As reported on “Religion Clause” today, the leading Sharia law “trustee” in Nigeria is claiming that the religious rights of a man are being violated when the State prosecuted him for marrying a 13 year old.
Now, according to AFP and ThisDay, the Registered Trustees of Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria has filed suit in the Federal High Court seeking a declaration that Yerima’s right to privacy and his right to practice his religion have been violated… The suit alleges that the Child Rights Act is unconstitutional because Muslim religious law permits Yerima to marry up to four wives with no restriction on age. The Sharia group’s lawyer says that a Muslim may “even marry a child in the womb of her mother.”
So, a Government has laws that say marrying children is illegal, and a religion has “laws” saying child marriage (and polygamy, and fetal marriage (Fetogamy??)) are just fine. How can such a situation play out? Looking to Utah is instructive, in that its history shows a possible compromise. At the same time, Islam is no 1860’s Mormonism.
When the Mormons asserted their religious freedom as a defense for polygamy, the national government fought back with threats serious enough to convince the isolated and localized Mormon community that it was in their long term best interests to have a “revelation” about polygamy. According to this timeline, it took about 44 years (1852-1896) of legislation, arrests and dangling the carrot of Statehood in front of Utah to get them to forever renounce and outlaw polygamy.
So can any “State” bring such pressure to bear on Islam? Dispersed worldwide, numbering over a billion, operating from a “cell” model rather than hierarchical church, and demanding that Sharia be elevated above secular law in every place they emigrate to, I don’t see how Islam can be reigned in with the tactics that wiped out polygamy (sort of ) in Utah. Islam operates from a position of strength that the Mormons of the 19th century would have killed for.
|Afghani Child Bride|
Do we have the strength to stand up and defend our well earned civil rights and legal system? What is the best tactic? I certainly believe that nations must demand that their laws are pre-eminent over specific religious practices. An emigree may not enter a country and insist that his religious practices be accepted, when those very practices have been outlawed in the country he is moving to. (Note: I’m willing to be a little softer on polygamy than on child marriage before the age of consent.)
The case of child brides is identical to the question of blasphemy death-sentence fatwas, or reduced rights of women in court or inheritance, or slavery. If we do not stand and say, “NO! These practices are not allowed here… we’ve already dealt with and settled those questions.” we will be willingly giving up what the crucible of 600 years of religious wars, enlightenment philosophy, revolution, and civilization building has earned us: civil rights, equal justice, secular systems of law, separation of Church and State, and respect for women as equal humans.