Saturday, February 19, 2011

Arizona Attempts to Ban Karma, Sharia Law, and All Forms of Intelligence

There has been some stir up online about a bill currently being considered in the Arizona state legislature. Members of the American Muslim and Buddhist communities have pointed out the religious bigotry behind the bill, but there is even more behind lurking behind the words of this bill.

The 2010 “Arizona Foreign Decisions Act” has been reintroduced in 2011 as HB 2582. Among other (statutory) provisions:

* Declares the acceptance of Arizona into the Union was a “compact”.
* Declares “Congress has no authority to preempt state regulation of state courts.”
* Prohibits courts from implementing, referring or incorporating or using “a tenet of any body of religious sectarian law” and specifically includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma.
* Exempts from the above prohibitions decisions based on Anglo-American legal tradition, laws or case law from Great Britain prior enactment of the statute, or the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, “and the principles on which the United States was founded.”
* Prohibits use of any case law or statute from a non-U.S. jurisdiction or “foreign body”, including the United Nations.
* Declares decisions that make use of a body of religious sectarian law or foreign law declared void and usages declared to be grounds for impeachment.
* Declares these provisions apply to Federal courts sitting in diversity jurisdiction.
* Requires any state or Federal court that construes this statute must do so in a way to confine the power of Congress and the federal judiciary.

I'm going to be quite blunt. This is a secessionist piece of legislation driven by privileged WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) racists intent on driving people of color, religious minorities, and anyone else deemed a threat underground, or out of Arizona all together. The inclusion of canon law, no doubt, is a pointed shot at the predominantly Catholic Latino/Latina community, which has been a frequent target of all varieties of hatred under the sun in Arizona. Religious and racial oppression have often been linked in the United States (and many other nations), precisely because religious minorities are also, at least in part, racial minorities.

But this bill's stated contempt for not only national law, but also international law, adds another element - that of secession from the union - which I haven't seen highlighted in other discussions. The snow birds and others who have become accustomed to enjoying all those pristine golf courses and perfectly green lawns - courtesy of the disappearing Colorado River - want to drive out all the "impediments" currently blocking their paradise on earth.

The three poisons of Buddhism come to mind - greed, hatred, and ignorance. It's tough to see them coming out in such oppressive terms, but there they are none the less. Across the U.S., similar, if less wide-reaching laws are being considered in over a dozen states. While states are claiming near bankruptcy, and millions of people are struggling to find jobs, pay bills, get decent health care, and generally cover their basic needs, this is the kind of horseshit being peddled in response.

For those of you outside of the U.S., or whom aren't up on your history, there are a few interesting things to consider about Arizona.

1. It has only been an official state for 99 years, having become part of the Union on Valentines Day (lol!) in 1912.

2. The vast majority of white Arizonans arrived there only after statehood, which makes the claims of white supremacist groups and their sympathizers all the more ridiculous.

3. Arizona was part of a broad imperialist expansion of United States territory to the Pacific ocean that occurred in 1840's and 1850s.

4. Although much has been made in recent decades about undocumented Latino/Latina immigration across the Mexican/U.S., fairly large Latino/Latina communities have made parts of Arizona home for at least three centuries.

5. Navajo, Hopi, and other indigenous groups have called Arizona home for even longer than that.

Given that there isn't close to a majority of Arizona legislators currently publicly backing this bill, it probably won't become law. But I don't think it would be wise to dismiss this as the effort of some tiny fringe group. We might not have reached the stage of government ousting that has spread across the Middle East, but things are really flammable in the U.S. right now, and there's no telling what exactly could come next. All the more reason to keep training yourself in the tools of non-violence, and to help spread those tools to others, however you can.

*Photo is a graphic representation of the three poisons.


Kyle said...

You are right Nathan, and that is an aspect I hadn't really thought about. As for passage of the bill, they lack the votes in the state Senate, but may have the votes in the state house. Gov Brewer has shown some support for parts of the bill, but she hasn't spoken about the more controversial parts...well, its all controversial, isn't it? With the racial profiling bill they passed, which wasn't popular with many Arizona politicians at first, I wouldn't count this bill out passing in a few years they way things are going down there.

