Patrick M. Hayes (paedraggaidin) wrote in talk_politics,
Patrick M. Hayes

Sharia: not a threat to America

Today, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a federal district court injunction against Oklahoma's anti-sharia law, passed by Oklahoma voters by a margin of some 70% back in 2010 (the federal district court issued its order blocking the law very soon after it was passed).

Court: Oklahoma ban on Islamic law unconstitutional. The Tenth Circuit's full opinion can be found here.

As everyone knows, popular hostility in the United States towards Muslims, Arabs, and anyone perceived as being remotely Middle Eastern spiked after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and this hostility hasn't receded much in the decade following the attacks. It has included political posturing in Congress, abjectly silly hostility to a proposed Islamic cultural center in New York City, paranoid suspicion towards people who aren't even Arab or Muslim, violent incidents (such as this, this, this, this, and this), and a wide variety of anti-Islamic rhetoric in our news media.

More recently, a particularly paranoid streak of weirdness has infected many Americans, which causes them to believe, against all evidence, that slowly but surely Islamic sharia law is supplanting American law in American courts, as part of a general worldwide Islamic effort to destroy America from within. Briefly looking up "sharia in America" on Google is like shaking a big tree, causing all sorts of nuts to fall out (examples include this, this, this, this, and this).

These sites all have a common theme, namely that various shadowy Muslim groups, working in concert as part of a worldwide conspiracy, are surreptitiously using American courts to apply sharia law to Americans, in an attempt to bring America under sharia law without us even realizing it. These sites all cite a similar body of state court cases which, they assert, demonstrate that American courts are wrongfully looking to sharia for guidance, instead of American case or statutory law. Muslim women are denied divorce because sharia law gives them no freedom! Muslim families are allowed to force their children into unconscionable marriages! Muslims are getting special treatment and their contracts are evaluated using sharia!

But, as the ACLU report linked above easily demonstrates, these claims are patently false.
There is no evidence that Islamic law is encroaching on our courts. On the contrary, the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups as purportedly illustrative of this problem actually show the opposite: Courts treat lawsuits that are brought by Muslims or that address the Islamic faith in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths or that involve no religion at all. These cases also show that sufficient protections already exist in our legal system to ensure that courts do not become impermissibly entangled with religion or improperly consider, defer to, or apply religious law where it would violate basic principles of U.S. or state public policy.

It was just this kind of fear-mongering nonsense that prompted Oklahoma legislators to pass a bill banning the use of sharia in Oklahoma state courts. The funny thing is, while as stated there is no evidence of some vast Muslim conspiracy to supplant American law, the drive to ban sharia in America is a concerted effort, led by an attorney from New York named David Yerushalmi. Mr. Yerushalmi, a member of an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism, has a history of anti-Islamic bias and racism. (Detailed story here.) So far, he's been behind three states' enactment of anti-sharia laws (Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Louisiana), and measures currently under discussion in several more. Even more enlightening, the various groups and individuals supporting these initiatives could be described as being the Christian and Jewish counterparts to radical Muslims who do want to impose their religion and way of life on others. The point being that fundamentalists are all the same, whether they be Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or atheist: our way is the only way, and you will submit or else.

The Tenth Circuit has here rightly declared the Oklahoma law's language discriminatory, finding that the it specifically targeted Islamic religious law (a definite no-no under the First Amendment) and failed to assert a compelling state interest: "Given the lack of evidence of any concrete problem, any harm Appellants seek to remedy with the proposed amendment is speculative at best and cannot support a compelling interest. 'To sacrifice First Amendment protections for so speculative a gain is not warranted....'" With the injunction upheld, the case will return to federal district court to determine whether the law is unconstitutional. I think it highly likely that the court will hold it so.

With no evidence of sharia posing an actual threat to America, do you think this might shut up the idiots who peddle such nonsense? Sadly, I doubt it.
Tags: court, islam, xenophobia
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