D. Dowd Muska


We’re Not Becoming an Islamic Theocracy?

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 jurisprudence.

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 rebranded bigotry.

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, and Tennessee -- 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 foster 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.

America 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 percent).”

Muslim doctrines, traditions, and practices aren’t taking hold in America, and Islamic terrorism has proved to be a hollow peril. Between 9/11 and the Tsarnaev brothers’ bloody attack in Boston, exactly 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.

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