Nathan said...

"With the racial profiling bill they passed, which wasn't popular with many Arizona politicians at first, I wouldn't count this bill out passing in a few years they way things are going down there." This is a good point. Strange times we live in.

per cercare capire said...

Now, while I do find it completely plausible that this act is an attempt to further conservative Christian ideas, I don't necessarily agree that the wording of the bill is inherently discriminatory. While I (with my own beliefs) may find it silly to outlaw concepts such as Karma, someone of another faith will feel the same about their own religious beliefs. What this act seems to try to do is level the playing field by banning ALL of it, in following with the supposed separation of church and state in the United States.

The difficult part is the definition of Religious Sectarian Law in the act. By going with this part "'RELIGIOUS SECTARIAN LAW' MEANS ANY STATUTE, TENET OR BODY OF LAW
EVOLVING WITHIN AND BINDING A SPECIFIC RELIGIOUS SECT OR TRIBE," every tenet of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, etc etc etc are all included, because all of their tenets are part of a specific religious sect (especially if you consider each of the many denominations of Christianity as individual sects).

The possibly more controversial part of the law's wording is that Religious Sectarian Law, "DOES NOT INCLUDE ANY LAW OF THE UNITED STATES OR THE INDIVIDUAL STATES BASED ON ANGLO-AMERICAN LEGAL TRADITION AND PRINCIPLES ON WHICH THE UNITED STATES WAS FOUNDED." After reading the entire act numerous times, every exception that is presented in the act is given to say that in using this law (which makes any already-existing law that defies it null and void) you can't revoke any law that was used to found the United States (Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, etc), AND you can't revoke any law that we had already borrowed from England when we were putting all of those things into effect. So the use of Anglo-American does not mean "White Christian," it means "Stuff taken from England and stuff we made in America."

Now, whether someone would evoke this law when someone mentions Karma or Enlightenment, but not evoke it when someone mentions, say, turning the other cheek, is a matter of practice - and this is where I think the big possibility (and probability) for bigotry is. But as to anything specifically discriminatory in the Act, I just don't agree.

Nathan said...

"So the use of Anglo-American does not mean "White Christian," it means "Stuff taken from England and stuff we made in America.""

Nice spine there. I don't buy it.

Furthermore, I highly doubt that the same people who routinely argue for Christian prayer and the Ten Commandments, and generally bemoan the "suppression of Christian values and symbols," suddenly have a desire to actually uphold separation of church and state.

Maybe they'll prove me wrong, but I highly doubt it. Also, reading a bill like that without considering the current and historical social context is something I have seen over and over again as a tactic to keep people from seeing the truth. Not saying you're doing this here, but I'm sure as hell going to question such a reading.

per cercare capire said...

Don't worry, I'm not ignoring the current social context. Like I said, it's all a matter of practice. I do expect people to use it in a bigoted way; bigots use everything in a bigoted way. The important thing here is that the tables can be turned: if someone had such an opportunity, they could easily evoke it against Christian beliefs appearing in judgement, as the act allows for such a usage.

Anonymous said...

...privileged WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) racists...

Wow! What happened to all being connected? It's disappointing to read this separating language.

Anonymous said...


The UK has already started adopting Sharia Law without any consultation with the British population:

And calls to increase the range and scope of Sharia Law in Britain is growing.

Already, according to Civitas, there are about 85 sharia courts in Britain, which have handled over 7,000 cases.

Many of these cases are for divorce. The British Islamic Sharia Council charges a man £100 if he wants to bring a divorce.

The charge for a woman is £250. The official rerason for charging more is because of the extra work involved in a a woman's application as her word has to be corroborated. (A man's word does not have to be corroborated).

