It seems odd that otherwise rational people could be afraid that sharia law, if it ever became part of our legal system, would allow men to murder their wives and daughters. Yet, a letter to the U-B suggests some of us are afraid of that.
To my knowledge, sharia hasn't been codified in any of our courts. If it were, it would likely resemble Great Britain's arbitration tribunals, established in 1994, and the Jewish Beth Din courts, which have resolved disputes for over 100 years.
In sharia courts, whether Muslim or British, both litigants give the court power to rule on their case. The judge's decision is binding, but sharia courts hear only civil, not criminal, cases.
This system is firmly established in our popular culture. Who could possibly be fearful of Judge Wapner, Judge Judy, or the others who dispense justice on TV?
If the benign nature of sharia weren't enough to allay our fears, our Constitution preempts any law but our own.
To be sure, we might change the Constitution, but only with two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of our state legislatures.
There are better things than sharia to be fearful of, including the fear itself.
American history has been marked by episodes of fear turning into hysteria. In 1692, we hanged 20 citizens and a dog for witchcraft. In the 1800s, we became so fearful of freed slaves we invented the Ku Klux Klan.
The spectre of "anarchists" prompted the Red Scare of 1919. World War II's threat of "spies" imprisoned thousands of Japanese-Americans, many of them citizens, to concentration camps.
And Joe McCarthy's Senate committee, hunting down American communists, trampled the Constitution, terrorized thousands and found no threat.
Fear is a curious thing. We love being made afraid, or we wouldn't have ghost stories. But reasonable people, emerging from the theater, realize that vampires exist only in never-never land.
Yet we continue to be frightened by such fanciful threats as the furor over Mr. Obama's birth certificate, the war on Christmas, homosexual marriage and sharia law.
Maybe we have a vested interest in self-delusion. Could it be hatred of a different race, another religion, a sexual behavioir that offends our sensibilities, a political party, a president? Are we simply a bored society seeking stimulation?
Irrational fear can easily turn to hysteria. That's always dangerous. At the very least, it's embarrassing.