Bans on Sharia and International Law

Document Date: May 6, 2011

In a disturbing trend, anti-Muslim bigotry has recently crept into state legislatures around the country. Several states have passed or attempted to pass laws designed to prevent courts from applying Islamic or “Sharia” law, as well as “foreign” or “international law.” Some, such as a constitutional amendment passed in Oklahoma, mention Sharia specifically, in addition to international law. Others only mention foreign or international law. Whatever the specific terminology, all of these attempts raise serious red flags.

Efforts to single out Muslims and to advance the ugly idea that anything Islamic is un-American are unjust and discriminatory and should be rejected. Laws that single out Sharia violate the First Amendment by treating one belief system as suspect. Attempts to prevent courts from considering international or foreign law suffer from constitutional flaws and undermine the ability of courts to interpret laws and treaties regarding global business, international human rights and family law issues such as international marriages and adoptions.

Although the ACLU successfully challenged the Oklahoma law, leading a federal court to strike down the amendment and prevent its implementation, the trend to implement these misguided bans is not slowing down. Some politicians have taken up the unfounded idea that American Muslims somehow wish to impose Islamic law on U.S. courts as a campaign issue. Other politicians seek to score political points by demonizing anything foreign or international. We continue to monitor policies at the state and federal levels closely to ensure that discrimination is not written into the law of the land and that the U.S. upholds its obligations under domestic and international law.

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