries the U.S. or Israel have bombed):

I may be having a senior moment, but I actually don’t think the US has bombed Iran. It shot down an Iranian civilian air liner in 1988 and has backed the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Jihadis to blow things up in Iran. It also gave tactical support to Saddam Hussein’s military in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, and so bombed Iran by proxy. But I can’t remember any direct US military strike on the country.

In my article, I explained why I shaded Iran red.  I wrote:

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. is currently bombing AfghanistanIraqPakistanYemenSomalia, and Libya.  According to some reports (see here and here), we can add Iran to this ever-expanding list.

There have been a series of explosions in Iran which many believe to be linked to America and/or Israel.  For example:

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in bomb attack

Bomb attacks have killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran, state TV reported today.

To me, a bomb is a bomb is a bomb–no matter how it is delivered.

Just today Haaretz is reporting:

Seven killed in explosion at Iranian steel mill linked with nuclear program

Explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program.

At least seven people were killed Sunday night in an explosion at a steel mill in the Iranian city of Yazd. Foreign nationals, possibly North Korean nuclear arms experts, are believed to be among the dead.

The explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program…

The explosions in the past few months join a series of assassination attempts on Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years…

The Los Angeles Times writes:

Mysterious blasts, slayings suggest covert efforts in Iran

Attacks targeting nuclear scientists and sites lead some observers to believe that the U.S. and Israel are trying to derail Iran’s programs…

However, many former U.S. intelligence officials and Iran experts believe that the explosion — the most destructive of at least two dozen unexplained blasts in the last two years — was part of a covert effort by the U.S., Israel and others to disable Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The goal, the experts say, is to derail what those nations fear is Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability and to stave off an Israeli or U.S. airstrike to eliminate or lessen the threat.

Therefore, I did not feel it unreasonable to include Iran in countries that America/Israel have bombed, although I did preface it with “[a]ccording to some experts…”

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

Also, the US has had no base in Uzbekistan since 2005.

In my article, I hyperlinked to this BBC News article:

US troops returning to Uzbek base

Uzbekistan is once again allowing the US to use a base in the south of the country for operations in Afghanistan…

US troops were evicted from Uzbekistan in 2005 after the US condemned it for shooting protesters in Andijan city.

However, Prof. Cole is correct: these U.S. troops are using an Uzbek, not American, base.  This is something I should have pointed out and is an error on my part for which I thank Prof. Cole for pointing out.

Nonetheless, this error makes little substantive difference: there is still a U.S. military presence in that country, regardless of if they are stationed on a U.S. base, an Uzbek one, a farm house, or a dog house.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have entitled the image “Countries the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed and Have Troops Stationed in,” (which doesn’t flow from the tongue as easily).

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

I also questioned Turkmenistan but found this.

In my article, I linked to this.

Lastly, Prof. Cole said:

Finally, there is a logical fallacy because having a US base in a country is the result of a bilateral agreement and it isn’t always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street. In the Cold War, Turks were very happy to have the US presence to deter the Soviets.

I humbly disagree that this was “a logical fallacy” on my part.  I never denied that there was a substantial difference between a military base resulting from “a bilateral agreement” and one resulting from a military occupation.

However, there is also a difference between (say) “a bilateral agreement” with the U.K. on the one hand and Pakistan on the other.  The former is treated as an ally, whereas the latter is treated as a vassal state.  The U.S. strong-armed the Pakistani leadership into acquiescing to American demands (do what we want or else “we will bomb you back to the Stone Age”) even though it was clearly not in their national interest to do so (well, not being bombed back to the Stone Age made it their national interest).

This leads to the second issue: these “bilateral agreements” are often highly unpopular among the people of such countries.  As a democratic country, shouldn’t we care about the will of the people?  Or do we follow a long tradition of colonialism and make deals with the elite crony leadership that has ingratiated itself to us at the expense of their people?

Prof. Cole goes on to argue that U.S. military bases arranged through bilateral agreements aren’t “always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street.”  He gives the example of Turkey in the Cold War.  However, there is a greater issue at stake here: even if a U.S. military base is popular in one particular country, we must consider its popularity in neighboring countries and the region overall.  If the Soviet Union had created a military base in Cuba (which the Cubans may have very much liked), would we have liked it?  Or would we have (rightfully) considered it threatening?

