Sunday, Jul 21, 2024

Controversy Heats Up Over Anti-Sharia Laws

A Court of Appeals ruling that blocked a constitutional amendment in the state of Oklahoma has re-ignited intense controversy over anti-sharia (anti-Islamic) legislation in the United States. Sharia law has become a hot-button issue on the campaign trail, particularly with conservatives who view the slow “drip-drip” influence of Islamic law in American courtrooms as an insidious danger threatening American freedoms.

Anti-shariah legislation, which blocks American judges from bowing to the influence of foreign laws in reaching a judgment, has passed in three states and is pending in twenty others.


These laws have drawn blistering attacks from opponents. Critics downplay the fears of Muslim extremism gaining a foothold in American courts, criticizing such fears as “Islamophobia” and religious bigotry.


The clash came to a head most recently in Oklahoma, where voters had overwhelmingly approved an amendment in November that banned the use of foreign laws in Oklahoma courts. With 70 percent of voters endorsing the referendum, the amendment was about to be incorporated into the state constitution.


Before it could be signed into law, it was attacked by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which Mideast expert Daniel Pipes and other scholars have identified as a front organization for Hamas.


CAIR mounted a furious public relations campaign, branding the legislation “anti-Muslim fear-mongering” and an attempt to incite hatred of Muslims.


Assisted by the ACLU and bolstered by liberal media, CAIR argued that the Oklahoma measure violates a clause in the Constitution forbidding the government from favoring or disfavoring one religion over another. An Oklahoma judge ruled in CAIR’s favor, issuing an injunction against the new amendment.


The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the injunction, ruling that by singling out Islam, the amendment violated the Establishment clause of the Constitution.




While critics celebrated the decision as a decisive blow against anti-sharia laws not only in Oklahoma but those pending in other state legislatures, proponents of the Oklahoma amendment were undaunted. They vowed to reintroduce similar but better-crafted legislation at the earliest opportunity.


“The federal appeals court in Denver attempted to silence the voice of 70 percent of Oklahoma voters,” State Sen. Anthony Sykes said in a statement. “At some point we have to decide whether this is a country of by and for the judges, or by and for the people. How far will the people let them go?”


Echoes of this stance can be heard in 20 state legislatures across the country, that are considering bills that would similarly ban or restrict the use of sharia in their courts.


The language of most of the bills reflect that of American Laws For American Courts (ALAC)–a legislation model crafted by N.Y.-based attorney David Yerushalmi in conjunction with the American Public Policy Alliance.


The thrust of the proposed legislation, Yerushalmi told the Yated in a phone interview, is to give courts clear direction on how to proceed in cases where shariah law conflicts with fundamental American liberties.


The ALAC laws are formulated in airtight language that make it clear that any foreign law that violates constitutional liberties will have no standing in an American court.


Unlike the law struck down in Oklahoma, ALAC legislation is “facially neutral,” omitting all mention of sharia, Yerushalmi said. The Oklahoma amendment was doomed from the start, he added, because “it not only singles out sharia in a way that invited charges of discrimination, but is a blanket prohibition against all foreign laws. That is impractical and undesirable.”


“ALAC only prohibits foreign laws when in a particular case, their application would violate a person’s constitutional liberty; for example, the right to due process or equal protection.”


Yerushalmi believes many of the bills pending in states around the country will withstand judicial scrutiny if they remain focused not on sharia, but on the exclusion of foreign laws that conflict with constitutional freedoms.




An Orthodox Jew knowledgeable in Halacha, Yerushalmi finds it surprising that misconceptions about ALAC laws still abound in some Orthodox circles, and wonders if critics have actually read the legislation.


He is aware of concerns that as a‘foreign legal system,’ Halacha, too, will be thwarted by ALAC laws. Yerushalmi said those fears are groundless.


When it comes to proposed legislation barring foreign laws, the intended target are laws that deny constitutional liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the press, the right to privacy and so forth.


