Two thoughts, not necessarily connected, respecting the recently vetoed Arizona religious freedom bill, Muslims and Islamic law.
First thought. The dominant fear of Muslims can be rather funny at times.
Of all the rather amusing things I found throughout the discussions of the now vetoed Arizona bill that would have permitted individuals to refuse service to someone if providing such service violated their religious obligations, the most was the rather broad discussions respecting the law being “too broad”, so broad, in fact that it might permit Muslims to refuse to serve Christians on the grounds that they are infidels (the CNN version) or it might permit a Muslim cab driver to refuse to pick up a woman without a male guardian on the grounds that they aren’t supposed to be out alone (the NY Times version). Notice I left aside the Fox News versions, too obvious to merit comment in their case.
Personally I’m rather amused by these examples, as I wonder why it is that the assumption appears to be that (i) there are significant numbers of Muslims who adopt more extreme interpretations of Islam than are common in much of the Islamic world, and (ii) that such individuals have a viable business plan in Arizona by putting these ideas into action. As to (i), it is common in much of the Arab world in particular (Iraq, Egypt, Jordan) and even in Iran for a woman to take a cab alone. In fact, it is often preferred to taking a cab with a male colleague. If I’m teaching a class in Beirut, Basra, or Qatar, as I have done and continue to do from time to time, and I offer a woman a ride home, the reaction is almost as if I had offered to kiss her on the lips. Because the scandal! Obviously if I’m giving her a ride home then halfway there our libidos will get the better of us and we’ll be ripping off each other’s clothes and having wild sex, which surely happens whenever a professor and a student ride home together as is well known. Anyway, sarcasm aside, it’s scandalous. By contrast, a woman riding a cab home alone is not. Nobody thinks a random female student is engaged in a relationship with a guy who she doesn’t know and whose cab she hailed to go home. Libidos not presumed to run quite that high.
So this Muslim who doesn’t pick up this unaccompanied female is more conservative than cab drivers in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria, etc. But such people do exist, and countries do exist where a woman cannot ride a cab unaccompanied with grounds being given related to Islam, so he exists, and let us presume that somehow for some reason he got it in his head with these ideas that he’d move to Arizona and become a cab driver. The brother is ill advised, I guess. His plan now is not to pick up women, because it’s sinful. And I’ll assume he’s no more or less racist than your average NYC cabdriver, by which I mean he won’t pick up black men either, because he assumes they’ll rob or shoot him. So his plan is just to cruise the streets waiting for white guys to pick up? Will he not pick them up if they’re going to a bar? Or from one? Surely that’s worse than women alone. How is this going to work?
Muslims not serving Christian infidels is even dumber, as I cannot conceive of a version of shari’a that permits residence in the non Muslim land and prohibits commercial engagement with non Muslims. Some classical authorities have argued the reverse (trade with anyone, live in the Abode of Islam) but this version is odd, I dare say completely unprecedented. And, of course, it’s entirely self defeating. Arizona Christians are honestly worried that the 1% Muslim population of Arizona is going to somehow cut off their business? Can I say as a Muslim I’d be more worried about the 99% doing business with me than the reverse?
Why didn’t the New York Times or CNN give that as the example (“for example, Wolf, Christians might end up refusing to serve Muslims on the grounds that they are all violent terrorists, and it is a sin to serve them, and as a result the entire Muslim population would be relegated to a ghetto.”) Unlikely you say? Sure. But a Muslim dude opening a pizza place and then denying service to 99% of his customer base (or lets say 99.5% since he won’t serve unaccompanied Muslim women either), adopting a thoroughly unorthodox and unheard of interpretation of shari’a to do it–this is likely?
Second thought. The bill isn’t too “broad” as drafted because it lets Muslims discriminate against random single women or random Christians. It’s just precisely the same discrimination as proposed in the bill itself, the only real distinction being that it is discrimination directed against the drafters.
When one describes a piece of legislation as “too broad”, what they mean is that it covers circumstances that are really beyond the scope of what is intended to be regulated. Hence, for example, a ban on vehicles on a gravel path that runs from Pittsburgh to DC is too broad, as the whole point of it is to create a bike path, and a bicycle is a vehicle. (This is a real example, somewhere on that road I always pass a sign on my bike that says “No vehicles.” My letters indicating the sign should read “No MOTORIZED vehicles” have gone unanswered. As nobody enforces that sign as against bicycles I have chosen not to pursue the matter further.)
In any event, I presume the point is clear. There are reasons that one would ban cars and motorcycles from a paved surface on which bicycles and pedestrians are welcome. To ban the bicycle through a ban on vehicles is “too broad”, a mistake in fact.
To describe the law as “too broad” because it permits Muslims to discriminate against Christian infidels or unaccompanied women is a misnomer, as the same wrong would be committed, just by different people. In fact, to describe it as not narrow enough is either anti Muslim or anti gay. Anti Muslim in the sense that discrimination is not acceptable only when practiced by them, anti gay in the sense that discrimination is acceptable only when practiced against them.
It’s actually probably both. As in:
1. Christians refusing service to gay people because it violates their religious freedom to do that. (Religious freedom)
2. Muslims refusing service to gay people because it violates their religious freedom to do that.. (on the borderline)
3. Muslims refusing service to Christians because it violates their religious freedom to do that. (too broad).
Of course that’s the conservative version, the one advanced by the supporters of the Arizona bill. The liberal version is not necessarily different, however, at least when advanced by those who find the law bad, but also “too broad.” It would go like this:
1. Christians refusing service to gay people because it violates their religious freedom to do that. (Bad)
2. Muslims refusing service to gay people because it violates their religious freedom to do that. (Worse)
3. Muslims refusing service to Christians because it violates their religious freedom to do that. (Now do you see the horrible thing you idiots have done?????).
Or we could just say that any attempt by any of these people to discriminate against any of these people in providing services that are not in their core religious in nature (nobody is forcing priests, rabbis or imams to do anything) will not be tolerated because they are all, yo
u know, different examples of the same damn thing.