The great lawyer David Yerushalmi explains why anti-Sharia laws are needed, and what they will accomplish. "States Move To Ban Islamic Sharia Law," from NPR, March 11:
More than a dozen states are now considering measures to ban Sharia, or Islamic law. One proposed bill in Tennessee has drawn criticism, with opponents saying it would infringe on religious freedoms for Muslims. Proponents of the bill say it's necessary to prevent "homegrown terror." Host Michel Martin speaks with David Yerushalmi, who wrote the policy paper that sparked the legislation in Tennessee and other states. They are joined by associate professor of Islamic and American Law at Boston College, Intisar Rabb. [...]
During last year's elections, you may remember that Oklahoma passed a referendum banning state courts from considering international or Islamic law. But it was later blocked by a federal judge who said that the law was unconstitutional.
Now more than a dozen states are considering similar measures, including Arizona, Indiana and Texas. One version that has sparked particular interest is the law being debated in Tennessee, which critics call the most far-reaching because it would make certain acts under the law a felony. Supporters of the measure say it is necessary to stop homegrown terror.
Well, opponents say the law is unconstitutional and would infringe on the religious rights of Muslims. We wanted to talk more about this, so we've called on David Yerushalmi. He wrote the policy paper that was the catalyst for the Tennessee bill, as well as bills in a number of other states. He is a lawyer who specializes in national security and he is the founder and president of a group called SANE, the Society of Americans for National Existence. He describes it as a nonprofit public policy think tank and he's with us from our NPR studios in New York.
Also joining us Intisar Rabb. She is an associate professor of Islamic law and American law at Boston College. She's also a faculty researcher with Harvard Law School's Islamic Legal Studies Program. And she joins us from the studios at Harvard University. I welcome you both and thank you both so much for joining us.
Mr. DAVID YERUSHALMI (Attorney): Thank you for having me.
Professor INTISAR RABB (Islamic Law and American Law, Boston College): So, Mr. Yerushalmi, I'll start with you because as we mentioned, your policy paper has been the intellectual basis for a number of the measures being considered around the country. Why is a bill like this necessary, first? And, secondly, what specifically do you feel that the Tennessee bill would accomplish?
Mr. YERUSHALMI: Well, let's first talk about what the bill is and then why we think it's necessary. The bill had been misrepresented by claiming that it outlaws, it criminalizes Islamic worship or even more specifically, that it outlaws or criminalizes the practice of Sharia or Islamic law. Both of those are simply spatially false.
The law goes through a litany of legislative findings, which are based upon the knowable and objective statements by jihadist around the globe, that they base their jihad on Sharia or Islamic law.
Now, from there, the statute says that if the attorney general identifies an organization that adheres to that Sharia jihad doctrine and it's either engaging in terrorism or has the intent and the capability to engage in terrorism, that organization can be designated as a Sharia organization.
Now, that part of the statute mirrors the federal statute that allows the secretary of state to designate foreign terrorist organizations.
MARTIN: Well, that was my question, Mr. Yerushalmi - and Professor Rabb, I haven't forgotten about you. But, Mr. Yerushalmi, that is my second question to you, which is, why is this necessary? Why is it necessary to single out a particular ideology when legal tools, presumably, already exist to target organizations with violent intent?
Mr. YERUSHALMI: First of all, states, as opposed to the federal government, have a compelling state interest to protect the safety of its citizens. Tennessee has had a problem of homegrown jihadists. Bledsoe, who went out to the recruiting office in Arkansas, was from Tennessee and as it were radicalized there. So that's number one.
Number two, the statute identifies a specific threat doctrine in policy and in law. The more specific you can be, as to the harm you're trying to address, the better the law is. And because we have a very specific threat of global jihad domesticized in this country, the statute is refined to just that aspect of the terrorist profile and threat that deals with this particular jihad doctrine....
There is much more -- including Yerushalmi's clarification on why such bills do not criminalize Islam or Muslim religious practice, as Hamas-linked CAIR and others have falsely claimed, and his response to defamatory charges made against him. Be sure to read it all.