“While Islamic law clearly negates these freedoms, there is no law in the Torah to my knowledge that would violate fundamental constitutional liberties,” he said. “Halacha, as well as a p’sak from bais din in a binding arbitration between two parties, would therefore in no way be threatened by the proposed laws.”




Passage of ALAC laws will not be without a struggle, Yerushalmi said. They are certain to draw fire during the legislative process because “the American Civil Liberties Organization has joined with the Muslim Brotherhood groups and will grandstand about constitutional issues being at stake.”


“You will also get willfully blind detractors, typically from the “interfaith” community, together with the occasional Abe Fox of ADL who jump on the bandwagon for their own interests,” he said.


But when ALAC passes and is signed into law, as it has in 3 states–Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona–the debate is over, the attorney said, because “its opponents would never challenge the law in court. It is far too solid.”


In fact, the anti-sharia laws that achieved passage in these states have never been challenged by CAIR, ACLU or any other group.




How solid is the claim that sharia law is slowly infiltrating American courtrooms? A study by the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. looked at 50 appellate cases from 23 states and found that sharia law had been applied or formally recognized in court decisions.


Those cases, said Christopher Holton, a vice president at the center, “represent the tip of the iceberg.” He described a tendency toward “creeping sharia,” where many decisions are never publicized.


“There is no question – sharia principles are finding their way into our courts for years now. They are inherently discriminatory toward women – and most of the cases involve family law. When you get a ruling in a child custody case from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan or Egypt and its family law, it’s all sharia,” Holton said in a recent interview.




South Carolina Sen. Mike Fair (R), who introduced an ALAC-style bill in the state senate in 2011, portrayed the bill as a necessary guard against foreign laws that were being pushed by immigrants with different religious beliefs.


“South Carolina, like other states, recognizes the need to assert the fact that our state and U.S. constitutions are the basis for civil law in our country,” Fair told reporters in 2011.


“Some locales,” he said, “have been threatened by the encroachment of foreign law into local, state and or federal law despite obvious violations of our constitutions.”




Sharia law has come into play in child custody battles and domestic violence, Fair noted. Sharia law gives fathers preferential custodial rights over their children, and sanctions forced marriages–a clear denial of U.S. constitutional freedoms for children who have reached majority age.


He cited a case in Arizona, where an Iraqi man was convicted of mowing down his daughter with his jeep for being too “Westernized” and rejecting an arranged marriage.


The daughter died of her injuries. Almaleki was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 37 years in prison. The story set off a firestorm of outrage over “honor killing”–as the media dubbed it at the time–and raised awareness of the practice within the United States.


The judge in the case slammed the media for the term, saying it greatly disturbed him that the murder was framed “as anything remotely to do with honor,” when what it came down to was “a mean old man who could not forgive his daughter.”


In a similar case, Jessica Mokdad, a 20-year-old Muslim woman in Warren, Michigan, was murdered by her step-father in May 2011, “because she left home and wasn’t following Islam,” according to Fox News Detroit. “The stepfather, a devout Muslim, tracked his stepdaughter over four states to murder her for bringing dishonor on her family,” according to the news report.


Fair said a growing concern is the immigration of people “who are accustomed to their religion and their civil laws being inextricably connected.”


He said the bill was needed because people are moving to South Carolina from countries where religion and law “are practically synonymous,” and it’s important to understand the boundaries between the two, according to American laws.


Fair’s anti-Sharia bill has since died in committee. But backers say it has too much support to be permanently tabled and they will reintroduce it.




The anti-Sharia movement sweeping state legislatures, wrote the New York Times, “is directed at a problem more imagined than real. Even its leaders concede that American Muslims are not coalescing en masse to advance Islamic law. Instead, they say, Muslims could eventually gain the kind of foothold seen in Europe.”


Asked how real and immediate he considered the actual danger posed by sharia, Yerushalmi said that while the Constitution is not in immediate danger, sharia is “a threat to both our physical existence and our way of life because its purpose is to destroy our legal and political systems.”