In British Sharia courts a woman’s
testimony is worth half that of a man’s; a woman’s marriage contract is between her male guardian and her husband. A man can have four wives and divorce his wife by simple repudiation, whereas a woman must give reasons, some of which are extremely difficult to prove. Child custody reverts to the father at a preset age, even if the father is abusive; women who remarry lose custody of
their children; and sons are entitled to inherit twice the share of daughters.

This is happening, and spreading, in Britain today. If Arizona is attempting to defend the US legal system against being replced by a 7th Century desert one, I say well done Arizona.


Algernon said...

So let's get this straight, anonymous: if someone points out an instance of racism, THEY are the ones being divisive?

This fallacy is a common feature in popular discourse. It's called killing the messenger. Nathan isn't being divisive, he is reporting on divisiveness. In blunt language, to be sure.

Algernon said...

Marcus, thank you for the link to that article in the Times. Reading it calmly and slowly, we learn that sharia law is not, in fact, replacing British law. In British law, there are provisions for "alternative dispute resolutions" under the Arbitration Act. This gives an opportunities for religious courts as well as other alternative venues.

That's an interesting idea and it does grant an opportunity for binding decisions on some matters (like divorce as you say). To present this as evidence that British law is being supplanted and replaced by sharia law is a woeful exaggeration. The Arbitration Act can be repealed or amended -- I suspect the latter -- and bye bye sharia courts.

t23 said...

"Besides well-known European precedents — from Greece, Rome, and English common law, among others — indigenous American ideas of democracy have shaped the government of the United States. Immigrants arrived in colonial America seeking freedom and found it in the confederacies of the Iroquois and other Native nations. By the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, these ideas were common currency in the former colonies, illustrated in debates involving Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. Later, during the 19th century, conceptions of Iroquois gender relations had an important impact on major architects of American feminism. These ideas illuminate political debates today." via

Richard Harrold said...

I think folks are missing the freaking stupid hilarity of this. Banning Karma? These dumbasses think that Karma is a statute. That's like saying the law of gravity is a statute and you can just ban it. It's dumb, just plain stupid. Arizona is being led by dumbasses, period.

David said...

I don't think they are "banning" karma, from what I read of the bill, they are merely saying that judges should not base court decisions on the principle of karma, which under different circumstances, most of you would probably agree is wise. Don't take this karma thing out of context and blow it up beyond proportion, it will only give more credence to the other side.

But if they wanted to ban karma, let 'em, who cares? That is not the prime point here. The authors of this bill are playing a shell game. On one hand they want to prohibit the use of "Religious Sectarian Law", which on the surface sounds good - separation of church and state, right? But this RSL is too narrowly defined, and does not include "any law of the United States or the individual states based on Anglo‑American legal tradition and principles on which the United States was founded."

In other words, THEIR Religious Sectarian Law, whatever it may be is exempt, if they consider it a principle on which the country was founded. So it is not at all about establishing a level playing field as another commenter suggested.

Anonymous said...

The majority of people commenting on this topic, I believe, seem to be missing the point entirely! They are not "banning" anything...but importantly are removing consideration of Sharia law, the law of Karma and other incompatible and importantly largely irrational religious laws from the judicial process so that it/they cannot be used to sway a decision which would have the effect of creating very obvious injustices particularly with Sharia Law.

Sharia Law is no joke and is a serious problem and a threat to integration, free speech, democracy and the rule of law unlike some religious laws which have been moderated by the Reformation and which are still present in the backgound in a secular democracy such as is operating in the UK.

BE AWARE.... it is those historic links to religion and religious law and pertinently, due to the fact that the UK does not have a written constitution, that Sharia Law has gained some significant ground.

Sharia Law tolerates no other law, and seeks to dominate any tolerant people or culture often by small incrementle steps. With Islam not having not gone through any reformation its principles and the principles of Sharia are based on irrational and importantly, immutable religious texts. The un-reformed Islam decrees that it is a muslims duty to spread Islam throughout the world and to not cease until all the world is Islamised. For muslims the establishment of the Islamic caliphate and Sharia Law is its highest expression.

