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Tara Culp-Ressler
Tara Culp-Ressler, Faith in Public Life’s Executive and Development Assistant, came to FPL after graduating from American University and interning with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Interfaith Voices. She blogs about immigration and economic issues.

ACLU Finds Sharia Fears Unfounded

May 26, 2011, 5:13 pm | By Tara Culp-Ressler

sharialaw5.jpgOver the past year, increased anti-Muslim sentiment has led to a rash of bills to address some state legislators’ unfounded fears about the potential encroachment of sharia law. Despite the unconstitutionality and unintended consequences of many of these laws, they have been introduced in more than a dozen states across the country.

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union, “Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical ‘Sharia Threat’ to Our Judicial System,” dismantles this “anti-sharia” rhetoric through an analysis of the recent court cases that have been cited as “evidence” of this supposed threat. Unsurprisingly, the study found no grounds to support the misguided claims that sharia law poses any kind of threat to the U.S. courts.

“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.

…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.”

As the report concludes, our legal system has built-in protections to prevent the improper use of foreign, international, or religious law – just the type of situation the “anti-sharia” proponents seem to fear. Perhaps our politicians ought to put more trust in our legal system to do its job instead of making up silly excuses to pass discriminatory bills that stoke fear and hatred of Muslims.

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