We would be foolish to underestimate the powerful determination and abundant resources of those who see it as their religious duty to achieve these goals, he said.


Yerushalmi explained that sharia’s fundamental principle is that no law can coexist, much less reign supreme, over Islamic law. “To the extent that sharia seeks to achieve global dominance and, using violent jihad if necessary, to replace western democracy with Islamic law, it indeed poses a threat. That’s what the facts would suggest to any rational person.”




Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich angered Muslim groups last week by boldly understating this position.


At an event in South Carolina, Gingrich was asked if he would vote for a Muslim for president.


His answer: “I think it would entirely depend if they give up sharia. A person who belonged any kind of belief in sharia, any kind of effort to impose that on the rest of us, would be a mortal threat.”


Gingrich went on to say that America needs a president “who stands up, tells the truth, and rejects any kind of effort to impose on us a sense of guilt because we believe in our religion and we are prepared to tell the truth.”


He sharply criticized a State Department meeting a week ago with the organization of Islamic countries “who are seeking to censor any comment about Islam,” calling such censorship “a fundamental violation of our right of free speech as Americans.”


Gingrich was assailed by Muslim American leaders and the liberal media for his views. Their fervid rhetoric accused him of “waging war on sharia”, of being “Islamophobic,” “paranoid” and of “fostering conspiracy theories” to discredit the Muslim religion.




Are fears of sharia gaining a foothold in American courts nothing but baseless conspiracy theories, as secular progressives and Muslim groups insist?


A document found in a Swiss raid two months after 9/11 that revealed a 14-page master plan of the Muslim Brotherhood, called “The Project,” sheds considerable light on this question.


The paper, made public by Swiss journalist Sylvain Besson, described a 12-step, 100-year plan to mount a cultural invasion of the West, country by country, through immigration, propaganda and infiltration.


Written in 1987 but not formally published until 1991, this document chillingly forecast Muslim successes at implementing sharia and creating independent Muslim sub-societies throughout Europe.


The document closely resembled a memorandum discovered by U.S. counterterrorism authorities in Texas during the investigation of a Muslim front organization, The Holyland Foundation (HLF) about the same time.


The memorandum outlined a plan to be implemented in the United States that involved “civilization or stealth jihad,” defined as “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.”




An example of stealth jihad’s success is Toronto’s Valley Park Middle School, which has turned its cafeteria into a mosque on Friday afternoons for Muslim students. Local imams lead the Islamic ritual prayer. Christian prayer, on the other hand, is forbidden in Canada’s public schools.


Another example of the success of Muslim pressure on western societies to over-accommodate Islamic law, is the installation of Muslim ritual footbaths in several leading American universities, public schools and some airports, such as KCI Airport in Missouri, and Indianapolis Airport.


Where public funds were used for the structures, the footbaths have often triggered sharp resistance. When the ACLU was petitioned to take a stand, however, it overrode its usual policy of objecting to taxpayer money being used for religious structures, saying they have no issue with the footbaths, because “anyone can use them.”


In addition to the unrelenting pressure exerted on western societies to accommodate Muslim religious demands, “civilization jihad,” as described in the memorandum, encompasses a full array of other “tools.”


These include political activism; education; video and news broadcasting; pitching its message through print media; banking and finance; the physical and social sciences, and cultural affairs.


Political activism has been immensely successful in that great numbers of Americans have been lulled into believing the Muslim Brotherhood and other sharia-adherents have greatly modified their aims.


But perhaps most dangerously, civilization jihad targets the courts, aiming to have shariah laws validated as a parallel legal system.


“This is where the ultimate battleground is,” says Yerushalmi.


“We are a nation of laws. Our civil and criminal laws serve as the bedrock for American values. Shariah law principles are increasingly finding their way into U.S. court cases. The end result, if this process is not halted, will be an erosion of American constitutional liberties that are unique in the world.”


Will America wake up in time?




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