Thursday, March 24, 2011

Islamophobia: Myths vs. Facts

Now that the 2011 Legislature is over, our blog will shift gears and focus on civil liberties issues happening both locally and nationally. Readers - stay tuned for an online report that we will publish in the next few days that summarizes all the bills we monitored and lobbied this past session.

With so much about Islam in the current news cycle, from the supposed “radicalization” to state laws banning Sharia Law from U.S. Courts, it is important that we educate ourselves with facts, and not buy into myths or shape our opinions based on rhetoric alone. While these measures generally coincide with rising xenophobia and concerns about the influence of foreign and international law in the United States, they also correspond with the growing anti-Muslim sentiment across the country.

Click here to read a Q&A on the myth of radicalization

Earlier this month, Representative Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, held a hearing about the so-called radicalization of Islam in America. This misguiding hearing, which smacks of a McCarthy-era witch hunt, is only the most recent manifestation of discriminatory attitudes and policies towards Muslims in America. That is why the ACLU, along with over 40 other human rights and civil rights groups, sent a letter to Rep. King and his committee urging them not to conflate 1st Amendment-protected practices with involvement in terrorism.

Download a copy of the ACLU’s written statement to the House Committee on Homeland Security

More and more we are reading about state legislatures attempting to ban Sharia Law from being upheld in U.S. Courts. This notion was seen first in Oklahoma and immediately blocked by a Federal Court as unconstitutional, and is nothing more than a scare-tactic based on the perception of the influence of foreign and religious laws on our courts, rather than facts. To be sure, the 1st Amendment already prohibits U.S. courts from adopting any kind of religious law. That includes: Kosher Law, Canon Law and yes, Sharia Law.

Unfortunately, Wyoming is not immune from these types of Islamophobic measures as we observed during this past session. Representative Gay from Wyoming House District 36 introduced HJ08, which attempted to ban both Sharia and International Laws from Wyoming’s Courts. Bills like this are nothing more than a solution looking for a problem. Moreover, the framers of the Constitution intended respect for international laws and commitments, such as U.S. treaties. In order to be the global leader on human rights, we must uphold our commitment to international laws and standards. This not only includes honoring international laws, but refusing to enshrine discrimination and intolerance in U.S. law.

Last month in Orange County, California, protestors organized outside of a charity event sponsored by a local Muslim group. The charity event was to raise money for women’s shelters, and to relieve homelessness and hunger in the U.S. Please watch this video prepared by the Council on American-Islamic-Relations (CAIR-California) to get a taste of the anti-Islamic rhetoric growing in America.

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