So, even if a U.S. base in (say) Saudi Arabia was arranged through “bilateral agreement” and was (let’s pretend) popular with the Saudi people, this would still be problematic since its presence is threatening to other countries in the region, whose people view the United States and Israel as the two greatest threats to their safety.

The bottom line is that the overwhelming military presence of the United States in the Greater Middle East is responsible for creating resentment in those people who are either living in lands we occupy, station our troops in, or whom we surround.

*  *  *  *  *

I should mention that I hold Prof. Juan Cole in very high regard.  He is a respected expert in the field, and I issue my response only very timidly.  Furthermore, I welcome the very real possibility that I am mistaken.

Update I:

Prof. Cole just added:

Still, that there are a lot of resentments because of knee-jerk US backing (since the late 1960s) for Israeli hawks and because of the way the US and its ally have sought hegemony in the region, so the mapmaker has a point.

I agree, but would just add that it adds resentment not just in people who live in Turkey but those who live in the region in general.

Lastly, I should point out that I doubt Turks still view the U.S. bases in their country positively, based on the fact that a plurality of Turks view America as the greatest threat to their national security (not surprisingly, Israel comes in at number 2).

Update II:

An Informed Comment reader named Shannon pointed out that in fact the United States bombed Iran in 1988 during Operating Praying Mantis, an act that “cannot be justified” according to the International Court of Justice.

White Terrorism: Jared Lee Loughner Shoots Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by loonwatch

Another case of, “All Muslims are Terrorist…no, wait.”

White Terrorism

by Juan Cole

Jared Lee Loughner,the assassin of Federal judge John M. Roll and five others and attempted assassin of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ), was clearly mentally unstable. But the political themes of his instability were those of the American far Right. Loughner was acting politically even if he is not all there. He is said to have called out the names of his victims, such as Roll and Gifford, as he fired. As usual, when white people do these things, the mass media doesn’t call it terrorism.

It is irrelevant that Loughner may (at this point we can only say “may”) have been a liberal years earlier in high school. If so, he changed. And among the concerns that came to dominate him as he moved to the Right was the illegitimacy of the “Second Constitution” (the 14th Amendment, which bestows citizenship on all those born in the US, a provision right-wingers in Arizona are trying to overturn at the state level). Loughner also thought that Federal funding for his own community college was unconstitutional, and he was thrown out for becoming violent over the issue. He obviously shared with the Arizona Right a fascination with firearms, and it is telling that a disturbed young man who had had brushes with the law was able to come by an automatic pistol. He is said to have used marijuana, which would be consistent with a form of anti-government, right-wing Libertarianism. I don’t think we can take too seriously the list of books he said he liked, as a guide to his political thinking. They could just have been randomly pulled off some list of great books on the Web, since there is no coherence to the choices.

The man who had most to do with Loughner after his arrest, Pima County Sherriff Clarence W. Dupnik, was clearly angered by what he heard from the assassin: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry … it is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

When Gifford helped pass the Health Care bill, according to Suzy Khimm, “extremists subsequently encouraged the public to throw bricks through the windows of lawmakers.” Gifford had to call the police once before when an attendee at one of her events dropped a gun. Gifford had complained ‘ in an MSNBC interview that a Sarah Palin graphic had depicted her district in the crosshair of a gun sight. “They’ve got to realize there are consequences to that,” she said. “The rhetoric is incredibly heated.” ‘

The subtext of the angst over the shooting of Gifford is that in recent months Loughner was saying Tea-Party-like things about the Federal government. The violent language of “elimination,” “putting in the cross-hairs,” (as with Palin’s poster, above) “taking back,” “taking out,” to which members of that movement so often resort, has created a heated atmosphere that easily seeps into the unconscious of the mentally disturbed. That is Dupnik’s point.

There apparently is some indication that Loughner had an accomplice, and his arrest and identification will shed a great deal more light on the motivations behind this political massacre. Did Loughner have a Rasputin?

In some ways, the turn of Loughner to the themes of the American far right parallels what happened to Michael Enright, who slashed the throat of a Bangladeshi cab driver at the height of the campaign promoting hatred of Muslims launched last summer-fall by Rick Lazio and Rupert Murdoch. Everyone should have learned from that tragedy that heated rhetoric has consequences.

Those right-wing bloggers who want to dismiss Loughner as merely disturbed are being hypocritical, since they won’t similarly dismiss obviously unstable Muslims who, like the so-called “Patriots” of the McVeigh stripe, sometimes turn violent. (Zacharias Moussawi, for instance, isn’t playing with a full set of backgammon dominoes, and blaming Islam for him is bizarre). In fact, the right-wing Muslim crackpots and the right-wing American crackpots are haunted by similar anxieties, about a powerful government in Washington undermining their localistic ideas of the good life.

AP has video on the shootings, h/t LAT.

Among the last things Gifford did before she was shot was to reply to the Tea Party-inspired congressional reading of the Constitution by reading out the Bill of Rights. She obviously enjoyed pronouncing the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” But where members of Congress encourage extreme rhetoric, and where Rupert Murdoch’s stable of demagogues use code to whip up racial hatred and violence, those rights can be withdrawn by vigilante and mob violence. Not the letter of the Constitution can protect us, but only its spirit, and then only when implemented in our daily lives.

 

Loonwatch in the Media: NPR and Juan Cole’s Informed Comment

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2010 by loonwatch

Loonwatch has been in the media quite a bit, The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, etc. and now NPR and Professor Juan Cole at his Informed Comment.

Muslims Try to Get Media-Savvy (go to 3:15)
http://www.wnyc.org/media/audioplayer/red_progress_player_no_pop.swf

by Arun Venugopal

Muslim intellectuals and activists appear to have a favorite source of TV news: “The Daily Show,” which reliably skewers critics of Islam and Islam-based hysteria, and is in all likelihood the only program with a Senior Islamic Correspondent, in Aasif Mandvi.

More serious, but equally edgy is LoonWatch, a relatively new Web site whose editors want to remain anonymous. The people behind LoonWatch (which bears the faux-alarmist tagline, “The Mooslims! They’re Heeere!”) said their mission is to expose “anti-Muslim loons, wackos, and conspiracy theorists” on the Internet.  One of their most widely-circulated articles was “All Terrorists are Muslims… except the 94% who Aren’t,” and was based on FBI statistics showing that only 6 percent of terrorists since 1980 have been Muslim.

DePaul University professor Laith Saud said LoonWatch is not only funny and incisive, but much better at addressing Islam and critics of Islam than the mainstream media.

“In terms of the intellectual claims being made by Islamophobes, those really go unchallenged,” he said. “What the mainstream media is really concerned with is how Islamophobia is playing out politically in this country, in terms of Republicans and Democrats, in terms of voter registration and voter drives.

Loonwatch’s beef it should be reiterated is not with mere critics of Islam but those who traffic in irrational fear of Islam and are pushing an anti-Muslim agenda. The reason we get it more than the mainstream media is because we are ahead of the game. We have been talking about Spencer, Geller and the anti-Muslim movement and its potential to create Islamophobiapalooza for a year and a half now, long before the mainstream media. We have knowledgeable people from all backgrounds, because in the end the fight against bigotry and hate is a universal fight.

Professor Juan Cole used the analysis we first published on the Europol report on terrorist attacks in Europe and also linked to us in a great blog piece on Informed Comment.

On Juan Williams’ Firing for Islamophobia and how Most European Terrorism is by European Separatists

A Europol report on terrorist attacks in Europe in 2009 [pdf] says that out of hundreds of terrorist attacks iin Europe in 2009, most were the work of ethnic separatists. About 40 were carried out by members of the extreme left. A handful by the European far right. See also this analysis.

One terrorist attack was carried out in 2009 in all Europe by persons of Muslim heritage (I do not say ‘by a Muslim’ because terrorism is forbidden in Islamic law).

That is right. Out of hundreds. Exactly one.

After all that nonsense spewed on the internet and Fox Cable News about the danger of Muslims to Europe, and all the ethnic profiling and other discrimination against Muslims, it turns out that not only is their religion not dangerous, even the persons who depart from it into extremism and terrorism are tiny in number. Now it would not be right to profile or generalize about Basques, the Real IRA, etc., either. But even by the lights of the bigoted, it would be a waste of time to obsess about Muslims on this evidence.

As for the European far left and far right, those it is all right to generalize about and to conclude that they are, like, very dangerous. Two words: Stalin and Hitler. Extremists of Muslim heritage have killed a few thousands of people over the past century. European political extremists have killed tens of millions.

