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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid