Shari’ah (Panic) Threatens the Constitution

The shari’ah threat has won: the Constitution is under attack.

Sen. Lindsay Graham said on Sunday, “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.” The Constitution is sacrosanct except when we’re in a panic that the Constitution is possibly not the exceptional, immutable compact we insist that it is.

Terry Jones is a despicable man, and the marauders in Afghanistan who killed UN workers and others have committed unspeakable crimes. We can agree that both things are true, and also agree that Jones’ Qur’an burning was unpopular but protected free speech, and that the angry mobs in Afghanistan don’t represent all Muslims.

If you want to game all the possible Constitution-threatening ramifications of the Obama administration’s decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military commission, read Dahlia Lithwick:

[M]ake no mistake about it: It won’t stop here. Putting the administration’s imprimatur on the idea that some defendants are more worthy of real justice than others legitimates the whole creeping, toxic American system of providing one class of legal protections for some but not others: special laws for children of immigrants, special laws for people who might look like immigrants, different jails for those who seem too dangerous, special laws for people worthy of wiretapping, and special laws for corporations. After today it will be easier than ever to use words and slogans to invent classes of people who are too scary to try in regular proceedings.

Guess who said this, last November, and what that person was talking about:

[I]n fact we are looking at a mortal threat to the supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States by its own terms, and the freedoms that we hold dear that are guaranteed by it. . .

I’ll finish the sentence to make the guessing a little easier: “. . . if we accept the insinuation and ultimately the adoption of shari’ah in the United States.” That’s right, Frank Gaffney, speaking on the grounds of the United States Capitol with his band of fear-stoking propagandists.

Gaffney is right. The Constitution is under attack. The panic that the Constitution is so weak that it would collapse under the weight of a few contracts providing for alternative dispute resolution, or wither from upholding the Free Exercise clause for Muslims or conducting criminal trials in accordance with it, has actually caused a mortal threat to the Constitution and the freedoms that we hold dear that are guaranteed by it.

UPDATE: Wow. For more, read “My Student, The ‘Terrorist,'” by Brooklyn College professor Jeanne Theoharis, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (h/t Katha Pollitt)