News / USA

Analysts: Efforts to Ban Sharia in US States Reflect Continued Anxiety Over Islam

The Islamic Center of America mosque in Dearborn, Michigan (file photo)
The Islamic Center of America mosque in Dearborn, Michigan (file photo)

Lawmakers in more than a dozen U.S. states have been trying to ban the Islamic religious and civil code known as Sharia, arguing that it inspires home-grown terrorism. Analysts say those efforts reflect continued anxiety and misunderstanding about Muslims in America.

Last year, 70 percent of voters in Oklahoma approved a referendum to prevent Sharia from being used in state courts.

When a judge blocked certification of the result because of constitutional concerns, Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern says many people were upset.

"Not only I, but the vast majority of Oklahomans, there's been a huge outcry here," said Kern.

With the referendum - known as State Question 755 - now on hold, Kern has put forward a bill in her state legislature that would ban "any law, rule, legal code or system" that does not offer the same protections as the U.S. constitution.

She says the target is still Sharia.

"What my bill does is it reinforces and puts in statute the intent of State Question 755," she said.

Several weeks ago, a lawmaker in Tennessee removed specific references to Sharia in a similar bill there.

Sharia governs every aspect of a devout Muslim's life. And some U.S. courts have allowed Muslims to resolve divorces and other disputes in Sharia tribunals established by their local mosques. This is also done for other faiths as well, and legal experts say the secular court’s job is to ensure that all state laws are observed.

Still, proponents of the anti-Sharia bills insist U.S. laws are under threat. Many point to a recent case in New Jersey. There, a judge ruled that a Muslim man who forced his wife to have sex with him could not be accused of rape because the man believed it was permitted under Islam. An appellate court later overturned the ruling.

David Yerushalmi, a Washington-based lawyer who helped craft the anti-Sharia bills, says Sharia is a threat to America because it includes the notion of jihad as a holy war in the name of Islam.

"We know that all of the jihadists, every single one of them, base their doctrine of jihad on Sharia law," said Yerushalmi.

While a key aim of Islamist groups - especially in majority Muslim countries - is to impose Sharia as the law of the land,  many Muslims disagree with that aim.

Yerushalmi says he just wants to help law enforcement authorities fight terrorism, not prohibit the peaceful observance of Islam.

But Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, says the real aim of those sponsoring the bills is to win votes in the 2012 elections by demonizing Islam.

"The sponsors of these bills are relying on fear mongering to try and score some cheap political points and to attack a religious minority that is already under siege by a cottage industry of Muslim-bashers," said Hooper.

CAIR says a congressional hearing held in March on "Radicalization in the American Muslim Community" was also part of that effort.

Hooper says Muslims in America just want to live their lives in peace.

Peter Skerry, a political science professor at Boston College, says anxiety over their intentions is often rooted in a misunderstanding of the way Muslims practice their faith.

"But I also think there's a lot of anxiety, because there are a lot of unanswered or unacknowledged questions about Muslims, and especially their leadership in their leading organizations," said Skerry.

Skerry, who is researching the integration of Muslims and Arabs in the United States, says major Muslim organizations in America - including CAIR - have not been forthcoming enough about alleged ties to radical groups abroad.

CAIR says such allegations are part of a smear campaign.

Skerry says he does not mean that leaders of these groups are extremists.

"But I would argue that that state of affairs is a problem because, the more this gets ignored, the more this fuels the kinds of activity like you see in these states across the U.S. where there's efforts to ban Sharia law, as if this were imminent," he said.

He says those who believe Sharia can be imposed in America underestimate the strength of this country’s democracy.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid