Archives For Sharia

Top Story: Today is Veteran’s Day, and we here at The Wild Hunt would like to give our thanks to all military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifices. Today is also an excellent time to think of the modern Pagans and Heathens currently serving in the military and offer them our support. A great way to do that is to support Operation Circle Care.

“For the fourth year in a row, Circle Sanctuary is honoring and supporting active duty Pagan service members through Operation Circle Care. This year, we are widening our focus and sending Yuletide care packages to active duty Pagan troops serving in any overseas theater of operation, including Germany, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, or on board Navy ships. The success of this program is due to the generous support and donations from Pagan community members from many paths and places. With your continued support, it is our goal to honor and remember each and every Pagan US military service member we can with a special personalized gift for Yule, just as we have in years past.”

Operation Circle Care is looking for contacts, donated items, and funds to help in this project. You can find details at their web site. If you know of similar efforts in other countries, or other Pagan organizations that are organizing care packages or other services, please let me know in the comments.

A Warrior’s Conscientious Objection: On a somewhat related note, we turn to the issue of conscientious objection to war. Up till now its been largely treated by the US government as an all-or-nothing enterprise, you either had to be a pacifist who objected to all conflict (like Quakers or some Pagans), or you were signed up to follow orders no matter what (lest risking dishonorable discharge or even a tribunal). But now a coalition of religious leaders and veterans are calling for the right to morally object to individual conflicts.

“In a report issued Wednesday (Nov. 10), the Truth Commission on Conscience in War called on the military to revise its rules to include “selective conscientious objection,” and urged religious leaders to address issues of conscience during wartime … The report states that current rules about conscientious objection requires an objection to “war in any form,” creating a conflict for those who may have specific moral objections to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It denies freedom of religious practice and the exercise of moral conscience to those serving in the military who object to a particular war based on the moral criteria of just war, which the military itself teaches and upholds as important,” the report reads. The report notes that military rules dating to the time of the Vietnam draft leave no legal basis for objection for someone who believes “participation implicates them in an immoral war or in war crimes.”

Such a change would be very much in keeping with many Pagan and Heathen ideas of warrior ethics and culture. Allowing participation in honorable or just conflicts while also leaving room for non-participation in situations that they feel could violate their personal/religious/cultural code of honor. Whether the military would ever be open to such a change is an open question. For those who want more information about this initiative, check out the Truth Commission on Conscience in War’s web site.

The Fate of Ali Sibat: When we last checked in with Lebanese citizen Ali Sibat, who was nearly executed for the crime of sorcery in Saudi Arabia but given a last-minute reprieve due to protests and political maneuvering, was still in a cell awaiting some word of his ultimate fate. Now news has come that a Saudi court has formally rejected his death sentence and that he be deported after a new trial.

“Saudi Arabia’s high court has rejected the execution sentence of a Lebanese man convicted of sorcery and recommended that he be deported after a new trial, a newspaper reported Thursday. The Supreme Court in Riyadh said that the death sentence for Ali Sabat was not warranted because he had not harmed anyone and had no prior offences in the country, Okaz said. The court said his case should be sent back to a lower court in Medina to be retried and recommended that Sabat, who has spent 30 months in Saudi prison since his May 2008 arrest, be deported, Okaz said.”

How long this process will take remains to be seen, but it does look like this long nightmare is finally ending for Sibat. Sadly the same can’t be said for other men and women being held in Saudi Arabia for crimes of “sorcery”, like Sudanese citizen Abdul Hamid al-Fakki, or Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali. One can only hope that discontent with the religious police grows, and we see an end to this madness.

The Further Unintended Consequences of Oklahoma’s Anti-Sharia Amendment: I’ve already discussed some of the problems with the recent anti-Sharia amendment passed by Oklahoma voters, but now even more voices are emerging to discuss the unintended consequences of this move to theoretically protect us from “creeping Sharia” law. First, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission released an official memo on October 20 opposing the amendment, saying it could affect the “damage the sovereignty of all Oklahoma tribes.”

SQ 755, as written, prohibits an Oklahoma state court from applying any law but Oklahoma or U. S. law to settle a dispute. Further, the proposed constitutional amendment inhibits state courts from looking to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures for a decision. The language of this proposed amendment starkly reminds us that some Oklahoma lawmakers forgot that our nation and state were built on the principles, blood, and backs of “other nations and cultures,” namely, our tribes. It also ignores that Oklahoma tribes have become valuable economic partners with the State that it cannot afford to ignore or exclude.

If SQ 755 is approved, the lack of specific tribal law language could easily be interpreted by a state judge to leave no room to refer to a tribe’s law to determine the existence of a valid waiver of a tribe’s sovereign immunity, for example. Thus, SQ 755 has the potential to provide state court judges with yet another opportunity to further erode tribal sovereignty. A state court judge could rely on the amendment’s absence of recognition of any tribal law to avoid or disavow its application. Tribes and tribal members should be aware of this glaring omission for Oklahoma courts to look to and apply our tribal laws when appropriate, and vote on this question accordingly.

In addition to possibly damaging tribal sovereignty in the name of fighting Muslim theocracy the amendment is getting knocked about by the majority of commentators at the center-right politics site Politico. A judge has granted a temporary block to the amendment while the court battles commence.

Medicine Man Confidentiality: A murder trial in Canada is testing whether minority faiths and cultures are afforded the same privileges as the dominant religious traditions. Minneconjou historian Donovin Sprague claims that confidentiality between a medicine man and their clients is a well understood concept in that culture and should be respected.

