Anti-Sharia Bills: Another Harmful Consequence of Anti-Muslim Sentiment

During his campaign for office, President Donald J. Trump laced many of his speeches with anti-Muslim rhetoric and vowed to ban Muslim refugees and immigrants. And just a few days into office, he signed an order imposing a Muslim ban.

But there are more harmful consequences that have come from the anti-Muslim sentiment he stoked. We’ve seen an uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes. And now state legislatures across the country are pushing harmful bills.

More than a dozen bills based on anti-Muslim animus have been introduced in the states this year. At least three of these anti-Sharia bills – in Montana, Arkansas and North Dakota – could be signed into law soon.

These bills usually don’t mention Sharia law outright like some have in the past. After a federal court blocked an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that expressly banned courts from considering Sharia in 2011, legislators changed their tactics. Now, the bills generically state their aim is to protect the public from “foreign laws” being enforced in U.S. courts. But the bills’ history and the fact that they are unnecessary – judges already have the power to reject foreign laws where they conflict with U.S. law and there’s no sign the courts are failing in this duty – make the bills’ intent clear.

A Montana state representative told the Associated Press that the bill there was clearly a “Shariah law bill.” Rep. Ellie Hill Smith said, “If you go back and listen to the testimony of the proponents of this bill in both the House and Senate, the legislative intent is crystal clear that it targets one religion.” 

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been stoked by President Trump's campaign rhetoric and attempts at a Muslim ban.

Discriminatory rhetoric and policies that target people based on their religion are harmful to us all. In truth, an attack on people who follow one faith undermines the protections that apply equally to all of us, no matter our religion or belief. That’s why we are fighting the anti-Sharia bills.

And that's why we’ve been extensively involved in litigation challenging Trump’s Muslim ban. Just last week we filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Yemeni family living in the U.S. whose two young children remain stranded overseas and the largest Shi’a Muslim organization in the U.S. whose members are deprived of learning and worship because their leading religious scholars reside in countries subject to the travel ban. We also filed important friend-of-the-court briefs in many of the other legal cases challenging the ban, including in Hawaii where just last night, the federal court extended an order to halt its enforcement.

And here’s how you can take action too. We invited Kristin Garrity Şekerci from Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative to give tips on suppoting our Muslim neighbors – watch our Facebook Live session.

If you live in Montana, please urge Gov. Bullock to veto the anti-Sharia bill. If you live in Arkansas, please urge Gov. Hutchinson to veto the anti-Sharia bill in that state. And you may hear from us again soon about legislation in other states. Stay tuned to au.org for more information on these unnecessary, harmful bills.