This “sharia-law business is crap . . . and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies!” So blustered Chris Christie. Bluster is the New Jersey governor’s default mode. It has certainly served him well. When directed at surly advocates of New Jersey’s teachers’ unions — who, after all, deserve it — bluster can apparently make a conservative heartthrob out of a pol whose bite is bipartisan moderate, however titillating his bark may be.
The style is so effective that Christie seems to be trying it out on everyone. A few weeks back, a local reporter had the audacity to ask His Honor whether he believes in creationism or evolution — a question that seemed more pertinent than impertinent in light of the controversy over whether the former ought to be taught in the schools that the governor’s 9 million constituents subsidize to the tune of $11 billion annually. Yet his answer was to growl, “That’s none of your business.”
“None of your business,” has moved to the front of the Christie repertoire. So discovered a citizen who recently had the temerity to ask her governor why he does not send his children to the public schools whose bloated budgets he is trying to pare. It was a pretty tame question, one customarily asked of politicians who crow about the alleged greatness of our public-education system while opting out of it when it comes to their own kids.
As it happened, the governor had a compelling, three-part answer: Like other New Jersey homeowners, he pays the exorbitant property taxes that subsidize the state’s public-employee pensions . . . er, I mean, public schools. Second, the Christies, like many parents, choose parochial schools so their kids get religious instruction. Third, Christie’s fiduciary obligation as governor requires his best judgment about what’s right for the state and its schools, regardless of what private choices he makes for his own family. Perfect. Except Christie couldn’t help being Christie: Even as he made it his business to share these convincing views, the state’s top public servant couldn’t resist telling his public, “It’s none of your business. I don’t ask you where you send your kids to school, don’t bother me about where I send mine.” Probably best not to ask him about charm school.
Former Bush speechwriter Pete Wehner, whose monitory posts at Commentary’s “Contentions” blog frequently stress the need for civility in public discourse, evidently missed these and other Christie gems. But Pete certainly caught this week’s diatribe against the “sharia crazies,” and it’s got him just as goose-bumpy as the Washington Post’s left-wing blogger Greg Sargent.
According to Pete, “unfair animus toward Muslim Americans” is among the “troubling tendencies” in today’s conservatism, particularly among the tea-party types who are the bête noir of establishment GOP commissars of compassion. That’s why Pete is “grateful,” he continued, that Christie “spoke out in defense of his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to a state bench.”
Media questions about the Mohammed appointment were the provocation for Christie’s outburst. “Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed,” the governor thundered. He complained that disquiet over the appointment owed solely to a toxic combination of irrational bias (because Mohammed is a Muslim) and ignorance (because the fact that a lawyer defended people detained in the 9/11 investigation, as Mohammed did, does not mean the lawyer sympathizes with the terrorists).
As far as they go, both these assertions are true. But, as we’ll see, they don’t come close to telling the whole story. There are Muslims in the United States who despise the West, and there are patriotic American Muslims who embrace the West, some of whom serve honorably in our military, are key assets to our intelligence community, and have enabled us to infiltrate terror networks, thwart plots, and save lives. The question is how to figure out which is which.
Moreover, our Constitution guarantees counsel to people accused of crimes, a guarantee that courts routinely extend to people who are temporarily detained in the civilian justice system even if they are never formally charged, much less convicted. Some of the most patriotic Americans I know are defense lawyers who’ve represented convicted terrorists. These attorneys took on the obligation to defend people who can’t afford counsel, a duty without which our civilian justice system could not function. They dutifully represented indicted terrorists upon request and assignment by the court. By contrast, many of Mohammed’s clients were never charged with participation in the 9/11 plot, although that hardly means they were “wrongly arrested,” as Christie claimed.
Christie was just getting warmed up. He exploded when a reporter followed up with a question about sharia, the law of Islam. “Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all, it’s crazy!” he snapped, adding that this “Sharia-law business is just crap . . . and I’m tried of dealing with the crazies.”
Maybe Governor Christie ought to ask S.D. if sharia law concerns are “just crap.” We know “S.D.” only by her initials to protect her from further indignity. She is a Muslim woman from Morocco who was serially raped and beaten in New Jersey by the Muslim man to whom she was wed as a teenager — one of those arranged marriages common in Islamic cultures. A New Jersey judge declined to give her a protective order, though. Under sharia, a man cannot rape his wife: “A woman cannot carry out the right of her Lord til she carries out the right of her husband,” declares one relevant hadith (Ibn Majah 1854). “If he asks her to surrender herself she should not refuse him even if she is on a camel’s saddle.” Or, as S.D.’s husband translated this sharia tenet as he forced himself on her, “This is according to our religion. You are my wife, I [can] do anything to you. The woman, she should submit and do anything I ask her to do.”
Based on this, the judge (who, thankfully, was later reversed) reasoned that the husband couldn’t be criminally culpable. According to the New Jersey court, “He was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to . . . consistent with his practices, and it was something that was not prohibited.”