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October 03, 2011 10:10 AM ‘You don’t really mean this, though, do you?’

By Steve Benen

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, arguably more than any other GOP candidate, has been spewing a lot of nonsense about a “creeping” scheme to “gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.” Yesterday on ABC, he expounded on the subject in ways that were not reassuring.

On “This Week,” Christiane Amanpour showed Cain a quote from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) saying, “This Sharia law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” The host asked Cain for his response.

CAIN: Call me crazy, but there are too many examples of where there has been pushback.

AMANPOUR: You don’t really mean this, though, do you, Mr. Cain?

CAIN: Oh, yes, I do.

AMANPOUR: Sharia law in the United States?

CAIN: Some people would infuse Sharia law in our court system if we allow it. I honestly believe that. So even if he calls me crazy, I am going to make sure that they don’t infuse it little by little by little. It’s not going to be some grand scheme, little by little. So I don’t mind if he calls me crazy. I’m simply saying…

AMANPOUR: You’re sticking to it?

CAIN: I’m sticking to it.

I was especially struck by Amanour’s incredulity. I get the sense this is fairly common among many in the media — sure, Republican candidates repeat a lot of nonsense, but underneath the rhetoric, even conservatives have to be more sensible than they appear.

But therein lies the point: they’re really not. Cain actually believes this garbage about the threat of American courts abandoning American laws. The threat is purely imaginary — Cain would be equally justified in basing his campaign in part on fears about Bigfoot — but he doesn’t seem to care.

Cain welcomes the “crazy” label. At least he won’t be uncomfortable, then, when people describe him accurately.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • breakspear on October 03, 2011 10:16 AM:

    If Cain wants to be a scared little man about a non-existent threat then he can go ahead and be that way. But I for one have faith in our legal system and am confident that no such Sharia Law silliness is 'creeping' into it. So Herman, you want pizza with that koolaid?

  • MattF on October 03, 2011 10:21 AM:

    It's too bad that Cain is sometimes just downright peculiar. But I suppose the combination of "wingnut" and "African-American" makes that inevitable.

  • David in NY on October 03, 2011 10:21 AM:

    But, you know, did Amanpour have the wits to ask him who, exactly, these people were, and what, exactly, they had ever done to impose Sharia law? Never.

  • Grumpy on October 03, 2011 10:22 AM:

    I was especially struck by Amanour’s incredulity.

    Unsurprising. She saw a bit of the Iranian Revolution before her family moved permanently to England. She has some perspective that Cain just can't grasp.

  • DAY on October 03, 2011 10:27 AM:

    Cain said: "Some people would infuse Sharia law in our court system if we allow it"
    -and David in NY beat me to the obvious question!

    I am still waiting for any of the Republican candidates to give us chapter and verse on these "Job killing Regulations" they constantly carp about.

  • c u n d gulag on October 03, 2011 10:28 AM:

    Republicans can make up stuff at will, and the MSM will turn their heads.

    And they can scream about illegal aliens all they want. Just don't mention space aliens, though, just ask Ross Perot about what that did for him!

    Wait, he ran 3rd Party, didn't he?
    If Ross was a Republican and went on and on about space aliens, he'd have been fine.

  • martin on October 03, 2011 10:32 AM:

    Well, he's not totally crazy. I'm sure there are "some" people who would impose Sharia law "if we allow it." They are, however, vastly outnumbered by the people who would impose "Christian" law if we allow, and they are much more determined than the Shariaists.

  • bigtuna on October 03, 2011 10:33 AM:

    What David said. Did she ask the obvious follow up question - give me 3 concrete examples of what you claim,

  • mike reilly on October 03, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Where do I send my contribution to the Cain Express !!!
    I was disappointed that Palin and Bachman didn't get the nomination, and Perry seems to be fading..... but maybe, just maybe....this guy can be the standard bearer !! Wow, Christman comes early.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on October 03, 2011 10:44 AM:

    I had mentioned this on the weekend - Ross Asshat of the NYT just noticed that the Republican field is populated by crazy people and he thinks Faux Nooze is responsible.
    Who Knew Ross , Who knew?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/opinion/sunday/douthat-missing-the-populist-moment.html?ref=opinion

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on October 03, 2011 10:47 AM:

    I would hope the blatant racism of MattF above would be roundly condemned, no matter how strange Republican ideas may be.

  • ckelly on October 03, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Cain would be equally justified in basing his campaign in part on fears about Bigfoot

    I smell a running mate.

  • Grumpy on October 03, 2011 10:50 AM:

    EOC... I interpreted MattF's comment as referring to the cognitive dissonance an African-American Republican might experience, enough to drive a man "peculiar."

  • MattF on October 03, 2011 11:03 AM:

    Re-reading what I wrote, I can see how it can be misinterpreted. What I meant was that the intersection of the sets "African-American" and "wingnut" is an extremely small group, far from any kind of statistical average, and therefore likely to have an oversupply of people with peculiar opinions. That's just an application of extreme-value statistics.

  • rea on October 03, 2011 11:16 AM:

    Cain would be equally justified in basing his campaign in part on fears about Bigfoot

    Sasquatch Israel!

  • Peter C on October 03, 2011 11:28 AM:

    Self-delusion is a promotable skill. This plagues our business community. The fact that a CEO would be as deluded as this points up one of the most significant weaknesses of the American Business Community.

  • cld on October 03, 2011 11:29 AM:

    Bigfoot --for whom there is substantially better evidence.

  • j on October 03, 2011 12:04 PM:

    I know nothing about Sharia law, I have always imagined it was something like - men thinking they can control every aspect of womens bodies and that women should be subservient to men.Kind of like the republican party.