Sprague said he based his opinions on his own traditional upbringing and knowledge of tribal culture, as well as on his discussions with spiritual leaders Arvol Looking Horse, Rick Two Dogs and Wilmer Mesteth. Seventh Circuit Judge Jack Delaney tried to pin Sprague down on just how far that commitment to confidentiality would go. If a child were found murdered in a traditional camp and someone confessed to a medicine man, he asked, would the medicine man still maintain confidentiality? “Traditionally … I don’t think it would be revealed,” Sprague said, but he was quick to say that one medicine man might not operate in the same way as another medicine man would. “There wasn’t like a written set of rules governing what we’re talking about here, really. … He would use his discretion what he wanted to do.”

The trial involves John Graham, who is charged with the 1975 rape and murder of Annie Mae Aquash. The motion on whether confidentiality would stand has not been ruled on yet. Whichever way the judge decides could have lasting ramifications on indigenous and minority religions in Canada, and how far confidentiality between a spiritual/religious leader and their client can go.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

President Obama’s 10-day Asia trip includes visits to India and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.  The president chose not to visit the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar during his time in India because it required a head covering that his advisers feared would fuel speculation about his faith. A Pew study showed that nearly 20% of Americans believe falsely that the president is a Muslim.

The more Obama reaches out to Muslims, the more his critics are likely to slander him,implying that he is not a Christian.  An example is his April 2009 speech in Turkey, in which he said, “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation, we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” The president’s critics have seized on that statement, insisting that he rejects the Christian foundations of America.  Is Obama stuck between a rock and a hard place? If you were the president, how would you handle this dilemma?

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

“When Obama says we aren’t a Christian nation, he isn’t negating Christianity’s role, for good or ill, in shaping our country’s history. Instead, he is acknowledging that we live in a secular, multi-religious society, where Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists, and Christians must all learn to coexist and work together to face our nation’s problems. That secular democracy can work in a country teeming with religious diversity, with no one group (in theory) imposing its moral will on another. The kind of democracy some would like to see “exported” to the Middle East. The moment we abandon our secular democracy so we can call ourselves “Christian America” is the moment we lose any moral higher ground we might have on the world stage when it comes to negotiating with or combating theocracy. In India, where the president just visited, some want to officially make the country a “Hindu Nation” a prospect that worries many Christians and Muslims living there. If we cast off our secular robes, whats to stop India, or Turkey for that matter, from following suit?”

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

While most coverage of last week’s election focused on the national Republican wave, there were all sorts of things being voted on in addition to the politician with an R (or D) next to their name. For example, Oklahoma voters approved a measure that would ban the application of Sharia law in their state.

“This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law. International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.”

Last year, as ThinkProgress points out, Oklahoma passed, with many of the same backers, the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, which ordered “a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol” to be erected, and goes on at some length about how Biblical law has influenced American law and judicial decisions. Well, no longer, according to Rick Tepker, a member of the University of Oklahoma School of Law faculty.

“Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don’t cry,” he said. “I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn’t that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren’t going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin.”

Oops! Aside from the foot-shooting irony at play here, the main problem was overreach. You see, many of the activists/politicians/pundits really, really worried about the implementation of Sharia law are also very, very, concerned about Americans being subject to “international law”, and want us to pull out of the UN and ban US judges from considering legal precedents from other countries when making decisions. The problem is who decides what’s “international law”? The Ten Commandments certainly weren’t written in Oklahoma.

Now, this amendment is being challenged, and may never be enforced (and for some very good reasons), but what a lost opportunity! Imagine a gay marriage decision where judge is banned from even “considering” Christian law! Pagan custody cases and religious discriminations cases would have to be decided on secular law alone without a hint of Christianity lest the case be open to challenge. But this is just an idle musing on my part, in the end this amendment will be rolled back because there are too many unintended consequences to deal with.

“It’s hard for me to believe the current surge of paranoia about Sharia law, and growing hostility to any kind of accommodations to our Muslim minority, won’t ultimately unleash forces of intolerance that will undercut our [Judaism’s] own hard-won games as a religious minority with special needs. This also touches on the issue of religious land use, which I blogged about the other day, and the idea that the surge of hostility to Islam that is already resulting in fierce resistance to mosque building projects across the nation will almost certainly come back to bite us.”

If these legislators and voters were really as concerned about “creeping Sharia” on American soil as they say they are then we should be more concerned about integrating Muslims into secular American society than alienating them by passing dodgy laws and cranking the rhetoric up to “11”. However, even if you think we need to enact nationwide bans on Sharia law and pass draconian laws to “control” the Muslim “problem”, there’s still one issue all religious minorities need to consider. If we allow ourselves to single out a faith for censure in our law-making, no matter how noble we believe we’re being in the process, how long before that slippery slope is turned towards the next belief system to cause anxiety?

It seems ridiculous, but there was a time when mainstream politicians were working to ban Pagans from the military. There was a time, not so long ago, when innocent men and women were being locked up for imaginary “Satanic” crimes (with some still in prison awaiting justice). Some Witches and Pagans were so paranoid during that time that they were more than ready to throw actual Satanists under the bus. It isn’t so hard to envision a new moral panic to come ’round the bend and catch us in its sights once the Muslim threat stops being politically expedient. Or maybe it will be Santeria getting conflated with illegal immigration and drug-running, or Vodou being blamed for our economic hardships, the roulette wheel of fear is always turning and you never know when or where it will stop.

When you play around with our laws and constitutions to score political points there are always unintended consequences. The further we stray from our core principles because we fear the “creeping” menace of some religion, philosophy, or political party the more we open ourselves up to injury. The more we feed the beast of fear, the hungrier it gets. Stir in bad economic times and entrenched polarization and you flirt with disaster. As Pagans we need to be be wary of any “solution” that focuses on a single people, faith, or way of thinking, lest we find ourselves on the next ballot initiative.