The Scope and Reach of Shariah in Western Societies
By James M. Arlandson, PhD
Danish translation: Omfanget og rækkevidden af ​​sharia i vestlige samfund
Source: Jihad Watch, July 23, 2012
Published on March 19, 2018

This series of articles on Islamic shariah law is intended for judges, lawyers, legislators, city council members, educators, journalists, government bureaucrats, think tank fellows, TV and radio talk show hosts, and anyone else who occupies the “check points” in society; they initiate the national dialogue and shape the flow of the conversation in society. They are the decision and policy makers.

As intellectuals, they may believe the critics of shariah exaggerate (and maybe some are guilty of it). Islam is a world religion, after all. It deserves respect.

They are also moral relativists who believe in tolerance for all religions. At first glance, this is a commendable outlook.

Even Thomas Jefferson said, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my legs.” [1]

In essence Jefferson was saying that beliefs that do not harm us monetarily or physically should be tolerated. Islam has neutral and even positive aspects to it — they do no one any real damage in those ways. Therefore, those specific parts should be tolerated in a religiously diverse society like America.

The Five Pillars are examples. Muslims are required first to declare their faith in a formula statement; second, pray five times a day; third, give a charity tax; fourth, fast during Ramadan; and fifth, take a pilgrimage to Mecca. We can include parts of Islamic theology, like the oneness of Allah, or other rituals like washing before entering a mosque or never eating pork.

All of these things are part of shariah — divine Islamic law, which traces its origins ultimately back to the Quran and Muhammad’s example or life. None of these words and rituals harms society. It is true that a required charity tax could be interpreted as harming one’s income, which “picks my pocket,” but in a free country outside of Islamic civilization one does not need to join Islam, or one could leave it.

If Muslims were to follow only the positive and harmless practices and rules in shariah, the world would enjoy a lot more peace.

Unfortunately, however, this series of articles is not about the harmless parts of Islam, but the harmful ones. Many parts of shariah have rules that are incompatible with the modern era. This series has to expose those teachings of shariah.

Even Thomas Jefferson had his limits. He sent in the marines to take back captured American merchant sailors and to open up the trade routes that were hampered by the Muslim Barbary pirates in North Africa, who had sold the captives into slavery or demanded a ransom. [2]

In some cases Islam does pick our pockets and break our legs.

Ten Items of Concern

And here we begin with some basic concerns about Islamic aggressive policies, whether formally part of shariah or not. These ten items are the tip of the iceberg, representing others.

Item One: At this time [2012], fifty court cases in twenty-three US states involve shariah

The Center for Security Policy finds fifty “relevant” or “highly relevant” cases on the appellate level where shariah has entered into consideration and where some judges defer to it:

"Our findings suggest that Shariah law has entered into state court decisions, in conflict with the Constitution and state public policy. Some commentators have said there are no more than one or two cases of Shariah law in U.S. state court cases; yet we found 50 significant cases just from the small sample of appellate published cases. Others state with certainty that state court judges will always reject any foreign law, including Shariah law, when it conflicts with the Constitution or state public policy; yet we found 15 Trial Court cases, and 12 Appellate Court cases, where Shariah was found to be applicable in the case at bar. The facts are the facts: some judges are making decisions deferring to Shariah law even when those decisions conflict with Constitutional protections. This is a serious issue and should be a subject of public debate and engagement by policymakers." [3]

An objector may ask about Jewish law or Catholic canon law. In reply:

"[T]here is literally no instance of Jewish law or Christian canon being applied in a state court where a litigant is likely to be deprived of a constitutional liberty. And, the reason this is so is because neither of these religious laws occupy the space of authoritative state law. Sharia is problematic precisely because it is the secular law in almost all of the Muslim world, either as the law of the land simply or as the authoritative law in matters of family relations and citizenship or what is sometimes referred to as 'identity law' in those Muslim countries which require their citizens to declare a religious affiliation for their 'identity' cards - such that the law treats Muslim citizens differently from non-Muslims." [4]

That is, Jewish law and Catholic law are different from Islamic law. The former laws do not “occupy the space of authoritative state law,” while Islamic law does.

Item Two: Muslim judges, lawyers, and jury members, living in the West, must try to implement shariah, whenever possible

The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) is made up of religious scholars, most of whom have their doctorates in Islamic law or other Islamic subjects; they have the credentials to write fatwas (religious rulings or opinions). They advocate Muslim judges and lawyers and jury members actively implementing Islamic law, while they work in the Western system. They must realize that Islamic law is superior to Western law:

"Furthermore, since attorneys are representative of their clients, it is permissible to practice law within the scope of permissible, just, and legitimate cases that are filed to demand a right or alleviate a grievance. Similarly, it is permissible to study, teach, and understand man-made laws for the purpose of realizing the superiority of the Islamic laws, or practicing law in an environment that does not recognize the sovereignty of the Islamic law, intending to defend the oppressed people and retrieve their rights. This is, however, contingent upon the possession of enough Islamic knowledge, in order to avoid becoming an unwitting participant in sinful actions and transgressions." [5]

AMJA says judges and jury members must “maintain displeasure in [their] hearts” about man-made (i.e. Western) laws and their decisions must “be in compliance with Islamic law.”

"In addition, one should judge between people according to Islamic law as much as one can. Furthermore, while in this position, one should maintain displeasure in his heart to the man-made laws. Needless to say, this ruling is an exception that is governed by the aforementioned provisions and restricted to necessity only. AMJA further clarified that it is permissible for Muslims to serve as members in a jury proceeding, with the stipulation that their opinions be in compliance with Islamic law and with the intention to establish justice for all." [6]

Item Three: Shariah courts are strong in the UK

"In 2008, while arguing for the need to formally introduce Sharia law into the law of the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed Sharia law was 'inevitable' in the UK. He denied it was an 'alien' system and called for 'constructive accommodation' of Muslim law. He did this in a calculated and provocative manner, while denying a place for its more 'extreme punishments'.
It is unlikely that many members of the Muslim community would be satisfied with an Anglican primate determining the limitations of the Quran and Sharia law.
This argument was rapidly followed by the Lord Chief Justice: Lord Phillips helpfully said there was a place for Sharia law, particularly in mediation. He lamented the 'widespread misunderstanding' of Sharia law. The newly established Muslim Arbitration Tribunals immediately put a picture of the Lord Chief Justice on their website in appreciation of his endorsement.
In the United Kingdom, the many thousands of Sharia courts can quietly go about their business of implementing 'justice' in a form totally 'alien' to the Judeo-Christian tradition, denying human rights to many of our citizens - particularly women.
The 'constructive accommodation' of Muslim law reached a logical conclusion with the declaration this year of Sharia law controlled zones in a number of areas geographically spread over the country, where the Islamist militants enforce their will. Their posters declare: 'No music or concerts, no porn or prostitution, no drugs or smoking, no gambling, no alcohol.' A reign of terror has begun, with threats of implicit violence against anyone who 'insults' Islam, changes religion, or fails to dress appropriately. I have already been contacted about assisting two individuals subject to Islamist threats.
The police stand passively by, adhering to their diversity training." [7]

Item Four: Highly placed Muslims use labels like “Islamophobia” to stifle legitimate criticism of Islam [8]

Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference), an international organization consisting of 57 member states and based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, writes that “Islamophobia” is finding a home among critics of Islam, because, these critics claim, Islam does not respect freedom of expression:

"Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim attitudes and activities, known as Islamophobia, are increasingly finding place in the agenda of ultra-right wing political parties and civil societies in the West in their anti-immigrant and anti-multiculturalism policies, as was evident in the manifesto of the Norway killer. Their views are being promoted under the banner of freedom of expression while claiming that Muslims do not respect that right." [9]

The “Islamophobia” charge is related to shariah only when it is wielded like a weapon against critics of shariah. The term seeks to stifle free speech.

On the positive side, the professor’s statement in other places does condemn violence against non-Muslims and calls for dialogue among people of different faiths. But he also writes: “The Islamic faith is based on tolerance and acceptance of other religions.”

However, this series, especially the first few installments, contradicts his claim. “Islamophobia,” a term invented to stifle critics, is not the problem. “Religiophobia,” which is Islam’s fear and dislike of other religions, especially when they are dominant and it is not, is the problem.

