The Volokh Conspiracy has a post on a system in Canada which is being developed, to allow Muslims to opt in to a binding arbitration system for resolution of civil disputes, the decisions of which would be based on Sharia law and enforced by the Canadian courts.
Eugene is addressing the question of whether or not this would result in Nigeria-style stonings for adultery, and he thinks it’s pretty far-fetched. His reasoning on this seems sound.
But I have another concern. It seems that this system would accelerate the fragmentation of the society that adopted it. Different ethnic and religious groups, operating under different systems of law, even if those systems were under the larger umbrella, would be connected by one less common strand. I know that many countries in Europe already have major problems with large unassimilated minorities. I also know that the PC crowd in this country at least thinks that’s a good thing, but we can look to Bosnia for an easy reference on what happens when different ethnic groups get too cut off from each other, and view themselves as members of their ethnic group first, and members of a nation second.
We’ve begun to see this country dominated by factionalism and the grievance industry. I don’t know that much about what’s going on in Canada, but I hope we don’t encourage that sort of thing here. It seems like it would be a tacit admission that we can’t all get along; that unity is impossible; and that we just need to buy off some groups so they don’t cause us too much trouble. We’ve gone a fair way down that path already, and I don’t think there’s any end to it except the dissolution of the nation.
Some folks think that would be OK, I suppose, but I think it would be a great loss. An awful lot of the world, besides just this country, would be a lot worse off if America wasn’t around any more (think of Israel or Taiwan, for example). But if we’re going to be a nation, in public, civil and legal matters we’ve got to be united, somehow. I hope we don’t follow Canada’s example. Why we would, I’ve no idea, but stranger things have happened. The Supreme Court recently cited the constitution of the EU as a precedent in a decision (the Lawrence decision I believe) so it may not be so far off.