I did the majority of my chemo in the fine city of Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn, you might have heard, is home to one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East – about 1/3 of its approximately 100,000 residents are Arab, most of whom are Muslims. And while my experience might have been different than everybody else’s, nobody ever tried to convert me. Or impose Sharia law on me and my visitors.
So I was a little surprised (actually, not at all surprised, but go with it) to see that the imposition of Sharia has apparently become a real problem in Michigan since I left. To the point where we need to pass laws to ban it:
A state lawmaker wants Michigan to join the trend of states banning "foreign laws," but Muslim activists say the effort is a thinly veiled attack on Islam.
Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, is pushing a bill to bar the implementation of foreign laws. It doesn't mention Sharia — Islamic law — but he acknowledged it would be prohibited in courts under the legislation intended to prevent anyone "who tries to shove any foreign law down our throats."
"No foreign law shall supersede federal laws or constitution or state laws or constitution," Agema said. "Our law is our law. I don't like foreign entities telling us what to do."
Jesus, man. What immigrant pissed in your Wheaties this morning, Dave?
Best I can tell, the bill (pdf) does absolutely nothing of consequence. Every provision prohibits applying foreign law in a manner that would “violate the constitutional rights” of an individual. Which, to the best of my knowledge, is pretty well foreclosed by, you know, the Constitution.
Perhaps Agema could enlighten the rest of us as to why this bill is necessary, or even what it would actually do in practice. But instead, he just seems like a really pissed off Lee Greenwood on steroids:
"If anybody has a problem with this that means they don't agree with U.S. laws," he said. "If they don't want it passed then they have an ulterior agenda. It shows the people accusing me of that (bigotry) are guilty of it themselves."
And while you don’t want to read too much into anything on the internet, the public seems to be buying this bigtime:
The erudite highest-rated comment on the Free Press story is also worth an excerpt:
This is the United States of America, we are ruled by common law. If you want to live under sharia law, than move to a country where sharia law is the law of the land.
I’ll leave the message board comment alone, except to say 1) it’s wrong, and 2) no argumentative sentence that includes the phrase “the United States of America” has ever succeeded, with the exception of Otter’s closing argument in Animal House.
The real issue is how dangerously stupid this pretty damn racist publicity stunt is. The Detroit News, to its credit, tries to figure out the potential impact of this law:
Christine Brim, a spokeswoman for the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., said her group has identified 50 cases that could be influenced by Sharia. Most involved divorce or child custody and one was in Michigan, she said.
That sounds scary (actually it doesn’t at all. It just sounds like we’re proposing a pretty racist and incendiary law for pretty much no reason whatsoever. But the "women and children” implications could be construed in such a way). But what does it really mean? UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh explains:
Every year, millions of people from other countries legally come to America, whether as citizens, permanent residents, temporary workers, students, tourists, or whatever else.
American law naturally wants to know certain things about them. Are they married? If they were married, are they divorced? Were the supposed adoptive children they’re bringing with them really adopted? How about the property they’re bringing with them — who really owns it? If they go back to their country of origin, and come back claiming that they divorced the spouses that are still living there, are they telling the truth?
The way that American law generally answers these questions is by looking at the law of the foreign country in which the actions initially took place, especially if the parties to those actions were citizens or residents of that country — for instance, the place where the marriage supposedly took place, where the supposed divorce or adoption decree was procured, or where the property was acquired. If the question is whether a marriage contracted in France between two French citizens is valid, you look to whether the law of France was properly complied with in entering into the marriage. If the question is whether two Taiwanese properly divorced in Taiwan, you look at the divorce decree from the Taiwanese court, and if there are questions about its validity or scope you consult Taiwanese law…
This is not some newfangled international law theory. This is deeply established American law — specifically the body of law called “choice of law” — which has long called for the consideration of foreign law in such situations.
The thing is, I have no idea how the proposed law would impact this situation. I have no idea how it would impact any situation. I’m not sure who exactly is trying to “shove foreign laws down our throats,” or how an American court could somehow use German law to violate an American citizen’s First Amendment rights. The legal issues here are rather complex, but the best I can tell, this is a meaningless political stunt.
But I do know that this bill will stoke political and racial firestorms and promote ignorant views about our legal system. And given Agema’s “America, F*** Yeah!!” defense of this stupid bill, it seems that’s exactly what he wanted. This is something that should get you criticized. But in politics, it gets you elected.