Toleration of "Shariah" law would end democracy as we have known it

Toleration and Islamic Law


Can a modern democracy house more than one legal system, even on a limited basis, and remain a democracy as we have come to understand that term over the past two centuries?

Of course, modern Western democracies already tolerate a wide range of religious practice. That toleration is one of the fundamental attributes defining such political systems and the law very often compromises some of its rules as a result. In the U.S., for example, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution permits Amish parents to end their children's formal education at the eighth grade, even though others must complete 10 or 12 years of schooling. Similarly, even in circumstances where the Constitution's "free exercise clause" does not compel it, the federal government has permitted the use of peyote (containing the hallucinogen mescaline) in American Indian rituals and also excused conscientious objectors from military service.

But there is a critical difference between permitting some flexibility for religious practices within the larger society and encouraging separate, and potentially inconsistent, legal systems for different parts of the population. Toleration suggests an exception to the norm. Interposing alternative legal rules, and institutions to administer them, creates competing norms. In effect, one part of the body politic secedes from the other parts with regard to certain aspects of national life.

Comment: I pray that Shariah law is never tolerated in the United States!

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