I’ve been mixing it up at the Corner over the merits of the anti-Sharia movement. In addition to the replies I’ve received there from Andrew Bostom, David French, Andrew McCarthy, and David Yerushalmi, I’ve received another reply from David Goldman, a former editor here at First Things.
Goldman faults me for failing to speak out about the problem of Muslim wife-beating. The Quranically legitimated threat of violence in Muslim households, he says, renders any domestic arrangement contracted under Sharia compulsive of necessity—and so morally repugnant.
In addition to this theological critique, Goldman suggests that Muslim women here in the US suffer a notably high rate of domestic abuse:
The president of the North American Council for Muslim Women, Sharifa Alkhateeb, estimated in a 1998 study that physical violence occurred in about 10% of Muslim marriages in the United States.
But a report from the Center for Disease Control cited by the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault suggests that, if anything, this is a notably low rate of domestic abuse:
Two surveys of married couples in the United States conducted in the 1970s and 1980s found that some kind of violence between spouses had occurred during the previous year in 16 percent of the homes surveyed. In addition, 28 percent of couples surveyed reported marital violence at some point in their marriages. Researchers have found comparable rates of domestic violence in numerous other nations, including Canada and New Zealand.
Whatever the merits of Goldman’s readings of the Islamic theory of authority in the household, the actual situation among American Muslims is not near so dire as he suggests. This is the danger inherent in strong theoretical readings: they sometimes miss the facts on the ground.
But even if the situation in the Muslim community were as Goldman says it is, it still wouldn’t alter our opinion of anti-Sharia laws. We have a duty to enact and enforce just laws to protect women, but those will be laws against domestic violence and spousal rape, not against Sharia. Muslim legal theory can insist on whatever it wants, but such insistence will be hollow so long as we enforce existing American law—which we emphatically must do.