The debate over Sharia law in America is taking some interesting twists and turns.
In Oklahoma, courts are debating whether citizens have the right to ban Sharia law. And in Michigan, a group of Muslims have actually come out in strong opposition to Islamic law in America.
In the case of Oklahoma, a 2010 ballot initiative put a stop to considerations of Islamic laws in making state court decisions. The measure, which passed by a 70 percent margin, was challenged by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The group claimed that the initiative was a direct violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause. ABC News has more:
Now, a panel of judges from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether a lower court was right to block the ballot initiative. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined CAIR in challenging this anti-Sharia measure.
In a separate debate, the American Islamic Leadership Conference (AILC) recently announced support for a Michigan bill (HB 4679) that would prevent state judges from utilizing foreign laws. This, to the surprise of some, would include Sharia law. This group, comprised of Muslim adherents, is opposed do any state court decisions that would conflict with American law. In an official release, the group writes:
As American Muslims, we believe that the law should treat people of all faiths equally, while protecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike from extremist attempts to use the legal instrument of shari‘ah (also known as Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh) to incubate, within the West, a highly politicized and dangerous understanding of Islam that is generally known as “Islamism,” or “radical Islam.”
In the statement, the group also claims that it sees no problem with the law and that it will not, as some would likely charge, hamper the rights of Muslims. Additionally, the AILC opposes the "fear mongering" it claims more radical groups are undertaking here in America, writing:
As American Muslims we are conscious of the fact that Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups and other Islamists and their surrogates in the U.S. are trying their best to portray any opposition to manifestations of shari‘ah law as “racism” and “discrimination against Muslims.”
According to the Huffington Post, Manda Ervin, who signed on to the release and who heads the Maryland-based Alliance of Iranian Women, explained why she's opposed to Sharia law here in America:
"Many of us fled the Muslim world to escape Shariah law...We do not wish these laws to follow us here."
But not all Muslims agree with state laws that would officially forbid Sharia compliance. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta, has the following to say about initiatives like the ones currently being debated in Oklahoma and Michigan:
"It's fearmongering and it's reckless. It's ridiculous that state legislatures are wasting time on a law that tells judges to do what they are already constitutionally bound to do anyway."
Michigan and Oklahoma are not alone. More than 20 states are examining laws that would ban Sharia in courtrooms. It is important, however, to understand that each of these laws have a different focus. While some explicitly point out Islamic law and solely target its tenets, other proposals -- like the one in Michigan -- more broadly target foreign laws. The AILC has come out in support for latter but not the former.
So, still wondering what Sharia is? Below, watch a FORA.tv discussion about the many elements in the contemporary debate surrounding Islamic law: