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Saturday, 3 September 2011
Yale’s Stern and ADL’s Foxman: Are They Ignorant about Halacha (Jewish Law) versus Sharia (Islamic Law)?

Since the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) published the anti-anti-Sharia rant by ADL's Abe Foxman, on August 10th, “Shout Down the Sharia Myth-Makers”, there have been a number of Jewish Federation (JFed) publications that have re-published it. The latest was the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia that did so in their August 31st edition. The Jewish Exponent republication of the Foxman JTA op-ed was the basis of the Philadelphia Jewish Culture Examiner post that contained my Iconoclast comments about Foxman’s lack of knowledge of Sharia.  Foxman has supported Mega-Mosque building in America.  JFed weeklies re-published the JTA Foxman rant because they had already paid for it via their JTS service subscription. Thus, these JFed weeklies did so uncritically.

In the wake of Foxman’s rant, the New York Times published an op-ed by assistant professor of religious studies at Yale, Eliyahu Stern, “Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America”. He proclaimed in today’s New York Times, op-ed that we should not be afraid of Sharia, that anti-Sharia legislation passed in three states including Tennessee, is tantamount to know nothingness, a kind of contemporary outpouring of 19th Century American Nativism.  Stern is a product of Yeshiva University who holds a doctorate from U.C. Berkeley. Stern’s forthcoming book to be published in 2012 is about the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu a revered figure in Judaism in the late 18th Century in Eastern Europe, not about Sharia. 

 Given his background, has Stern published anything about Sharia versus halacha, Jewish law?

When I did a Goggle search, I came up with only this piece in today's New York Times. As he is a graduate of Yeshiva U, surely he must know the halachic respect for governing civil law established in the early Talmudic era. Are both Stern and Foxman staggeringly ignorant about the differences between Halacha, Sharia and Civil law? 

In October, 2009 we published remarks by Rabbi Jonathan Hausman in the New English Review regarding differences between Halacha and Sharia in an article, "Halacha, Sharia and the Religious Acceptance of Constitutional Governance".   This article by Hausman should have been something that Stern researched before writing his Times op-ed. 

Hausman, who is trained in both Halacha and studied doctrinal Islam as a graduate student in Egypt in the 1970’s knows the differences.  Here are excerpts from what he wrote: 


Simply stated, there is a basic Rabbinic principle that has operated since roughly the year 226 CE. That principle is known as Dina d’malchuta Dina; the law of the country is binding and, in certain cases, is to be preferred to Jewish law/Halacha.


Samuel, the leader of the Babylonian Jewish community in 241 CE, specifically imbued his community with the consciousness that one must be reconciled to changed circumstances regarding government, and that civil law is necessary for the functioning of the greater society. The result was an internal recognition of Judaism’s non-supercessionist and non-conversionary character. According to the Prophet Nehemiah, Jews should obey the laws of their rulers (Nehemiah 9:37).

As a result, Jews view this legal principle as deriving from the Biblical authority. . . .The United States has a Constitution under which the government functions, and the Bill of Rights which protects basic human rights and freedom - rights derived from the Almighty according to the secular foundational documents of these United States - freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of education and freedom to organize political parties. Judaism accepts this situation without issue.

Sharia would seem to have much in common with Halacha. Sharia means “the path” (as does the Hebrew word halacha at its etymological root) and, on its face might be described as the religious code for living the moral system according to Islamic tradition…perhaps, in the same way the Bible would serve for Christians. The question with Sharia (as with Halacha) is the same . . . Does the Rabbinic principle of ‘the law of the land is paramount’ apply in Islam?

You peel back the layers and understand that Sharia refers both to the Islamic system of law and the totality of the Islamic way of life. . . .Whereas Judaism took the Torah and its commands as rubrics within which to live . . . Sharia holds a different view.

Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the direct word of Allah delivered to the last and greatest prophet Muhammad. Therefore, it is immutable, perfect, unchangeable, static, and unchanging. What can’t be derived from the Qur’an may be gleaned from the Sunna, which relates how Muhammad conducted his life in practice, and is considered by Muslims to be immutable for all time.

So, if Muhammad used the pretext of a hudna or tahadiya (two Qur’anic terms meaning an impermanent cessation of military hostilities) to regroup and strengthen his forces for a future battle against the Banu Quraysh, killing and enslaving the Jews in Arabia, legitimizing the rape of women as a tactic in war, it applies today as a tactic. (Parenthetically, the treatment of Jews as described and prescribed in the Qur’an is particular graphic and loathsome…kill the Jew where one finds a Jew and do so for glory and honor.) If the punishment for rudd/apostasy, to a murtadd was death, then apostasy continues to be a capital offense. Homosexuality, adultery, freedom of speech issues when it comes to criticizing Islam or Muhammad or drawing satire cartoons such as the Jylland Posten satires by Kurt Westergaard are capital offenses under Islam…How does this impact our Bill of Rights as Islam is as it has always been, expansionary, supercessionist? Or, in the words of a number of its defenders in the US, Islam is not meant to be one amongst equals but to be the supreme law of the land?

Because in Islam, Religion is State and State is Religion.

Islam is political, and is determined to conquer. It concerns the unofficial sixth pillar of Islam, Jihad. It can be overt as in outright military hostilities and actions, and it can be expressed in the manner in which non-Muslims are treated under Muslim governing authority. It can be covert in the manner in which the court system is used to further the grand goals of preferences for Muslims above others, and the use of Da’wa (conversionary outreach) and Taqiyyah (Islamic religiously sanctioned dissimilitude).

[. . .]

The values of Islam couldn’t be more different than American values of freedom, liberty, and individual responsibility. Also, the concept that all men (and women) are created equal under God and should be treated accordingly is a concept that doesn’t exist in Islam, beginning with its foundational and doctrinal texts.

[. . .]

Democratic, western societies embrace and legislate many basic human rights and freedoms. Some of these rights and freedoms include freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of education and freedom to organize political parties. These are rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, part and parcel of the system of governance defined by the United States Constitution. Imagine how different life would look with those “Islamic values” being put in place in America. Our country and way of life would look radically different and we would be poorer as a nation for it.


Posted on 09/03/2011 10:23 PM by Jerry Gordon
4 Sep 2011
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  The difference between this article and the Time's: The facts.

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