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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Interview Highlights on what Sharia Law is Andrea Elliott

On what Shariah law is
"Shariah literally means the way to the watering hole and is more commonly referred to as 'the way.' It is, most simply put, the law that guides Islamic beliefs and actions. But when Westerners think of a legal code, they tend to think of a fixed set of laws and Shariah is a lot more fluid than that, in part because there's no governing authoring in Islam. So while Islam's four major schools of law agree on many basic areas of Shariah, there are many areas that lack consensus and there's really a whole spectrum around the world in ways Muslims observe Shariah law. One of the key points is missing in this debate is that Muslims living in non-Muslim countries like the United States, there is broad agreement that Shariah requires them to abide by the laws of the land in exchange for the right to


"[Yerushalmi] really set out on what might seem like an impossible mission, which was to make this very arcane and complex subject of Shariah a focus of national scrutiny. This was a word that was not even part of our vernacular a few years ago. ... A lot of people would argue that what has come of this is not really a substantive debate about Shariah as much as a shouting match. It's a shouting match that involves really simple messages on both sides — 'Shariah is bad' or 'Shariah is a non-issue.' But the leaders of this campaign really talk about it in a most preemptive way than a prescriptive way. What they say they're doing is trying to prevent Shariah from having the kind of influence seen in Europe, particularly in England, where the Muslim community is far less integrated and where there are Shariah tribunals."

Enacting Legislation At The State Level

In 2008, Gaffney and Yerushalmi set up meetings with high-level officials at the Treasury Department. The two men argued that the Islamic financial industry lacked transparency. But the briefings went nowhere, says Elliott, and they began looking for other avenues — just as the Tea Party movement was taking off.

New York Times investigative reporter Andrea Elliott won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her series "An Imam in America."
Enlarge The New York Times New York Times investigative reporter Andrea Elliott won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her series "An Imam in America."
The New York Times
New York Times investigative reporter Andrea Elliott won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her series "An Imam in America."

"Yerushalmi saw an opening there, in that people were calling for smaller government and greater state autonomy," says Elliott. "So he started to focus on state legislatures and began drafting the model legislation that would later sweep across the country."

By the summer of 2010, anti-Shariah laws were being introduced in several state legislatures. Louisiana, Arizona and Tennessee have all passed versions of a bill restricting judges from consulting Shariah or broader categories of religious, foreign or international laws. Voters in Oklahoma passed an amendment to the Constitution banning courts from considering Shariah.

"It's hard to say what the legal impact of these laws will be because the establishment clause of the Constitution prevents from the government from favoring or targeting one religion," says Elliott. "The Oklahoma amendment which singles out Shariah has been temporarily blocked by a federal judge pending the outcome of a lawsuit that argues that it infringes on religious freedom. But the three other laws that have passed are worded neutrally enough that they could withstand Constitutional scrutiny."

NPR Show - http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/139168699/whos-behind-the-movement-to-ban-shariah-law?ps=cprs

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