Quick Fact Checks

There have been a couple of things widely reported around blogs in the last week or so and nowhere near as widely corrected. First up is the New York Times quote that appears on the back of a couple of Chomsky books, “Arguably the most important intellectual alive”. Oliver Kamm gave us the putative full quote, which added “…how can he write such nonsense about international affairs and foreign policy?”, and quoted as his source Chomsky himself. This was then repeated by Andrew Sullivan and Tim Blair among others. We can blame Chomsky for the misquote (or paraphrase, if you like) which he used strategically to try and make himself appear the heroic dissenter standing against the hostile media. What the New York Times actually said (thanks to Troppo Armadillo) was:

Judged in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive today. He is also a disturbingly divided intellectual. On the one hand there is a large body of revolutionary and highly technical linguistic scholarship, much of it too difficult for anyone but the professional linguist or philosopher; on the other, an equally substantial body of political writings, accessible to any literate person but often maddeningly simple-minded. The ‘Chomsky problem’ is to explain how these two fit together.

OK, still not exactly complimentary, but different enough that it’s worth correcting the record.

Onwards to Canada’s new “Sharia courts”, as reported in LGF. The article they linked to claimed:

Canadian judges soon will be enforcing Islamic law, or Sharia, in disputes between Muslims, possibly paving the way to one day administering criminal sentences, such as stoning women caught in adultery.

Muslims are required to submit to Sharia in Muslim societies but are excused in nations where they live as a minority under a non-Muslim government.

Canada, however, is preparing for its 1 million-strong Muslim minority to be under the authority of a Sharia system enforced by the Canadian court system, according to the Canadian Law Times.

Strange and disturbing, eh? The story was linked to by Mangled Thoughts and Steve Edwards and probably others. The truth is far more prosaic: This is simply an arbitration board being set up by a group of Muslims. If two people wish to arbitrate a dispute with a Sharia ruling they are free to do so and can use this board to obtain such a ruling. The courts then uphold this agreement as they would any other signed agreement – as an LGF commenter pointed out, people can arbitrate disputes by flipping coins if they want to. The board is for civil cases only and of course nothing contrary to Canadian law will be allowed. This is actually a positive story since both parties will feel that they are acting consistent with their beliefs, and a load will be taken off the court system.

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