Muslims are rising up against tyranny throughout the Arab world. They have ousted autocrats, consistently called for democracy, and inspired people from Beijing to Madison to rally for justice.
And yet, for some here in the homeland, Muslims are still the problem. Consider two campaigns recently launched from Washington, DC. The first is the upcoming Homeland Security Committee hearing on Muslim radicalism, sponsored by Rep. Peter King (R-NY). The second is a campaign against sharia law, spearheaded by the Center for Security Policy. Both suggest the American empire needs an enemy--not only abroad--but at home as well.
In November, more than 70 percent of Oklahomans who voted in the mid-term elections supported a referendum banning sharia law, a "totalitarian socio-political doctrine," according to the neoconservative Center for Security Policy. Oklahoma is not exactly the center of the Islamic world--less than one percent of the population is Muslim. More than a dozen states are now gearing up to introduce similar anti-Islamic initiatives. According to the promoters of this campaign, radical Islam threatens to take over not just Egypt or Tunisia. The Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk are perilously close to cladding Lady Gaga in a burqa and bringing a radical mosque to every main street.
Not surprisingly, the promoters of this state legislative campaign know next to nothing about sharia. The sponsor of the Alabama bill couldn't define the word when asked by a local reporter. Nor could he point to any examples of sharia being used either in Alabama or anywhere else in the United States.
The average American hears the word sharia and thinks only of the stoning of adulterers. But sharia translates into, roughly, "rule of law" in the Muslim world. To be sure, the Taliban in Afghanistan, with their public floggings and discrimination against women, certainly gave sharia a bad name. But as legal scholar Noah Feldman points out in The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, sharia has a distinguished history with considerable appeal to those living in lawless societies: sharia promises "a just legal system, one that administers the law fairly - without bias, corruption by the rich, or government interference." Given the proliferation of autocrats in the region - Mubarak, Ben Ali, Gaddafi - sharia starts to look like a reasonable alternative.
Regardless of how sharia is interpreted in the Muslim world, the notion that sharia "threatens" the U.S. legal system is as ludicrous as the Cold War fantasies that communists were taking over the school system or poisoning the drinking water.
In a recent 172-page report, Shariah: The Threat to America, the Center for Security Policy cites exactly one case of sharia law playing any role in the U.S. legal system. In 2009, a New Jersey Superior Court judge refused to grant a restraining order to a woman who testified that her Muslim husband forced her to have non-consensualsex, ruling the husband's actions were consistent with his beliefs and practices. The appellate court overruled him. The non-Muslim judge did not reference sharia,...