Images-3Since 9-11 many Americans have reacted strongly against Muslims and Islamic laws. Some see the presence of Muslims as a threat to our nation. Others are more open but are still guided by a great deal of fear when it comes to Muslim practice. Many conservative commentators stir up a general, and often ill-defined, negative reaction to Islamic culture. The truth is that this is a culture they neither understand nor care to understand with any degree of empathy. Christians can, and should, do much better. If for no other reason we have clear statements from our Lord about loving our neighbors, even our enemies. Though this does not mean that we should be anything less than vigilant with regard to radical Islamic movements and people (for reasons of security) it also does not mean that we should oppose Islamic movements, people or their laws. It is this last idea (Muslim laws) that I write about today.

Images-2Make no mistake about this–there is a strong anti-Sharia movement in the United States. This movement had led to 22 state legislatures having either passed or considered bills to prohibit judges from considering Sharia law, or any foreign laws, in their decision making. But since 2011 numerous bills have either died or been withdrawn in states. This prompted Omar Sacirbey, of Religion News Service, to suggest that the anti-Sharia movement may have "lost its momentum." I hope so. 

Take Oklahoma as one example. In 2011 voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that prohibited judges from considering foreign laws, including all religious laws, in their decision making. Two federal courts have since ruled that this amendment is unconstitutional, forcing lawmakers to revise the law. A new bill passed the state House in 2011 but the Senate Rules Committee did not hear the bill until recently and the Rules Committee voted it down 9-6. In Minnesota and New Jersey anti-Muslim bills were withdrawn after various expressions of protest. One Republican legislator in New Jersey, Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, said that her bill was never meant to be an anti-Sharia law bill, bur rather an "anti-foreign law" measure. She withdrew it on March 12 saying, "After sitting down with members of the Muslim community, and taking into consideration everything they'd been through in the last few weeks, I didn't want to create any more tension." It pays to sit down and listen. 

In New Jersey Muslims rallied against a surveillance program specifically aimed at Muslim businesses and community centers in Newark. They also spoke out against actions of the NYPD. In both cases their voices were heard and steps were taken to correct abuses. 

One online newsletter recently reported that similar bills have recently died in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi and New Mexico. A few could be revived next year but the trends are moving in the other direction for now. Only four states have actually passed such bills: Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona and South Dakota. At this moment anti-foreign law bills are alive in 12 states altogether. So the movement is anything but dead. 

A recent poll shows that the number of Americans who believe Muslims want to impose Sharia on all Americans is now only 14%, down from 30% in the same poll last September (Public Research Institute). 

Why should anti-Sharia laws be opposed in America?

1. They are plainly discriminatory against Muslims. Our nation has rightly eschewed such forms of religious discrimination, especially over the last fifty years. 

2. This movement, and the passage of anti-Sharia laws, could adversely affect other religious groups such as Jews and Catholics, both of whom have religious laws that have been used by judges for many years to decide family or property disputes.

3. These anti-Sharia laws discourage businesses by invalidating foreign laws altogether.

These bills target Muslim communities at a time of deep national tension about the proper role of Islam in America. Muslim laws are seen by some as a menace to American freedoms. Behind these responses you can often find a veiled expression of xenophobia as well as a bad legal precedent that violates the practice and religious beliefs of minorities. In the light of what I wrote yesterday about our courts I believe that it will only be time until the Supreme Court will hear a direct challenge to such a state law. I think it is likely that they would strike down such a law as a clear violation of the First Amendment rights of Muslims.

Opposing anti-Sharia laws is important to a healthy democracy and to the proper understanding of the role of church and state in America. Informed Christians should promote the defeat of this kind of legislation on the grounds of religious freedom, a freedom that if threatened in one area can be threatened in another at some future point. We need to remain vigilant about our religious rights. This includes the rights of our Muslim neighbors. At its core this is what makes America unique from France, Germany and most other nations in the West. We do not promote religion through the state nor do we use the state to hinder religious practice so long as the rights of others are not violated. 


Related Posts


  1. Ed Holm May 15, 2012 at 6:26 am

    Like with so many issues John, people only see what they want to support conclusions they have already drawn. Don’t confuse me with the facts! In Jewish communities the judgement of the Rabbi supercedes any secular authorities on many issues. And try goind to your local RC priest to talk about his OK on a divorce! And yet, if a Muslim wishes to do the same thing with laws like this there are complications and foils.Thanks for posting this.

  2. Daniel Mann May 15, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Well, I think that it can be argued that your anti-Shariah movement warnings discriminate against those who have a legitimate concern.
    Just look at Islamic nations historically and today – geographically. They all formally or informally impose Shariah, degrading woman and relegating religious minorities to a demeaned dhimmi status. Should not the West have a legitimate concern about this?
    It can also be argued that Shariah discriminates against its home country. In fact, Muslims do regard their host Western nations with contempt, and therefore, among the vast majority there is no desire to integrate. Consequently, the various heads of state of Western Europe have confessed that their experiment with multi-culturalism has been an enormous flop.
    If you want make your case for non-discrimination against Islam, you need to engage the many problematic aspects of Islam, which you simply gloss over.

  3. John H. Armstrong May 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Daniel, this is not about establishing Shariah (sic) law. Sharia law would never become American law unless we denied our own Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We are not Europe. This is fundamentally what makes the situation here so interesting and more complex. This is also why we simply do not need anti-Sharia laws passed by states.
    It is really a question about of what a judge can appeal to in making a specific judgment about what is before him/her, period. I am not glossing over the issue of anyone’s attempt to force Sharia law on the US. It can not and must not be done. Only if the US walks away from the First Amendment could it be conceivably done. I see nothing currently to suggest we (our courts) are doing this at all.

  4. Daniel Mann May 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

    John, You claim that it isn’t about Shariah (and consequently world domination). However, this is the very thing that 1400 years of Islamic history attests to. For some reason, you want to disassociate the USA from what is happening in Europe. However, at both ends of the Atlantic, the same is occurring.
    I have just been reading Alphonse Javed’s, “The Muslim Next Door.” He himself is Pakistani Christian who had once been thinking about converting to Islam, and even now, advocates a very loving (but knowledgeable) approach to Islam. However, he asserts that there are several forms of Jihad. In fact, he thinks that the most threatening is the more stealthful form of Jihad that influences through our universities, prisons and even birthing:
    • I have met many Muslims who openly consider reproduction God’s weapon for making the entire world Muslim. The statistics point towards their hope that Muslims will, in a few decades, control Europe. Europe will be no more, but will be a Muslim state because of reproduction. (20)
    He argues that we mustn’t remain ignorant of their strategies:
    • Wealthy Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia started investing money in the West for missionary projects. After 9/11, Saudi Prince Alweleed bin Talal Al-Saud donated $20 million to Harvard University and $20 million to Georgetown University to start Islamic centers. He also gave millions to small schools and colleges to encourage the same thing. Moreover, the Saudi government has spent billions of dollars throughout the world to spread Wahabism. In New York City, all Muslim chaplains in hospitals are Wahabi. Muslim missionaries are responsible for huge conversions among prison inmates. (21)

  5. Daniel Mann May 15, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Ed, I think it’s a big mistake to compare Islam with Judaism and Catholicism.

  6. Greg Metzger May 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    In Florida, the Anti Defamation League voiced Jewish concerns that the anti-Sharia law passed there would indeed effect Jewish customs. I think it is worth noting that some significant conservative Christian folk, including First Things and the Becket Fund, join John in opposition to these laws. They build on important points John make here. I have referenced some of them in a post I did at my blog about sharia law and the Catholic bishops’ concerns about religious freedom.
    In that post I link to the Becket Fund’s writings on this. The March 2012 issue of First Things also has a meaty piece against these anti-Sharia laws that goes into the effect they would have on other religions’ freedom.

  7. LKH May 16, 2012 at 2:57 am

    I agree with your 3 points.
    Further, I think such discriminatory laws get in the way in the peace we should be pursuing with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
    In my experience, most people who are for such laws don’t actually know any Muslims personally and base their fears on a small, fundamentalist minority.

Comments are closed.

My Latest Book!

Use Promo code UNITY for 40% discount!

Recent Articles