Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical "Sharia Threat" to Our Judicial System

Document Date: May 17, 2011

Across the country, state legislators are considering proposed laws that would limit the ability of courts to adjudicate lawsuits brought by Muslims. Proponents of these measures argue that they are necessary because so-called “Sharia law” is somehow taking over our courts. These claims are, simply put, wrong. They are based both on misinformation and a misunderstanding of how our judicial system works.

There is no evidence that Islamic law is encroaching on our courts. On the contrary, the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups as purportedly illustrative of this problem actually show the opposite: Courts treat lawsuits that are brought by Muslims or that address the Islamic faith in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths or that involve no religion at all. These cases also show that sufficient protections already exist in our legal system to ensure that courts do not become impermissibly entangled with religion or improperly consider, defer to, or apply religious law where it would violate basic principles of U.S. or state public policy.

This report examines specific court cases that have been repeatedly cited by anti-Muslim advocates as evidence of the so-called “Sharia threat.” Breaking the cases down into three categories — cases involving religious freedom claims; contracts, arbitrations, and other agreements; and public policy issues — the report provides details of each case and puts them into proper context. It does not take a lawyer or expert to see that the cases are routine legal matters and do not stand for the principles that proponents of anti-Sharia measures contend. Rather, these cases are red herrings, meant to distract from the true aim of the recently proposed Sharia bans – to denigrate an entire faith system and to deny its followers the same access to the judicial system enjoyed by citizens of other creeds.

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