Asifa Quraishi-Landes on the “American Laws for American Courts” bill

Excerpted from The Journal Sentinel. Read the entire article.


State Rep. Thomas Weatherston (R-Caledonia) is spearheading an effort to pass a so-called “American Laws for American Courts” bill, which would bar Wisconsin judges from applying foreign laws — including those based on Islamic law — if doing so would violate fundamental human rights protected by the U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions.

Critics, including the American Bar Associationand many non-Muslims, argue that the laws are unnecessary because such protections already exist in American jurisprudence. And they’re seen by many as part of a larger agenda to vilify Muslims.

“If you look at the promotional materials, the lobbying, it’s the same people who are pushing against Sharia around the country — holding rallies, talking about ‘Sharia creep’ and Muslims taking over,” said Asifa Quraishi-Landes, who teaches constitutional and Islamic law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and serves as president of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers. “They see any acknowledgment of Sharia in American Muslim life as a first step to the Trojan Horse.”

Gélé said there have been hundreds of cases in which Islamic law has been invoked in U.S. courts, often to the detriment of women and children. And Weatherston said his office has found at least 70 others, though “none in Wisconsin, thankfully.”

Quraishi-Landes, the UW-Madison professor, disputes their claims. She said courts already look to public policy and constitutional protections — for example, the right to equal protection — as the bases for their rulings. She said she has reviewed all of the cases cited by the Center for Security Policy and found none in which the courts ultimatelyenforced a religious law that violated a fundamental civil right.

“To us, that is an example of the system working,” she said.

Invoking Sharia principles in a family matter is no different from other religious minorities invoking their religious principles in civil cases, she said, pointing to the Beth Dins, or rabbinical tribunals used by Orthodox Jews to negotiate disputes, which are recognized by state courts.