Item Five: Collaboration between the Obama Administration and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

The Obama administration is working to implement U.N. HRC Resolution 16/18
against religious negative stereotyping and “Islamophobia.”

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Religious Freedom and a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, writes:

"WASHINGTON (BP) — An unprecedented collaboration between the Obama administration and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC, formerly called the Organization of the Islamic Conference) to combat “Islamophobia” may lead to the de-legitimization of freedom of expression as a human right.
The administration is taking the lead in an international effort to 'implement' a U.N. resolution against religious 'stereotyping', specifically as applied to Islam.
To be sure, the administration argues that the effort should not result in free-speech curbs. However, its partners in the collaboration, the 56 member states of the OIC, have no such qualms.
Many OIC states police private speech through Islamic blasphemy laws that the Saudi-based OIC has long worked to see applied universally. Under Muslim pressure, Western Europe now has laws against religious hate speech that serve as proxies for Islamic blasphemy codes. [10]

Item Six: New Jersey trial court defers to shariah in a marital rape and domestic violence case

The plaintiff, who accused her husband of abuse, offered this description, summarized in the appellate court’s account:

"However, on the night of the reconciliation, defendant again engaged in nonconsensual sex three times, and on succeeding days plaintiff stated hat he engaged in further repeated instances of nonconsensual sex. According to plaintiff, during this period, she was deprived of food, she lacked a refrigerator and a phone, and she was left by her husband for many hours, alone." [11]

The trial court judge asked the local imam what Islamic law said about sex between a husband and wife when she does not consent. The imam said the husband has sexual rights over his wife’s body.

"At the conclusion of this testimony, in response to the judge’s questions, the Imam testified regarding Islamic law as it relates to sexual behavior. The Imam confirmed that a wife must comply with her husband’s sexual demands, because the husband is prohibited from obtaining sexual satisfaction elsewhere. However, a husband was forbidden to approach his wife 'like any animal'. The Imam did not definitively answer whether, under Islamic law, a husband must stop his advances if his wife said “no.” However, he acknowledged that New Jersey law considered coerced sex between married people to be rape." [12]

The trial court judge ruled that no restraining order was necessary, because a divorce was effectuated, and no communication between the husband and wife was necessary. However, the appellate court said that the trial court failed to give consideration to the fact that the she was going to have a baby, so they would have to communicate. The appeals court writes:

"As a final matter, we find that the judge failed to give sufficient measured consideration to the imminence of the birth of the couple’s child - an event that the judge acknowledged would bring the two into contact and almost inevitably be a source of conflict. In this regard, we note that defendant’s previous misconduct consisted not only of sexual acts that were unlikely to be repeated given the couple’s estrangement, but also acts of assault and harassment that were more likely to be repeated in the future.
Viewing the evidence as a whole, we are satisfied that the judge was mistaken in determining not to issue a final restraining order in this matter in order to protect plaintiff from future abuse and in dismissing plaintiff’s domestic violence complaint. We therefore reverse and remand the case for entry of such an order. Reversed and remanded."

Thus, fortunately the appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision.

Item Seven: In a 2003 poll, shortly after 9/11, 81% favor shariah

"[A] poll conducted in Detroit area mosques during 2003 found that 81% of the respondents endorsed the application of the Sharia where Muslims comprised a majority." [13]

To repeat, that is only two years after 9/11.

Item Eight: A satirical newspaper office in Paris, France was bombed for practicing its freedom of speech

"The fiercely anti-clerical magazine said the move, which included renaming the publication 'Sharia Hebdo', was intended to 'celebrate' the victory of Islamist party Ennhada in Tunisia’s election.
Charlie Hedbo’s editor-in-chief, known as Charb, told France Info radio: 'We no longer have a newspaper. All our equipment has been destroyed or has melted.'
No injuries have been reported.
A single Molotov cocktail was thrown at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris”s 20th arrondissement at around 1am. The ensuing fire was rapidly put out, but a large amount of material in the office was destroyed, police said.
'We cannot, today, put together a paper,' said Charb. 'But we will do everything possible to do one next week. Whatever happens, we'll do it. There is no question of giving in,' he said, adding that the magazine is filing a legal complaint against persons unknown.
According to Europe 1 radio, police are searching for two suspects seen near the scene.
Charlie Hebdo’s website has also been hacked with a message in English and Turkish cursing the magazine.
The message said: 'You keep abusing Islam’s almighty Prophet with disgusting and disgraceful cartoons using excuses of freedom of speech.'
Be God’s curse upon you!" [14]

Item Nine: The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) says spreading Islam will be ultimately successful when a worldwide caliphate and shariah dominate

All religions in a free country are allowed to preach their message peacefully. They are further allowed to convert as many as they can. That is religious freedom. However, Islam entails the ideological and judicial or the political and the legal, on top of the religious. (Yes, it is a religion.)

