Oklahoma passed a Sharia ban by ballot in 2010, but that measure has been deemed facially unconstitutional by the courts because it specifically targets Muslims for discrimination. Because of Oklahoma’s experience, state legislatures are moving bills that are more oblique about their discriminatory intent. South Dakota, Louisiana, Arizona, and Tennessee have all passed laws that ban “foreign law in American courts” and don’t mention Muslims or Sharia by name.
Kansas’ proposed anti-Muslim law also similarly asserts it is about promoting “American law for American courts.” (Note: the Constitution already establishes this in its Supremacy Clause.) As Kansas Republican state Sen. Chris Steineger noted, the measure was “presented” to him as a bill specifically targeting Muslims:
But Sen. Chris Steineger, R-Kansas City, said a marketing campaign by supporters of the bill inundated him with materials that “explain why sharia law is coming and Muslims are trying to take over America.”
“I thought that was quite ludicrous at the time, and I still do,” Steineger said. “I pointed this out, because this was not presented as protecting the Kansas Constitution. The proponents of this measure, clearly by the literature they gave me and by the video link they directed me to, they presented this as protecting us against sharia law. Despite the fact that this doesn’t mention sharia, that’s how this whole issue was presented.”
Indeed, Kansas was bombarded by anti-Sharia emails and letters from out-of-staters. The bill’s sponsors and advocates proclaimed that it was really about protecting “women’s rights.” The bill helps “women know the rights they have in America,” said sate Rep. Peggy Mast (R). “To me, this is a women’s rights issue,” said Sen. Susan Wagle (R). Nevermind that these same legislators have been engaged in a war against women’s health, Planned Parenthood, the right to choose, and so many other far more relevant “women’s rights” causes.
Right-wing legislators have been pushing Sharia bans across the country; roughly 20 other states are also considering similar legislation. The anti-Sharia legislative movement was spawned by David Yerushalmi, an influential Islamophobic lawyer who we profiled last year in Fear, Inc.
The anti-Sharia movement continues despite the fact that no evidence has been provided that there is any threat that a Sharia takeover is occurring. Kansas Republican state Sen. John Vratil “said he quizzed the bill’s supporters on when a Kansas court had ever based a decision on sharia law and had yet to be provided with an example.” As Vratil asserted, “Ladies and gentleman, this is a solution in search of a problem.” True, unless you are someone who views the increasing presence of Muslims in America as the problem.