Anti-Sharia legislation — and the dangers of such legislation — brought a crowd of hundreds to a forum at the University of St. Thomas October 23. Professor Robert Vischer of St. Thomas School of Law and Professor Abdulwahid Qalinle of the University of Minnesota Law School spoke on the growing efforts in various states, including Minnesota to approve an anti-Sharia law aimed at prohibiting any legal recognition of any aspects of the Muslim religious law known as Sharia.
Several states including Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee have already passed such a bill, and more than 30 states so far have beat the drums for similar actions.
A state with Sharia law restrictions would repudiate, for instance, everything that Muslims must perform under the guidelines of Sharia, including marriages, divorce, will distributions and many other social aspects of their lives.
Oklahoma enacted a constitutional amendment providing, in part:
The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law.
In upholding a temporary injunction against certification of the election results, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the amendment would be likely to discriminate against Muslims, and would be likely to violate other provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
The harm alleged by Mr. Awad stems from a constitutional directive of exclusion and disfavored treatment of a particular religious legal tradition
“That amendment was doomed by its singling out of Muslim citizens,” Vischer said of the Oklahoma anti-Sharia amendment. “It banned legal reference to Sharia without banning the comparable systems like [Roman Catholic] canon law or Jewish law.”
The danger of anti-Sharia legislation, Vischer said, is that it would threaten the fundamental commitment to meaningful religious liberty and meaningful access to the courts, which have been exercised by generations of other religious groups such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and Jews.
“Anti-Sharia legislation does not defend against theocracy,” Vischer said. “It’s both unjust to Muslims and sets a dangerous precedent for other religious groups.”
Earlier this year, Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville), introduced an Anti-Sharia bill in the Minnesota legislature. However the bill, which would have affected the estimated 150,000 Minnesota Muslims, was dropped after the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and interfaith leaders united in opposition to the bill.
Vischer accused some lawmakers of the politicization of religion in order to accomplish personal goals.
“Freedom of religion is not primarily about winning the political debate over which groups get to maintain their chosen way of life in the face of majority opposition,” Vischer said.
Qalinle said anti-Sharia legislation supporters don’t even understand the meaning of Sharia. He explained that Sharia isn’t all about “chopping off hands [for stealing] and stoning people to death [for adultery].” Sharia is a moral code as well as a code with rules for things like marriage contracts. It encompasses rules for daily living, such as the preparation of food.
TommieMedia quoted Qalinle as explaining:
“The Sharia as a foreign law, just like any other law, is as much a threat to the constitution and laws of the United States as the Bible is,” Qalinle said. “There is no attempt to impose Sharia, nor has there been any verifiable effort by any group or individuals to substitute Sharia with United States laws and constitution.”