Described by many as a means to keep American Muslims in the margins, the ferocious campaign to ban Islamic Shari`ah in the United States is traced to a little known lawyer in Brooklyn who has been orchestrating the anti-Muslim drive over the past five years.
“The fact is there is no Shari`ah takeover in America,” Salam Al-Marayati, the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, one of several Muslim organizations that have begun a counteroffensive, told The new York Times on Monday, July 31.
“It’s purely a political wedge to create fear and hysteria.”
Yerushalmi is the main engine behind fueling anti-Shari`ah debate in the US
Over the past years, US Muslims have been under a ferocious campaign triggered by the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York.
Benefiting from the surrounding anti-Islam rhetoric, David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam, managed to gain the support of prominent Washington figures.
Among key figures applauding the message were R. James Woolsey, a former CIA director, Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, who this month signed a pledge to reject Shari`ah, likening it to “totalitarian control.”
Yerushalmi’s movement started in January 2006 after founding the Society of Americans for National Existence; a nonprofit organization that became his vehicle for opposing Shari`ah.
Presenting the first anti-Shari`ah legislation, he proposed a law draft on his website making Shari`ah a felony punishable by 20 years in prison.
He also floated a project titled “Mapping Shari`ah” under which he started raising money to study whether there is a link between what he claimed “Shari`ah-adherent behavior” in American mosques and support for violence.
Through the project, Yerushalmi came to know Frank Gaffney, a hawkish policy analyst and commentator who is the president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.
Together, they set out to “engender a national debate about the nature of Shari`ah and the need to protect our Constitution and country from it,” Gaffney wrote in an e-mail to The New York Times.
Many analysts have criticized Yerushalmi’s campaign to target the Islamic Shari`ah.
“Even in Muslim-majority countries, there is a huge debate about what it means to apply Islamic law in the modern world,” Andrew F. March, an associate professor specializing in Islamic law at Yale University, told The New York Times.
In Islam, Shari`ah governs all issues in Muslims’ lives from daily prayers to fasting and from, marriage and inheritance to financial disputes.
The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
In US courts, judges can refer to Shari`ah law in Muslim litigation involving cases about divorce and custody proceedings or in commercial litigation.
A recent report by the Center for Security Policy, a research institute based in Washington, identified 50 cases involving Shari`ah law over the last three decades.
Affected by Yerushalmi propaganda, lawmakers in at least two dozen states have introduced proposals last year forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.
The statutes have been enacted in three states so far.
Last November, a federal court blocked constitutional amendments that would have prohibited the use of Shari`ah in Oklahoma.
Yet, for Yerushalmi, the statutes themselves are a secondary concern.
“If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose,” he said in one of several extensive interviews.
“The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shari`ah?’ ”
The anti-Shari`ah debate is not the first time Yerushalmi engages himself in polemics.
In a 2006 essay, he wrote that “most of the fundamental differences between the races are genetic.”
Yerushalmi also asked why “people find it so difficult to confront the facts that some races perform better in sports, some better in mathematical problem-solving, some better in language, some better in Western societies and some better in tribal ones?”
He also raised debates about what he sees as a politically correct culture that avoids open discussion of why “the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote.”
On its website, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, describes Yerushalmi as having a record of “anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.”
His legislation has also drawn opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as from Catholic bishops. article source