Shoulder-to-Shoulder, an interfaith coalition allied with the Islamic Society of North America, is mobilizing its supporters against state legislation that stops foreign law from superseding the Constitution. The Islamists’ non-Muslim allies are helping frame it as an unnecessary, bigoted initiative that threatens all people of faith.
The coalition is holding a webinar on February 27. The announcement correctly notes that current legislation does not mention Shariah, though it is covered under the terminology of “foreign law.” Seven states have passed such bills since 2010.
Shoulder-to-Shoulder’s description makes it sound like the legislation is a ban on foreign law influencing judges’ decision altogether. It states:
“Most religious laws that influence these contracts (like Jewish Halakha, Catholic Canon law, or Islamic Shariah law) were not developed within the United States and would be considered foreign law under such legislation. While anti-Muslim sentiment is still the motivating factor behind these laws, Americans of every faith should be concerned about their impact on religious freedom.”
This is an easily refutable misrepresentation of the bills, based on the American Laws for American Courts draft legislation. It does not ban religious contracts like those mentioned by Shoulder-to-Shoulder, nor is it a blanket ban on foreign law. It only applies when there is a conflict between the U.S. Constitution and foreign law in court and it victimizes no one, especially not Muslims because Muslim-Americans are benefactors of it.
A 2011 study found 50 cases where Shariah or foreign law based on Shariah influenced the court case. The American Public Policy Alliance has a list of 10 cases where a Muslim-American party objected to the role of Shariah. The summary is as follows:
“In cases 1-3, the Appellate Courts upheld Shariah law; in cases 4-7, the Trial Courts upheld Shariah, but the Appellate Courts reversed (protecting the litigant’s constitutional rights); in cases 8-10, both Trial and Appellate Courts rejected the attempts to enforce Shariah law.”
ALAC is sometimes criticized as unnecessary and driven by unsubstantiated paranoia. It is hard to imagine that an American judge would ever rule give foreign law precedence over American law. The American Public Policy Alliance explains that the bill fixes a troublesome loophole:
Most states merely state that foreign laws and judgments that violate the state’s “public policy” shall not be recognized. But the courts consistently rule that the state legislature has the responsibility to articulate clearly what the state’s public policy actually is.
The ALAC website points out the hypocrisy of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In response to business dress codes enforced on Muslim-American women in France, CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper unwittingly supported the rationale behind ALAC.
“A discriminatory dress code implemented in France does not supersede American laws protecting the religious rights of American citizens,” he said. He said CAIR is “defending American law from foreign intrusion.”
The American-Islamic Forum for Democracy supports ALAC-type bills because it has seen how Shariah has affected Muslims in Europe. The bills’ purpose is not to pre-empt a hypothetical situation. It’s a reaction to what is actually happening right now.
A 2010 study found that Shariah courts in the United Kingdom lack accountability, to say the least. There are not clear standards for appointing judges and monitoring proceedings and rulings often conflict with British law. For example, British courts’ first priority is the interest of the child. Shariah courts rule that children automatically go into the custody of the father after a certain age.
The British Justice Ministry investigated Shariah courts and had to end give up because of a lack of cooperation from the court staffs.
The misrepresentations by Shoulder-to-Shoulder stem from its relationship with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation. The Foundation was another Brotherhood entity that was shut down for financing Hamas. This isn’t six degrees of separation: The Holy Land Foundation operated within ISNA, according to a 2009 ruling by a federal judge.
ISNA said on its website last month that it “founded” Shoulder-to-Shoulder to counter increasing bigotry against Muslims. Elsewhere on its website, ISNA says it “helped convene” the coalition of 28 religious organizations. Whichever way it is worded, the point is that Shoulder-to-Shoulder is largely a product of ISNA.
And who is the ISNA official leading its interfaith campaign and, therefore, its work with Shoulder-to-Shoulder? Former Secretary-General Sayyid Syeed, who is seen in The Grand Deception documentary saying in 2006, “Our job is to change the constitution of America.” His current job title at ISNA is National Director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances.
That is the organization and individual that Shoulder-to-Shoulder works with. This has been written about many times, but the coalition continues to carry ISNA’s water.
Shoulder-to-Shoulder is just one example of how non-Muslims are being rallied to the cause. The Gospel Coalition published an article in August titled, “The Dangers of Anti-Sharia Laws.” The author, Joe Carter, is also a senior editor for the Action Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.
Another example is Pastor Joel C. Hunter of Florida’s Northland Church. He collaborated with a former CAIR official to stand against the bill and said it is an “unnecessary law that increases bias and heightens animosity between Christians and Muslims.”
The ALAC-inspired bills will not roll back religious freedom. Non-Muslims should read about the bill from the original source before following the lead of ISNA and its interfaith coalition.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy contributed to this article.
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