God Save Us

North Carolina, Your Anti-Sharia Law Takes the Cake

Christopher Furlong/Getty

Woe unto thee good people of North Carolina for the Muslims are coming to impose Islamic law. They must be stopped—even though there are zero instances of Muslims trying to impose Islamic law in North Carolina.

And, yes, North Carolina does have one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates at 8.8 percent, including a county where more than 16 percent are unemployed. But since we can’t do anything about that, let’s save you from these scary Muslims! (PDF)

That, in a nutshell, is what’s happening in North Carolina. The Republican-controlled legislature there recently passed a law to prevent Islamic law, known as Sharia, from being imposed in its courts. The bill is now in the hands of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to decide its fate.

Why would Republicans in North Carolina feel the need to prevent a threat they admit isn’t real? Even the North Carolina Bar Association called the legislation unnecessary.

Maybe looking at the legislative history of this proposed bill will give you some insight. The Republican-controlled House’s version also included provisions to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion. So in the very same breath these Republicans were trying to prevent Islamic law from being imposed, they were trying to impose Christian law.

No surprise, then, that they fear Muslims will be trying to impose their own religious-based laws—it’s exactly what these Republicans are trying to do.

What’s interesting about the proposed North Carolina law is that it doesn’t mention the word Islam or Sharia. Why? Likely because a law passed a few years ago in Oklahoma that specifically singled out banning Islamic law was struck down by the federal courts.

So the crafty North Carolina legislators took out the word Islam and instead referred to it as “foreign law.” Why call it “foreign law,” you may ask? Because to these people, Islam is a foreign religion. Of course, Muslims have been in America from the earliest days of our nation. In fact, 10 percent of African slaves were Muslim. And President Thomas Jefferson held an iftar—the breaking of the fast at sunset during Ramadan—in the White House more than 200 years ago. But why should facts matter when you are demonizing a minority group?

You have to wonder if the members of the North Carolina legislature believes Christianity was created in America. Maybe they think Jesus was born in Iowa, then immediately wrapped in an American flag, and driven home in a Ford pickup while being serenaded by a Hank Williams Jr. song

The reality is that Jesus was born in the same part of the world as were Moses, Abraham, and Mohammed, and all these religions were imported to our land. The only religion not foreign involves rain dances and praying to the Great Spirit. (Although an argument can be made that Mormonism was established here.)

But let’s not squabble over where religions came from. And let’s not even fight over the definition of Sharia, which to Muslims is simply the path to lead a good life and is not intended to be imposed upon non-Muslims. (It would be like telling a non-Muslim you can’t eat bacon because Muslims don’t eat pork.)

I’m Muslim and I will be honest: I don’t think the proposed North Carolina law goes far enough. We should ban all religious laws from being considered by our courts. In fact, we should add a constitutional amendment that plainly states that no religion’s scriptures can be the basis for our laws or our court decisions. This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson intended the First Amendment to do with his admonition of, “building a wall of separation between church and state.”

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Of course, the U.S. Constitution as written bans religious law from superseding our own laws by way of the Supremacy Clause. But that doesn’t stop the anti-Sharia legislators from using taxpayer dollars to push for redundant legislation.

I think we all know how this will play out. The constitutional amendment I propose will never be enacted. And in all likelihood the North Carolina bill banning Islamic law will be.

But also we know that the politicians who stoke the flames of fear against Muslims will fade away. How can I say that? Our nation’s history tells us this. Just as those who once utilized anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism to scare voters are gone, so, too, will those who peddle hatred of Muslims for political gain. I just hope that day comes soon.