Whitewashing Religious Law for Youngsters

Respect, a "newsletter about law and diversity," is a publication of the New Jersey State Bar Foundation.  It is geared for middle- and high school students.  The recent Spring 2012, Vol. 11, No. 3 article1 entitled "Fear Propels Religious Attacks" by Cheryl Baisden is of particular interest, because while it purports to have a fair-minded stance, the fact that CAIR, or the Council of American Islamic Relations, is cited as a credible source sheds serious doubt about the objectivity of the article.  In fact, CAIR receives "financial support from foreign powers who have provided direct support to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and Hamas.  CAIR has raised funds for terrorists under the guise of helping 9/11 victims. CAIR board members have called for the overthrow of the United States and imposition of Islamic law. CAIR has discouraged Muslim-Americans from cooperating with law enforcement and at least 15 high-level CAIR staff members have been under federal investigation for ties to Islamic terror." 

In short, CAIR "is an entity masquerading as a 'civil rights' organization[.]"  It has numerous ties to extremist Islamic organizations, and "on June 4, 2007, the New York Sun reported that CAIR had been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in an alleged criminal conspiracy to support both Hamas and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and  Development (HLF)."  Moreover, CAIR has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.  That Ms. Baisden never explains CAIR's criminal and terrorist connections is inexcusable.  Thus, the young reader of this newsletter is left ignorant of CAIR's "dishonest and misleading attacks against an initiative designed to preserve ... freedoms."

In writing about the imposition of sharia law into the American justice system, Ms. Baisden claims that "[i]n the past few years, ... several states have passed or are considering legislation that would restrict the way followers of one specific religion practice their faith."  This is a disingenuous statement.  In fact, American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) emphasizes that "[n]o U.S. citizen or resident should be denied the liberties, rights and privileges guaranteed in [the United States] constitutional republic.  American Laws for American Courts is needed especially to protect women and children, identified by international human rights organizations as the primary victims of discriminatory foreign laws." 

Furthermore, "America has unique values of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems, particularly sharia law.  Included among, but not limited to those values and rights are: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Due Process, the Right to Privacy and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms."

In 2010, when Oklahoma attempted to pass the Oklahoma International Law Amendment, State Question 755, Brigitte Gabriel, founder, president, and CEO of ACT! For America and Lauren Losawher maintained that "[s]ince the introduction of State Question 755, a proposed ban on Oklahoma courts from deciding cases using international or sharia law, local and national media have mocked concerns about Islamic sharia law impacting American courts as foolish, misplaced or a waste of time."

Gabriel, international terrorism analyst, argues that "[s]haria law, in short, is a comprehensive, theo-political law system used in many Islamic countries including Iran that is based on precepts contained in the Quran and the hadith (the sayings and traditions of Mohammed). Under sharia law, women have few rights compared to men, freedom of speech is severely curtailed and freedom of religion is limited or nonexistent."

Yet, the closest that Cheryl Baisden comes to explaining sharia law is to write that "[f]or followers of just about any religion there are certain rules that apply to their faith, from kosher laws among Jewish people to the disapproval of divorce among Catholics.  In the same way, sharia is the law that governs certain aspects of everyday life for Muslims."  What is most disturbing about Baisden's piece is that the whole point of this newsletter is to educate.  Thus, this missed opportunity to do genuine research permits the falsehoods, disinformation, and shameless obfuscation of Islamic law, all under the rubric of muddied multiculturalism.

John Swails, who was the director of the Center for Israel and Middle East Studies at Oral Roberts University, stated that supporters of sharia law will "tell you it provides religious freedom, but that's true only if you're a Muslim."

One in favor of sharia-imposed justice is Saad Mohammed, director of Islamic information for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City.  He opposed State Question 755 and stated that "[s]haria law coincides with about 80% of the United States Constitution."

One needs to seriously consider the 20% that does not comply with the United States Constitution and its protection of freedoms!  In fact, this incredible and chilling YouTube video from Andrew Bostom succinctly elucidates what sharia law is all about and the status of the infidel under this Islamic law.

Yet in February 2012, CAIR produced a 38-page legislative lobbying kit to help Muslims lobby against "American Laws for American Courts" legislation.  It is available at this site.

This report is ably refuted by Islam Watch's "CAIR's Sharia Fog Machine," which demonstrates how "CAIR's legislative strategy is to portray themselves as merely correcting the misunderstanding caused by widespread 'Islamophobic' fear that sharia will ultimately prevail over American law.  This is a red herring to trivialize the concern over sharia law.  The question is not whether all American rulings will someday be based on sharia law, but whether any rulings would be based on it."

Another executive director of CAIR, Muneer Awad, stated, "[w]e take a stand in opposition to the proposed amendment. It's ridiculous that anyone would suggest it would happen. Our Constitution would not allow any religious law to supersede the existing laws."

Oh, really?  Let's turn to a 2011 study that reflects a very different picture.

