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On September 2, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Yale University’s Eliyahu Stern titled, “Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America.” The article compares the fight against Sharia law to anti-Semitism and depicts it as being based in anti-Muslim bigotry. On the contrary, the campaigns to ban Sharia-based judicial rulings actually protect Muslims who love the U.S. and the values that define it.
“The crusade against Sharia undermines American democracy, ignores our country’s successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority,” Stern writes.
At least a dozen states are considering outlawing Islamic arbitration tribunals where Muslims can voluntarily settle their disputes according to Sharia law. As Daveed Garteinstein-Ross notes, there are similar courts for Jews and they are not used as criminal courts. However, there is a danger that an Islamist judge will be able to push his interpretation of the faith from the bench, and that Muslims will feel forced by their communities to use Sharia courts. Islamist groups have also promoted Sharia courts as part of an incremental strategy to bring about Sharia-based governance.
The Center for Security Policy has found 50 examples in 23 states “where Muslim-Americans had their cases decided by Sharia Law against their will.” In one case, a Trial Court judge ruled based on Moroccan Sharia law, even though those involved were not Moroccans or even Muslims. In Tampa, FL, a judge ruled that a dispute between two Muslim parties would be solved in accordance with Sharia, overruling the objections of the one party. There is also the notorious New Jersey case where a judge exonerated a Muslim man of raping his wife because Sharia allowed him to do so. The ruling was later overturned.
“These families came to America for freedom and from the discriminatory and cruel laws of Sharia. When our courts then apply Sharia law in the lives of these families, and deny them equal protection, they are betraying the principles on which America was founded,” the study says.
This is why the American-Islamic Forum on Democracy supports the ban on Sharia-based rulings.
“As Americans we believe in the Constitution, the Establishment Clause, and our one law system. [The ban] reaffirms the First Amendment to the Constitution and prevents the establishment or empowerment of a foreign legal system like the specific Sharia legal systems implemented in many Muslim majority nations and in western Sharia courts seen in places like Britain,” the Muslim group said.
To see the problems posed by Sharia courts, one only needs to look at Europe, where they have been established. The Civitas think tank in the United Kingdom found that the country has at least 85 of them.
“Among the rulings…we find some that advise illegal actions and others that transgress human rights standards as they are applied by British courts,” the report said. It mentioned a case where a Muslim woman was not allowed to marry a non-Muslim. In one incident, a Sharia councilman dismissed a woman’s complaint that her husband hit her once, saying “it’s not a very serious matter.”
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