It’s beginning to look like nothing ever changes.
Last Thursday, the garden-variety Islamophobes at Act! for America circulated an email requesting its constituents to sign a petition, asking whether or not the respondent favors the widely used “American Laws for American Courts” model statute (ALAC). This effort, Act! claims, would gauge support for so-called “anti-Sharia” legislation that redundantly precludes any “foreign law” from consideration in the U.S. judiciary. Innocuous as this sounds, ALAC is but one of several efforts to emphatically exclude nonwhite, non-Christian denizens of the U.S. from the American legal tradition.
Act! and its founder, Brigitte Gabriel, are no strangers to ALAC or projects like it; they have become a household name within the nativist lobby. In recent years, the organization has focused on further maligning its staple bête noir: Islamic Sharia law, a system it treats as the veritable anathema to the enlightened values of “Western” democracy. With some success, Act! has framed these initiatives as ‘common sense’—after all why wouldn’t the United States ban foreign laws?
But, like most appeals to common sense, it conceals a more malevolent purpose. Frankly, the only thing anti-Sharia laws accomplish is making it more difficult to be a Muslim in America.
In a political climate that increasingly derides Islam, American voters are bilked into thinking that Sharia actually presents a threat to those nebulous “American values” so often invoked; in reality, the few times that anything even resembling Sharia law emerged in American courts were civil cases, generally benign property and finance disputes that often involved international investors—hardly a reason to decry subversive practices.
When Act! for America says its efforts protect Americans, it means that they actually attack American Muslims, as even the most prosaic expressions of religious freedom would be called into question under these prospective anti-Sharia laws. Indeed, the authors of this legislation are much more invested in their anti-Muslim, nativist ideologies than protecting ‘freedom.’
The subject of the most recent Act! petition, the ALAC law that has already been passed in Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona, was written by the distinguished racist David Yerushalmi, a man who loves to emphasize his belief that Caucasians are inherently more disposed to democracy than darker-skinned people. A relentless anti-Muslim, Yerushalmi has arguably done more to propagate these sentiments than any other nativist in the country; his model legislation, though innocuously written, is little more than a manifestation of his personal bigotry and seeks only to discourage the practice of Islam in the United States.
Considering the growing success of the anti-Sharia movement and its implacable commandants, Americans deserve to know the motivations that built these laws and their actual consequences. While most will vote with ‘common sense’, the U.S. public knows the ideals on which the United States was founded—freedom of worship being one. It’s about time that we call for a halt to this inexorable movement to legislate against Islam, and in the process recommit to a spirit of inclusion.