In March 2010 ICNA's New York branch published a handbook for its members. Some parts are positive, like developing the virtues. However, the handbook also teaches that the worldwide caliphate and shariah must arise and dominate all aspects of life:

"'Islamic movement' is the term used for that organized and collective effort waged to establish Al-Islam in its complete form in all aspects of life … It is our obligation as Muslims to engage in the same noble cause here in North America." [15]

After explaining the differences between the One Muslim Community (al-Jama'ah or worldwide Islamic state) and a specific, local Muslim community (jama'ah), the handbook says:

"[The term al-Jama'ah] implies the united Muslim Ummah [Community] in a united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah [caliph or caliphate] in accordance with the laws of shariah … Leadership of al-Jama'ah (or an Islamic state) has the authority to enforce Sharia’s political, educational, criminal justice system etc. that is beyond the jurisdiction of a jama'ah [local community]." [16]

So shariah is understood to cover many major areas of society by legislative and political means, not only by propagating one’s faith through persuasion and preaching with words alone.

Islam is a religion, but it is overlaid with the political and legal.

Item Ten: Headscarves that do not cover the face are allowed in police photos

"Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle will allow a Muslim woman to wear her head-covering in a jail booking photo, provided she push the scarf back far enough to expose her hairline and ears.
The compromise puts an end to a controversy sparked when Maria Hardman, a University of Colorado student and convert to Islam, refused to take off her hijab for a booking photo when she reported for a two-day work-release sentence.
The decision came a day after a Boulder County judge denied Hardman’s request to either serve an alternative sentence or keep on the scarf, which exposed her face. However, Boulder County Judge Noel Blum asked jail officials in his ruling to consider whether some accommodation could be made.
Pelle said his office looked at how other jails handle religious head-coverings and how other agencies that require ID photos handle the issue. Pelle said he wanted a policy that wouldn’t allow someone to come in wearing a burka or full-face covering and claim an exemption and one that would allow law enforcement officials to recognize the person even if he or she wasn’t wearing the head-covering." [17]

We live in a free society. If a woman wishes to wear a headscarf or even a veil that covers her face except her eyes and it is safe to do so, then that is her choice. Compromises and accommodations are positive in many cases.

However, not allowing the veil that covers her face is right for business. Also, for the specific purpose of a photo ID, the headscarf should be removed. A woman police officer or a female photographer at the Department of Motor Vehicles can take the photo, if modesty is the problem.

At the police station, don’t some suspects get thoroughly searched, even strip-searched? What if the suspect insists on keeping her headscarf on, but she’s hiding drugs or a small weapon in her hair? Therefore, she must take it off.

It should be pointed out that France has banned the burka (full face covering), for women in public. This may be too restrictive of women’s religious freedom. [18]


Those ten items will become outdated in a few years, so readers are encouraged to search the web for new cases.

In the coming years, readers should visit these websites regularly:

Women Living under Muslim Laws
Jihad Watch
Faith Freedom

But the ten items reveal deep problems, right now.

Where do the problem cases come from? Only from a distorted and fanatical interpretation of early Islam that was actually pure and peaceful many centuries ago? Or do the problems come from original Islam itself?

Yet another purpose of this series of articles is to answer those questions.

For the record, what would happen to Jefferson’s hypothetical neighbor who believed in twenty gods and lived in an Islamic nation that was based on shariah? He is known as a polytheist or one who believes in many gods — another term is pagan. The closest example to a polytheist today is an animist, one who believes things have souls.

In original Islam, he would have to convert to Islam and pay the required charity tax; or if he did not convert, he would have to die. In today”s Islam he would be persecuted and arrested and “reeducated.” Maybe he would be executed. [19]

As for Jefferson’s hypothetical atheist neighbor, in original Islam he would be given a chance to repent, or die. In today”s Islam he would suffer persecution, ranging from “reeducation” and prison or exile and maybe ultimately to execution if he criticized Muhammad.


[1] Andrew M. Allison, M. Richard Maxfield et al., The Real Thomas Jefferson: The True Story of America’s Philosopher of Freedom, rev. ed. (National Center of Constitutional Studies, 2008), 602-03.

[2] Thomas Jewett, “Terrorism in Early America: The U.S. Wages War against the Barbary States to End International Blackmail and Terrorism,”, Winter Spring 2002. Using captives as slaves or demanding a ransom is endorsed by the Quran (see the article on slavery, in this series).

[3] Center for Security Policy, Shariah Law and American Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases, Version 1.3, May 20, 2011. On pp. 12 and 53, the Center discusses what “relevant” and “highly relevant” mean. They count fifty cases that fall into that category, but there are 150 others. The 1.3 version means that the lengthy report will be updated from time-to-time, so readers should search for it online or at the center.

[4] David Yerushalmi, in “Re: Sharia — Mr. Shmitz Is Wrong on the Law Too,” National Review Online, June 2012.

[5] The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America in Cooperation with The Islamic League of Denmark: The Second Annual Session: Copenhagen, Denmark: 22-25 June, 2004, quoted in Center for Security Policy, Shariah Law, 25.

[6] Ibid. quoted in Center for Security Policy, Shariah Law, 26. See Main Khalid Al-Qudah, “Is it Permissible to Participate in Jury Duty in America?” Question ID or fatwa no. 83652,, January 25, 2011; idem. “Being on a Jury,” Question ID or fatwa no. 76849,, November 13, 2008; Ibrahim Dremali, "Jury Duty,” Question ID or fatwa no. 1855,, July 8, 2006 [?]. The problem with these fatwas is that they do not specify what is permissible and impermissible in Islam in relation to American law. Would they conflict?

[7] Paul Diamond, “Shariah Law Already Devouring UK,” December 12, 2011,

[8] "Fourth OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia,” May 2101 to April 2011, Aztana, Kazakhstan, June 2011.

[9] 9 Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, “Norway Attacks Reinforce Need for United Stand Against Intolerance,”, Aug 17, 2011.

[10] Nina Shea, “White House to Aid Islamic States Defy Free Speech,”, September 8, 2011. She often writes about Islam’s anti-blasphemy laws in the West. See her at the Hudson Institute.

[11] Center for Security Policy, "Shariah in American Courts", July 23, 2010.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Andrew G. Bostom, “Foxman: Wrong on Shariah, Too,” August 15, 2011,

[14] Henry Samuel, “French Satirical Newspaper Firebombed after Prophet Mohammed Announcement,” The Telegraph, November 2011. The BBC online news edition records a brief timeline of the violent fallout of the Muhammad drawings by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, in 2005. “Muslim Cartoon Row Timeline,”, February 2006. Adam Turner also keep us updated on Muslim violence over the West’s free speech: “RIP: Free Speech about Islam,”, July 8, 2012.

[15] Islamic Circle of North America, Handbook, March 2010.

[16] Ibid. 7, with slight mechanical adjustments; the comments in brackets are added by me; the ones in parentheses by the authors.

[17] Erika Meltzer and John Aquilar, “Boulder Sheriff Will Allow Woman to Wear Hijab in Jail Photo,”, December 10, 2010.

[18] Pauline Mevel, “French Court Hands Down First Burka Ban Fines,” Reuters, September 22, 2011.

[19] For Muslim persecution of animists in Nigeria, see “Islamic Violence Paralyzes Teenager, Churches in Nigeria,” Christian Persecution Info, Jul 10, 2006. That link is mainly about a Christian high school student who was brutalized, but it references animists who are likewise persecuted.

James M. Arlandson, Ph.D., has written the book:
Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity.
He has also written the 17 part series:
Islamic Sharia Law: Its Origins, Development, and Application Today
and the 12 part series:
The Sword in Early Christianity and Islam
as well as numerous other articles.

Articles in the Series

More Punishments: