May 23, 2013
It’s been a disappointing spring for Islamophobes. With one
exception, state legislatures have adjourned, or will adjourn, without passing the
bills fringe right-wingers believe are needed to stop “Sharia” from poisoning American
As detailed in a
new report by the Brennan Center
for Justice and Center for
American Progress (CAP), anti-Islam hysteria in state capitols is driven by
“a small network of activists who cast Muslim norms and culture, which they
collectively and inaccurately labeled as Sharia law, as one of the greatest
threats to American freedom since the Cold War.” In 2011, CAP -- it’s the Obama
administration’s idea shop, but don’t hold that against its excellent analysis of
this topic -- released a devastating exposé
of the charlatans and buffoons who “manufacture,
produce, distribute, and mainstream an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims.” The
center’s latest research convincingly recounts the harm that will result from their
Islamic-law lunacy premiered in 2010. That November, a
voter-approved ballot initiative in Oklahoma constitutionally
barred Sooner State
courts from considering “the legal precepts of other nations or cultures,”
specifically, Sharia. But the provision didn’t survive a First
Amendment test -- it was overturned by a federal district court, a decision
upheld by a three-judge appellate panel that declared it “did not know of even
a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law … let alone
that such [an application] ... had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma.”
Courts wouldn’t sanction the targeting of a religion, so an
altered strategy was necessary. Sharia screechers cleverly cobbled together
what The New York Times called “a
broader constituency that had long opposed the influence of foreign laws in the
United States.” Currently,
five states -- Kansas, Oklahoma
(naturally), Arizona, Louisiana,
-- have adopted expansively written bans.
But as the report by the Brennan
Center and CAP notes, “foreign law is
routinely used in U.S.
courts.” Judges often sign off on the marriages, divorces, and child-custody
arrangements of immigrants. And “businesses frequently enter into investments
and transactions that are organized according to foreign laws or that designate
foreign law as the law that governs any dispute arising out of a contract.”
Even National Review has
concerns. Last summer, the neoconservative magazine’s website permitted a deputy
editor of First Things to voice his
objections: “Sharia … does not grant all the rights that the U.S.
Constitution does; neither does Christian canon law or Jewish Halakhic law (or
English or French law, for that matter). But why should this fact prevent a
court from honoring a contract made under the provisions of one of these
‘foreign’ legal systems if the contract does not itself violate any U.S.
or state regulations, laws, or constitutional provisions?”
Foreign-law bans are sure to sow mischief, especially during a
time of rapidly advancing globalization. But their utter preposterousness is
revealed by a look at the country’s evolving religious beliefs.
isn’t turning to Islam -- it’s turning to nothing. A 2012 survey by the Pew Center
for People and the Press found that within “the last five years alone, the [religiously]
unaffiliated have increased from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent
of all U.S.
adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists
and agnostics (nearly 6 percent of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33
million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14
Muslim doctrines, traditions, and practices aren’t taking hold
and Islamic terrorism has proved to be a hollow peril. Between 9/11 and the Tsarnaev
brothers’ bloody attack in Boston,
one American civilian was murdered on
American soil by a killer hopped up on the Koran.
No matter. Anti-Muslim agitators aren’t about facts. As Leon Hadar wrote, “sowing
fear of a monolithic Islam serves the interests of … client
states, defense contractors, and lobbyists who press for rising defense
budgets and further military interventions.” In addition, the Middle
East expert suspects, activists and pundits “hope that like the
Red Menace of old, the specter of a Green Peril could serve
as a unifying force for the political right.”
Despite a dogged (and well-funded) effort, “World War
IV” has been a colossal dud. The “clash of civilizations” never occurred. An
infinitesimally small number of our countrymen pursue conversions to Islam, Sharia
isn’t influencing the legal system, and most Americans recognize that Muslims
do not pose anything close to an existential threat to The Land of the Free.
It’s a reality that even state legislators understand.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska. He lives in Broad Brook, Connecticut.
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