At Least He Didn’t Use Conservapedia

by Kevin Jon Heller

So, you’re a state senator in the deep South.  You love freedom, which is why you’re a Republican.  You know that Shariah (aka Shari’ah) is the enemy of freedom.  You also know that, although Shariah currently plays no role in the law of your state, it will eventually supplant the Constitution (sometime in the next four decades, you estimate) unless you stop it.  So you decide to sponsor a bill that would prohibit  judges from relying on Shariah (and that icky freedom-hating international law) when making legal decisions.  There’s only one problem — how should you define Shariah?  After all, Muslim jurists have been struggling over a definition for centuries.  Then it hits you: the answer is obvious.  There is only one source that you can truly trust.

Wikipedia, of course:

Allen is the sole sponsor of SB 62, a bill that would ban Alabama courts from using Shariah law or international law in making legal decisions.

The bill defines Shariah as “a form of religious law derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: The divine revelations set forth in the Qur’an and the example set by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.”

That definition is the same, almost word for word, as wording in the Wikipedia entry on Shariah law as it appeared Thursday. Allen said the wording was drafted by Legislative staff. A source on the staff at the Legislature confirmed that the definition was in fact pulled from Wikipedia.

Allen could not readily define Shariah in an interview Thursday. “I don’t have my file in front of me,” he said. “I wish I could answer you better.”

The good citizens of Alabama will sleep better tonight knowing that Gerald Allen’s watching out for them.

6 Responses

  1. All of these attempts might be unlikely to pass, but I wonder if they could have a real effect if they did.  I’ve recently been told that there are cases that are tried (or arbitrated?) under Jewish law and then “appealed” to courts.  I’m not sure exactly how this works but I wonder if the same thing could be done with Shariah law.  If so, would a bill like this prevent the court from performing its function in these cases?

  2. Yes, it’s hard to fight the good fight when the other side in its willful ignorance – particularly when Islam comes up – is always ready to gleefully parade the worst as a bogeyman characteristic of the whole.

  3. @roundsquare: The US has, since its inception, provided for religious accommodation. That’s why, for instance, a person can ‘affirm’ rather than ‘swear an oath’ in court. That bit of wording was incorporated to allow Quakers to take part in the legal process as their religion prohibits ‘swearing an oath before God.’

    US courts do, and almost always have, been willing to deal with the rulings of religious courts, which are generally limited to areas of contract and family law, not criminal law. The courts will not enter into doctrinal, religious issues, but parse the cases according to secular law.

    Eugene Volokh’s ‘Volokh Conspiracy’ law blog ( frequently addresses religious accommodation as a 1st Amendment issue. You can do a search on ‘religious accommodation’ to find a few hours’ reading on the subject. It’s noteworthy that the majority of the cases have all involved Christianity, not minority religions in the US.

  4. About that, whatever happened to Conservapedia? It used to be entertaining to go there and read the most ridiculous entries on Evolution and stuff like that, but I can’t seem to access the site anymore…

  5. Of course people (including Professor Heller, I’m sure) discuss concepts all the time without having definitions at their fingertips.  He says the reason for the state senator’s proposal is  to “prohibit  judges from relying on Shariah (and that icky freedom-hating international law) when making legal decisions.” To his satisfaction, he has shown up the senator as a yahoo.

    I’m sure that Professor has a deep respect for the freedoms (otherwise known as “rights”) provided by international law. Question: where do we find these freedoms in Shariah? Where is freedom of expression or freedom of religion? I don’t mean permissions granted by the mandarins of the ruling faith, but rights.  Of course they can’t be found because the will of Allah is supreme, pre-empting any human creation.

    So if there is going to be a system of shariah courts for Muslims, dealing with ostensibly personal matters like marriage and inheritance, presumably the existing system of rights will not be infringed. I’m not so sure how this can work out.

  6. Similar issues were already debated in Ontario in 2004-2005 :

    “There will be no Shariah law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians,” McGuinty told The Canadian Press. (September 2005)

    See also :  (May 2005)

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