Shariah in the USA

Is it the idea of a religious court system that Republicans have trouble with, or is it just the "Islamic" part?

Bilal Rana November 08, 2011
This week, Michele Bachmann alleged that Shariah law in America would “usurp” the American Constitution. Senator Cain, too, recently made statements that he would not allow Muslims on his cabinet because of a “creeping attempt” to incorporate “The Muslim faith” into the American legal system.


With 13 states having now banned Shariah law, the hysteria has really caught fire - and boy is it hot.

Men like the New York-based lawyer, David Yerushalmi fuel this hatred. Despite his lack of credentials in Islamic law, Yerushalmi has rallied momentous support and become the recognized authority on Shariah. But isn't it ironic that a Hasidic Jew is championing a movement against a religious system that American Jews already have for themselves?

In my inter-faith lectures to Jewish communities in the past, I point out that orthodox Jews have maintained their own justice system called ‘Beth Din’ (lit. “House of Judgement”). Founded in 1960 by the Rabbinical Council of America, Beth Din is an autonomous organization that rules by Torah Law, with a board of directors composed of lay and ordained rabbinic leaders. Just like Sharia, these Jewish judges arbitrate disputes concerning family and religious matters. The difference? They’ve been doing it for over 50 years.

So is it really the idea of a religious court system that Republicans have trouble with, or is it just the "Islamic" part? Personally, I am against the Shariah enforced in Muslim countries because they have strayed from the spirit and letter practiced by Muhammad (pbuh).

By the legal code of the Sharia itself, ‘dhimmis’ (non-Muslims) must be fully protected and are not subject to Islamic law or its regulations. This principle of minority tolerance and freedom is permanently enshrined in Muhammad’s most famous legal document, the Charter of Medina. This bill demanded a separation of Mosque and State, whereby any religious legal code could not be forcibly applied on any unwilling constituency.

Non-Muslims – be they Jewish or GOP Presidential hopefuls – would be pleased to know that this Muslim finds the American legal system closer to the principles of good governance, as laid out in the Holy Qur'an, when compared to the legal system of Muslim countries today. And this is why I call America home.

But where is the panic over Jews using Rabbinical law in their affairs? Muslims in this country are not trying to force Shariah on anyone. Some chose to use it in private legal matters, like marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. But this is precisely what Jews do, too. Is there a problem here, or is this just a shameless double standard, with ongoing animosity and paranoia against an entire religion and its people?

I’m not calling for a creation of Shariah courts, or for the abolition of Jewish ones. But when will we stop advancing a set of principles that apply more strictly to one group than another?

As moderate Muslims have begun to speak out against terrorism, it’s time the conscience of the non-Muslim American finds its battle cry. Raise from your armchairs and openly condemn this prejudice. Don’t let bigots speak for America, just as we Muslims don’t let terrorists speak for Islam.
Bilal Rana An anaesthesiologist and clinical instructor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He is currently pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship in critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has contributed to various publications in the US.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Usman Farooq | 12 years ago | Reply This is unbelievable.. Americans are and have been against our religion always... so its nothing new for me or anyone here i guess...
Indian | 12 years ago | Reply @Rational mind. Don't be extremist Rational mind... Gay/Lesbian/Prostitution rights are not bad or wrong until they are subjected to Individuals wish. Why you extremists force your wish on somebody else. Every immigrant should follow 'The Rule of Land'. Every immigrant should embrace the 'The Culture of Land'. Every immigrant should respect the ''The Native People of Land''. Because they are the ones who provided them employments.
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