I would love to say that there is nothing to worry about and that the threat of Sharia will disapear as muslims become more integrated through dialogue and increasing living standards, I would love to say that in a society that tolerates the intolerant we can afford to lead by example and not be concerned...but with Sharia we cannot afford to!

Please add your names to the "One Law For All" petition to abolish all relgious laws from legislature and the judicial process

and also take a look at Pat Condell's Godless Comedy website and Youtube channel

Richard Harrold said...

The previous "anonymous" commenter, I don't think you read the bill carefully. Because the bill does not state that courts "should not" use any of these other "laws," it clearly states that a court "shall not." That is a ban, plain and simple.

The statute specifically identifies "karma" as a "religious sectarian law," which clearly shows the ignorance of the bill's authors, as karma is not a law based on religious doctrine, and neither is it a "statute" written down like other "laws." If Karma was a legitimately recorded law based on religious doctrine, then fine, prevent its use in secular law as it should be. But it's not even a religious law to begin with! It just is, just like gravity just is. That is what is so unbelievable to me at least about this entire affair.

Nathan said...

Well, this certainly is a hot topic.

To Marcus, Anonymous, and whomever else re: Muslims and Sharia Law

Building legal code and societal structures based on fear, hatred, or suspicion are gravely faulty. In fact, for those who are Buddhists, I'd say supporting lawmaking under such pretenses is questionable at best.

If this law had been a flat ban on using religious ideas in judicial decisions, maybe I'd be able to stand behind it. But it's not.

It's so telling to me that Muslims have become the focus of this discussion. In my opinion, there is surprising lack of personal interrogation amongst some Buddhists when comes to views of Islam and Muslims. It's as if all the talk about love and non-attachment to the delusional narratives in our minds suddenly gets tossed out when the "specter of Islam" comes to scare us.

One of the reasons I oppose this bill is that it could have an impact on Arizona's relationship with Mexico. They are neighbors. They must, to some degree, work together on legal issues, given the amount of people and goods crossing the borders. And this whole "foreign laws" section has been pointed out by legal scholars as a potential pitfall in cases involving cross border issues.

This is an isolationist piece of legislation in a globalized world. And it's primarily driven by suspicions and fears around Islam and Muslims - even though there isn't even any evidence that even the optional sharia law courts like in the UK are appearing in AZ.

People around the world condemned the U.S. for Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine - myself included. And this is the same kind of crap.
It's a warped piece of legislation chasing after an imagined threat, which could ultimately do real damage in unforeseen ways.

I'd also second T23's point about Indigenous law and government structure influence. Another discussion to had there for sure.

Anonymous said...

"Anglo-American legal tradition", "laws or case law from Great Britain", as well as “the principles on which the United States was founded” are all sneaky ways that Christian extremists use to say "Biblical Commandments" [as interpretted by John Calvin, Cotton Mathers, Jonathan Edwards, and NOT the Pope], with the ultimate purpose of undermining the Establishment Clause and legalizing religious (and racial) descrimiation.

Also, the lumping in of a metaphysical concept such as the Law of Karma with ancient legal codes such as Ottoman Sharia Law or Canon Law is laughable.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

Can I just respond to this?:

"It's so telling to me that Muslims have become the focus of this discussion. In my opinion, there is surprising lack of personal interrogation amongst some Buddhists when comes to views of Islam and Muslims. It's as if all the talk about love and non-attachment to the delusional narratives in our minds suddenly gets tossed out when the "specter of Islam" comes to scare us."

I think you have a good point about how important it is to hold onto our vows of love and compassion and the rest, but I think you make a few false assumptions.

The first is that Muslims have become the focus of this discussion. They haven't. The focus of this discussion has become Sharia Law. And under Sharia Law, it is mainly Muslims who suffer. The biggest victims of Sharia Law in Britain and around the world are, of course, Muslim women.

Today, in Britain, many Muslim women, often with very little understanding of their rights under British law outside of the Sharia system are pressured into the Sharia Courts and so suffer from their discriminatory practice and decisions.

And this is more than a "specter" come to make us afraid. It is really happening now. Sharia law, which at its heart and in its implimentation is anti human rights, is allowed to operate under the British legal system and is blighting the lives of many, especially Muslim women.

I think it perfectly possible for Buddhists to to hold onto our core aspirations of love, wisdom and peace while saying that human rights, fair justice, equality and respect should be for all people and that that is best carried out by having one secular law for everyone.

Again, if Arizona is moving to ban Sharia Law (which would go a long way to affirming the dignity of Muslims too) then I very much support that decision.


Brikoleur said...

@Marcus, that was very, very paternalistic. You, an anglo-Saxon Buddhist of Christian extraction find it necessary to save those poor, benighted Muslim women from their heathen superstition. That, IMO, is a far bigger problem than arbitration courts with limited jurisdiction operating inside an open society with strong civil law.

Also, you're a stark staring Islamophobe. But then we already knew that, from your comments on Egypt.

Anonymous said...

"you're a stark staring Islamophobe"

If you mean by Islamophobe that I'm afriad of the radical agenda of militant Islam in Britain and around the world, then you are right - I am indeed afraid of Islam.

If, on the other hand, you are throwing out the word as an insult designed to offend and silence, then to be honest I would have expected better of you.

But it always happens like this, one minute you suggest that chaos in the streets of Egypt might not necessarily be a good thing, or you might suggest that Sharia Law is not in your opinion the best bet for British Muslim women (pretty undeniable really) and the next minute you're being labelled an Islamaphobe!

(Oh, the dualism and tyranny of the Left!)

All the best to everyone, including you Petteri, who has read and or contributed to this thread. And thank you to Nathan for raising the issue and allowing us all this valuable space in which to discuss it.

Marcus _/\_

Anonymous said...

Ooops, I ought to have mentioned, that that final paragraph was by way of me bowing out of the discussion now. I've said all I wish to and don't wish to be drawn into a longer debate. Thanks again to all.


Brikoleur said...

@Marcus: Well, if it's (2), it looks like it worked, since you were clearly offended *and* silenced. Yay.

A pretty good acid test for suspected Islamophobia is to mentally substitute "Jew" for "Muslim" (and do the same for those other terms, "Beit Din" for "Shari'a court" and so on). If the resulting text sounds like it was written by a Nazi, then, well, you probably are. I don't have much patience for that sort of thing anymore.

I've tried to politely and constructively discuss this kind of stuff in the past, but it never works. If you think Islam is evil and Muslims are benighted savages, reason doesn't get you very far. So I call bullshit instead, pointedly. If that gets you to shut up and walk off in a huff, well hey, thank Amida for small mercies.

Nathan said...


I agreed with you that it wasn't clear what would come in Egypt. In fact, I have also agreed with you about raising concerns about minority Christian groups in Egypt and elsewhere.

I don't think anyone commenting here is blind to the human rights abuses that are happening around the world - at least, those whom I know. Kyle, Algernon, Petteri, Richard, David - all of them, if you look through their blogs - pay attention to world events and have written posts demonstrating concerns about a variety of human rights issues.

I've had enough conversations with Muslim women, and have read enough women in Muslim communities, to know that it's quite complex stuff. The appearance of Sharia Law courts in Britain, amongst other things, could be an attempt to maintain religious/cultural identity, as well as to help maintain community identity. I'm not saying this is always for the best, but I've watched these processes with immigrant communities in Minnesota - how certain traditions and customs are emphasized as the group cultural identity starts to disappear with children growing up here, and the pressures to conform occur.

Anyway, when I see repeated black and white thinking about an issue - which anything with Islam seems commonplace these days - I'll call it out.

I can stand up for women being stoned to death in Pakistan and also stand for respecting and honoring religious Muslims around the world. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Brikoleur said...

@Nathan: Word.

Anonymous said...

"If that gets you to shut up and walk off in a huff, well hey, thank Amida for small mercies."

No, not a huff. Just knowing when I've said enough and don't need to say any more.

Take care Petteri, and thank you again Nathan.

Marcus _/\_