  • Stephen Stralka on October 03, 2011 1:35 PM:

    You know, with bullshit right-wing conspiracy theories like this, they usually at least pretend to have some kind of evidence. With these claims about creeping Sharia, in most cases it seems like they don't even try to support them with distorted readings of recent news stories.

    The only thing I can think of that they could even try to point to as actual evidence is cases where Muslims are allowed to build mosques. but that's not Sharia, that's the fucking First Amendment.

  • DenverRight on October 03, 2011 1:54 PM:

    SO HOW CRAZY IS CAIN?

    Okay, so I don't know what Cain is saying, or what the notiuon of "creeping Sharia law" is, but I decided to do a simple internet search. Can someone explain:
    1. Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment last year (Question 755) which bans Sharia from being considered in Oklahoma courts. Oklahoma courts must “rely on federal and state law when deciding cases” and forbids them from “considering or using international law” and “from considering or using Sharia Law.” I'm not sure what's WRONG with that amendment (help me out), it has already been halted from taking effect by a federal district court - it's being litigated.

    2. Actual facts - Texas has a "Texas Islamic Court" - it does not REPLACE state law, but when all parties agree, arbitration can be sent to the Texas Islamic Court, the decisions of which are binding. Divorce cases among Muslims have apparently already been handled this way (and it sounds like Islamic principles are enforced, not secular Texas law).

    3. In Florida arbitration by courts may also adhere to Sharia law, for example in a lawsuit against the Islamic Education Center of Tampa. A Hillsborough Circuit judge (Nielsen) stated in his opinion that he must hear further testimony to determine whether “Islamic dispute resolution procedures have been followed in this matter.” The judge’s March 3 ruling - saying he would use Islamic law, known as sharia, to decide the arbitration issue - was quickly appealed by the mosque’s attorney to the 2nd DCA. In this case a mosque is appealing to PREVENT sharia law from being incorporated.

    Just two examples found in five minutes, and one state where sharia apparently CANNOT be excluded in courts, certainly not a groundswell of sharia law in America. But before the flaming begins, what does "creeping" mean? And does it fall under the "purely imaginary" label that BENEN would have us believe?

  • Stephen Stralka on October 03, 2011 3:09 PM:

    DenverRight--I took a look at the two cases you mention, and there's really nothing there. (Although it's nice to see that someone is at least trying to present some actual evidence of creeping Sharia.)

    But the two cases are really about the enforceability of arbitration agreements, and the Islamic aspect is a red herring. I found the Texas case decision (http://www.2ndcoa.courts.state.tx.us/opinions/htmlopinion.asp?OpinionId=14601), and you can see there that the judge isn't applying Sharia, he's applying the Texas General Arbitration Act: "A court shall order the parties to arbitrate on application of a party showing an agreement to arbitrate, and the opposing party's refusal to arbitrate."

    So in other words, the only reason the judge is saying this case will be decided by the Texas Islamic Court is that the parties themselves voluntarily agreed to binding arbitration. If they had agreed to have their divorce arbitrated by the Texas Satanic Court, that arbitration agreement would be binding as well, but it would hardly be evidence of creeping Satanism. (Clearly the Texas Islamic Court has no legal jurisdiction beyond what the parties to an arbitration agreement grant it.)

    As for your first question, the main complaint against laws like the one in Oklahoma is that they're unnecessary and paranoid. But interestingly enough, your next two examples point to another problem: such a law in Texas, for instance, would conflict with the Texas General Arbitration Act, since it would make a legally binding arbitration agreement unenforceable.

    You could even argue that anti-Sharia laws interfere with Muslims' First Amendment rights, since they prevent Muslims from choosing to have their disputes arbitrated according to Islamic principles. So you're not only preventing courts from applying Sharia (which is banned under the First Amendment anyway), you're preventing Muslims form adhering to it voluntarily.

    I can't imagine it's more than an infinitesimal fraction of the US population that would want to follow Sharia anyway. I sure as hell wouldn't, and I would guess that a pretty significant percentage of this country's Muslim population came here precisely to escape Sharia.

  • toowearyforoutrage on October 03, 2011 3:35 PM:

    It's NOT crazy at all.

    I know for a fact that some of these Sharia-loving judges down in Alabama are posting copies of Islamic law that Allah gave to Moses on their walls.

    VERY scary introduction of religion into the courts.

    I think the judge was named Moorehamed, or something like that. IOKIYAC?

  • martin on October 03, 2011 5:36 PM:

    DenverRight:
    and forbids them from “considering or using international law” a...I'm not sure what's WRONG with that amendment (help me out)

    Some international law is codified and endorsed by treaties we have signed and have passed the Senate. Under the US Constitution, Treaties are, with the Constitution, are the Supreme Law of the Land.

    Not sure how often this is a problem in Oklahoma, but probably more often than Sharia.

  • DenverRight on October 03, 2011 9:18 PM:

    Martin: thanks for a civil response. But wouldn't the codification of international treaties affect FEDERAL law, and not state or local courts? I could not find a hasty citation for the REASON that a federal judge stayed the amendment, aside from some remark about discrimination.

    Steven Stralka: Again, thanks for civil dialog. But a Texas Islamic Court seems to me the very definition of interjecting Sharia principles into contractual arbitration (something Benen called imaginary). Hypothesis I read: what if two parties agree initially (in contract)to arbitration in a Sharia Court - and then one party decides they like American jurisprudence better? Such a case occurred, and the judge forced the party to submit to the contractually obligated sharia outcome. Also, the Florida case is left unaddressed - that judge seems hellbent on squaring his initial findings with Sharia law.

    I agree, this indicates a very small wedge of sharia injection into the judicial process. But from tiny steam, rivers may flow. What is the guiding principle in American jurisprudence?

    I think it should be American laws in American courts. I acknowledge that we still have that, for now.

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