Recently, Shariah (Islamic law) has received a bad rep in America, and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) wants to change that. ICNA is kicking off its Defending Religious Freedom campaign on Monday in order to create a better understanding of shariah law and to dispel common misunderstandings. ICNA says its campaign is aimed at “educating Americans” on what it says is the noble meaning of Sharia through conferences, billboards, and TV and radio PSAs.” The main website for ICNA’s Defending Religious Freedom campaign is here. ICNA has also launched a nationwide toll-free hotline to answer peoples’ questions on shariah, which is 1-855-SHARIAH.
Shariah law is the code by which over a billion Muslims around the world try to govern their lives. Its subject area ranges from dietary requirements to marriage and funeral rites. To many American conservatives, however, shariah law has come to denote a threat to American law. As Zahid Bukhari, president of Islamic Circle of North America, stated to CNN, “Some politicians like to abuse the word in this national spotlight they have. They are trying to make it a dirty word.”
There have been many states that have proposed or passed “Anti-Shariah” laws. In 2010, Oklahoma passed a ban that specifically mentioned shariah, and was later blocked by a federal court for review of its singling out Islamic law. However, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 40 such bills being considered in 24 states. Most recently, Florida joined the ranks of states like Louisiana, Arizona, and Tennessee in banning the use of any foreign law in the United States. Although it did not mention shariah law, it was understood to be the inspiration behind the law.
The fact that these laws are based upon nothing more than fearmongering is highlighted by the fact that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States already establishes the US Constitution as the law of the land. There is no movement to establish a Caliphate in the United States. People just want to enjoy their right to freedom of religion, as protected by the 1st amendment of the Constitution.
Many organizations have lended their voice to the battle against the ignorance behind the anti-shariah movement. Amongst them, is the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR). On its website, CAIR asks for people of conscience to contact law makers in South Dakota to oppose House Bill 1253, which Roger Hunt (R-10) admitted is aimed at shariah law. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also spoken out against the unconstitutionality of laws that aim to ban shariah law. Their website can be seen here. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), known for its defense of Jewish rights, has also lent its voice to those opposing the anti-sharia laws. The fear, according to Andrew Rosencranz, regional director of the ADL in Florida, is that “this legislation would actually jeopardize the religious freedom of Floridians.” Jewish people, like Muslims, follow their respective religious laws in matters such as marriage. Anti-sharia bills such as the one that just passed in Florida would make that practically impossible under the law.
They say hate is built upon fear and one always fears what they don’t know. As Salam Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told the New York Times, “The fact is there is no Shariah takeover in America. It’s purely a political wedge to create fear and hysteria.”
Where did all this fear come from? A sinister, evil-minded man who wants nothing more than to destroy Islam in America, even at the expense of everyones’ civil liberties? Well… you can decide for yourself. His name is David Yerushalmi. According to the NY Times, he is a a “56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam. Despite his lack of formal training in Islamic law, Mr. Yerushalmi has come to exercise a striking influence over American public discourse about Shariah.”
According to CAIR’s website, Yerushalmi is also the head of the anti-Islam hate group Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), which on its now password-protected website offered a policy proposal that would make “adherence to Islam” punishable by 20 years in prison, called for the immediate deportation of all non-citizen Muslims and urged Congress to declare war on the “Muslim Nation,” which SANE defined as “all Muslims.” Yerushalmi isn’t alone either. He has a gang.
If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be. President Thomas Jefferson.