 

Cole takes Palin to task on loony comments about Shariah

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by loonwatch
Shariah “expert” Sarah Palin

Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan, rips into Sarah Palin’s comments about Islamic law taking over America as well as her comments on Iran. It seems like Palin has been reading Jihad Watch or Atlas Shrugs to educate herself on Islamic Law. What else could explain her crazy assertion that shariah is somehow a threat to become the law of the United States.

Palin Fear-Mongers on Iran, Sharia (Informed Comment)

Republican gadfly Sarah Palin said in an interview with Newsmax Tuesday that Russia should be warned against helping Iran because if Iran got a nuclear weapon it would bring about Armageddon.

She also warned against the imposition of what she called Muslim sharia law on Americans and said they would never put up with it.

Give me a break. No one is working harder to impose a religious law code on Americans than Palin herself. Palin is one of those people who says she would like to forbid abortion even in cases of rape or danger to the mother’s life. Palin’s hostility to pro-choice positions derives from her belief in the supremacy of Christian law, which she wants to impose on all Americans. For more see my classic Salon essay on how many of Palin’s stances track with sharia or actually are more rigid.

Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, and says it does not want one and would not accept one. There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly certified that no nuclear material is being diverted to military purposes from Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment facilities in Natanz near Isfahan.

In contrast, the United States and Russia each has thousands of nuclear warheads, and smaller nuclear arsenals are possessed by Britain, France, China, and Israel.

It is difficult to see how Iran, a poor weak state with virtually no air force to speak of, and which is defenseless against a nuclear-armed superpower, could possibly cause an ‘Armageddon’ or show-down battle ushering in the Last Days

As for sharia, this allegation that Muslims are conspiring to impose their religious law on the United States is just propaganda from an American right wing that has destroyed the US economy and weakened the constitution, and has no one to blame for it but themselves. So they have nothing to run on but fear. They tried making Americans afraid of Latinos, but there are so many Latino voters that the tactic caused them to crash and burn. They needed a small group to position as threatening to middle America. They really miss the Communists. You could always run against the Communists, and there were hardly any in the US, so there was no down side.

So now they are coming after the some 6 million American Muslims.

Sharia does not have a fixed meaning. It is the living tradition of Muslim religious law. It is analogous to Roman Catholic canon law. What Palin is doing is similar to raising an alarm that the country’s 80 million Catholics have a secret plan to make canon law the law of the land and impose it on clueless Protestant Americans.

Ooops. The one place where attempts are being made to make the US conform to canon law is law around abortion, which is forbidden in Roman Catholic law but allowed in American law.

And guess what. Sarah Palin agrees with the imposition of canon law in that area of forbidding abortions.

US law already overlaps with Muslim sharia in the essentials. Sharia law forbids murder. It forbids theft. Etc.

Most of the elements of sharia to which Americans might object are traditional and are being reformed by Muslims themselves. Thus, sharia traditionally allowed a man to take up to four wives. But in many Muslim countries that practice has been curtailed. Or people think about harsh punishments such as stoning for adultery. But the Qur’an does not mention stoning anyone, and stoning adulterers is actually a feature of Jewish law or halakha that was probably brought into Islam by rabbi converts in the 8th or 9th century. Egypt has made the age of marriage 18, even though Muslim legal tradition allowed marriage at a much earlier age. But then Roman Catholic canon law in the medieval era set the marriage age at 12, as did Jewish religious law. All religious systems of law in the medieval period tended to allow marriage with the onset of puberty. Americans who get all high and mighty about sharia should remember that 18th century British law prescribed hanging for minor theft.

There is no mechanism whereby Muslim religious law could be imposed on Americans (it would have to be legislated by Congress, which is much more likely to make us live by Leviticus). The US Supreme Court has ruled that a law may not be passed if it does not have a secular purpose (that is why we can work on Sundays now; blue laws don’t have a secular purpose.

But since the United States has an Anglo-Saxon, common law legal system that privileges custom as a source of law, it is inevitable that judges will occasionally have to take sharia into account when adjudicating disputes among American Muslims. US judges can take precedents from anywhere, and have occasionally cited rulings of, e.g., the Indian Supreme Court. The only way to avoid this situation would be to adopt the Napoleonic code and give up on custom and precedent as contributors to law. That would be a much bigger break with American legal traditions than merely occasionally citing Muslim legal practice in settling disputes among Muslims.