In 2011, the Center For Security Policy released an in-depth study entitled "Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases."  The "study evaluates 50 appellate court cases from 23 states that involve conflicts between sharia (Islamic law) and American state law.  The analysis finds that sharia has been applied or formally recognized in state court decisions, in conflict with the Constitution and state public policy." The 600-plus-page document carefully documents situations where "stories of Muslim American families, mostly Muslim women and children ... were asking American courts to preserve their rights to equal protection and due process.  These families came to America for freedom from the discriminatory and cruel laws of sharia.  When [American] courts apply sharia law in the lives of these families, and deny them equal protection, they are betraying the principles on which America was founded."

But in Baisden's piece, she quotes Mark Stern, a religion law expert at the American Jewish Committee, who states that "sharia law is not going to govern, except voluntarily, the rights and responsibilities of Muslim citizens of the United States."  Clearly, these documented cases reflect a different outcome, as "increasingly, foreign laws and legal doctrines that would restrict or deny American liberties are finding their way into U.S. court cases, thanks largely to the rulings of transnationalist judges."

Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel have composed ten questions for the Council on American Islamic Relations concerning their propaganda campaign attacking legislation designed to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans, including Muslims.  Does CAIR dispute that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution makes it the supreme law of the land, and therefore that all other laws, including sharia, must be subordinated to it where there is a conflict?  What rights does CAIR wish to have violated by or subordinated to foreign law?  Does it favor unequal treatment for and/or brutalizing of women, homosexuals, apostates, Jews, and others in accordance with sharia?  Is CAIR seeking the imposition of all foreign laws, even where they violate the U.S. Constitution, or just sharia?  These are reasonable questions that should have found their way into the Respect newsletter so students and an informed educator could analyze them.

Why didn't Ms. Baisden report the findings of the in-depth study about sharia law and American state courts?  Instead, she highlights Abed Awad, a New Jersey attorney and an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School, who asserts that "sharia is relevant in a U.S. court either as a foreign law or as a source of information to understand the expectations of the parties in a dispute."  What expectations would those be? 

Go online for Abed Awad, and you will discover the following:

Combining academic knowledge of sharia (Islamic law) and the laws of Arab countries with practical litigation acumen and strategy, our expert opinions provide our clients with a decisive edge.

For cases involving knowledge and interpretation of Islamic Law and the laws of Arab countries, contact the Office of Sharia Experts[.]

Furthermore, as exposed at the American Public Policy Alliance site, Mr. Awad maintains that "American judges should not be prevented from considering sharia or any foreign law, for that matter, in deciding their cases."  According to Awad, anyone who denies the intrusion of foreign law or sharia law into American jurisprudence "fuels Islamophobia."  

HS 2029 was introduced to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on November 18, 2011.  Supported by the Center for Security Policy, "HB 2029 mirrors the American Public Policy Alliance legislation titled American Laws for America Courts and is intended to prohibit the application of foreign law which would impair constitutional rights.  This was in reaction to Pennsylvania Judge Mark Martin's ruling that it was acceptable for a Muslim immigrant to allegedly chokehold an American citizen because the Muslim was allegedly unaware that sharia law did not apply in Pennsylvania."  In essence, the judge used sharia law as a defense -- precisely the concern of those who want no part of sharia or any other foreign set of laws in an American court.

In fact, "concerns about sharia are warranted due to its many provisions that conflict with the standards of American jurisprudence.  For example, it disadvantages women in terms of inheritance, divorce, child custody and other areas of family law.  Sharia already has shaped numerous cases ... where one state court decided how assets should be distributed according to Islam."  Islam's foundational and doctrinal texts simply do not uphold the concept that all men (and women) are created equal under God.  Thus, "in any proceeding governed by sharia law, a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man's."  Furthermore, "under the sections of sharia law civil code governing marriage and child custody, a marriage contract is between the woman's father (or other male guardian) and her husband."

Thus, "[s]haria is a political system that contravenes American freedoms in numerous ways.  Sharia asserts authority over non-Muslims.  It mandates discrimination, harassment, and second-class status for both non-Muslims and women. It denies free speech ... under the guise of 'hate speech laws.'"

David J. Rusin, a research fellow at Islamist Watch, maintains that "[r]esistance to [HB 2029] serves as a case study of how Islamists and their allies operate:  peddling falsehoods about sharia, painting Muslims as victims, and denying that anyone seeks to institutionalize aspects of Islamic law -- even as they vigorously promote that very agenda."  Moreover, Islamists such as CAIR gloss over aspects of sharia law.  Thus, "CAIR-PA executive director Moein Khawaja's suggestion that sharia should worry Pennsylvanians no more than halal gyros is a fine example of this technique."  When this obscuring of the true nature of sharia law fails to convince people, CAIR and their associates apply the racist card as accusations of "discrimination" and "conspiracy" are hurled.  Here is an example of the manipulative scare tactics and untrue messages that CAIR puts forth.

