In his recent book, Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus, Yale political scientist Andrew F. March argues that fears of an inherent conflict between Western and Islamic political norms are overblown. If true, this would be very good news. Such "overlapping consensus" could ease the adjustments caused by mass migration of Muslims into Western European countries. The ideology of suicide terrorists might be revealed as a misunderstanding of Islam. And those of us who are concerned about the creeping shariah promoted by Islamists via legal, nonviolent methods could relax and shift our attention to global warming or mark-to-market accounting.
But is March right? To understand the import of Mr. March's theory of "overlapping consensus," let's look at some of his other writings, as well as his own political activism since joining the Yale faculty. Professor March has discussed whether Western countries should legalize polygamy. If there is a robust overlapping consensus, it should be easy to reach an accommodation without either Muslim immigrants or their new home countries having to make major changes in their way of life. However, March proposes that governments "get out of the 'marriage' business" altogether, and instead, that any number of people, of any gender(s) or sexual orientation(s) should be able to form a legally-recognized civil union. March's sole concession to Western sensibilities is that the members of a civil union would be required to sign a contract designed to assure consent.