Furthermore, the equivocation between sharia and Halacha (Jewish law) ignores the fact that there is a significant difference between Jewish law and sharia law.  As David Yerushalmi explains in this YouTube video, "Jewish law nowhere calls for a worldwide hegemony or caliphate.  Nowhere does it exact upon its advocates or adherents the desire to impose [Jewish law] on another. ... Sharia has exactly the opposite ends. ... The goal of sharia is the imposition of a worldwide political order, called a caliphate," on Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Either they accept sharia law, or they are "forced ... at the edge of the sword to convert or die."

Most egregious is Baisden's reporting about the Tennessee SB 1028 bill.  She writes that there "is a bill in Tennessee that would make any adherence to sharia law, which includes religious practices like prayers and rituals such as feet washing, a felony as an act of treason, punishable by up to 15 years in prison."  In fact, this is what it says in the bill.

(4) This part neither targets, nor incidentally prohibits or inhibits, the peaceful practice of any religion, and in particular, the practice of Islam by its adherents. 

The fifteen years figure that Baisden refers to relates to the following:

Any person who knowingly provides material support or resources to a designated sharia organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall commit an offence.  A violation of subdivision (a)(1)(A) is a Class B felony, punishable by fine, imprisonment of not less than fifteen (15) years or both; provided, that if the death of any person results from a violation of subdivision (a)(1)(A), then the offense is a Class A felony, punishable by imprisonment for life or imprisonment for life without possibility of parole.  To violate this subsection (a), a person must have knowledge that the organization: (i) is a designated sharia organization, or (ii) has engaged or engages in (a) one of more acts of terrorism ... (b) terrorist activity in this state ... or (c) terrorism in this state or from within this state as defined in ... of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act[.]

This is a far cry from being imprisoned for foot-washing, as the bill specifically "declares that it does not target the peaceful practice of any religion." 

Moreover, this concise FAQ list would have helped to elucidate the issue.  Yet none of this background information is to be found in the newsletter geared for American students.  More galling is that a publication from a State Bar Foundation does not allude to the Islamist lawfare tactic currently being used to hamstring and undermine American law.  In the preface to Brooke Goldstein's book entitled Lawfare: The War Against Free Speech, Geert Wilders writes "[Goldstein's is a] profoundly important book about one of the most worrisome phenomena of our times: Islamic lawfare.  This book helps to understand the threat it poses to our most precious freedom, which is also a moral duty -- the right to speak the truth."

Sadly, this misinformation and these omissions and distortions are certainly not limited to this particular newsletter.  In the 2011 study entitled "Education or Indoctrination? The Treatment of Islam in 6th through 12th Grade American Textbooks," published by ACT! For America Education, Inc., 38 different texts were examined regarding how Islam is being presented in American public schools.  The report's conclusion was:

During the last two decades, world history textbooks and the social studies editors who oversee their development have moved from the neglect of Islamic history to self-censorship.  Any textbook negatives about Islam have been erased, replaced by fulsome praise and generalities designed to quell complaints from Islamists and their allies.

Serious "historical revisionism" in the textbooks is the dominant theme, and the "true intention of the books is to serve as a vehicle for Muslim propaganda."  In his review of Prentice Hall's World Cultures: A Global Mosaic, William Bennetta notes that "[l]ong passages are devoted to promoting Islam, to making American students embrace Islamic religious beliefs, and to winning converts to Allah. In these passages, Muslim myths and superstitions are disguised as facts and both the origin and the content of Islam are cloaked in seductive lies."  Such "artful misdirection" results in students who are not asked to think critically because all they have been fed is pabulum and outright propagandistic lies.

In a document by Stephen Ulph, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, entitled "Towards a Curriculum for the Teaching of Jihadist Ideology," Ulph quotes Islamic writing, to the effect that "[Islam] has the right to move to destroy impediments, whether systems or circumstances, that rob the person of the freedom to choose [Islam]" and that "Muslims should reject [democracy] entirely, for it is filthy[.]"

Ulph explains that "Islamic law ultimately requires the subjugation of non-Muslims, and 'freedom of religion' for Muslims essentially means the freedom to make others unfree.  Other religious denominations (not Hindus or Buddhists for whom no legal status exists) are to be reduced to dhimmi status, as a protected but politically immature minority."

If instead of sharia law, one were to insert Nazism, then Islamic totalitarian political, social, and economic postures become clear.  Yet superficial writing, authorial naïveté, yellow journalism, and outright obfuscation and lies are permitting this insidious system to creep into American society.  Thus, "Americans need to continue the long-term project of informing themselves about sharia. ... Likewise all politicians must learn to speak more precisely about Islamic law, carefully distinguishing between practices that are protected by the U.S. Constitution and those that are not, thus minimizing the confusion that Islamists exploit."

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

1Paper version of Respect publication entitled "Fear Propels Religious Attacks" by Cheryl Baisden, Spring 2012, Vol. 11, No. 3. The publication is available through the New Jersey State Bar Foundation.

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