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A reader asked if there were communities in the United States that are under Sharia law, a form of Islamic law. If community means a neighborhood, town or city, then the answer is no.
If anyone tried to force someone to obey a decision based on a reading of Islamic code, they would run up against the U.S. Constitution.
It’s important to remember that Sharia lacks a single simple definition. Sharia law is a wide-ranging set of rules that govern aspects of Islamic life, including religious practice, daily living, and financial dealings. Muslims living in the United States can put marital disputes and other personal matters in front of a tribunal made up of leaders of their faith. That’s allowed and has been used by Catholics, Jews, Lutherans, Baptists and other religions for decades. It falls under the umbrella of mediation, when people agree to work out their differences through a process outside of the courts.
For any other situation, the American Bar Association spelled out how American law trumps all foreign laws.
"Constitutional rights (such as those contained in the Bill of Rights) protect everyone in the United States, and all courts throughout the country are bound to respect them," an ABA committee wrote in 2011. "Courts will also refuse to enforce decisions made by religious tribunals when such decisions violate public policy or involve matters considered non-arbitral on public policy grounds, such as questions involving child custody."
There was a 2009 domestic abuse case in New Jersey where a trial judge deferred to Sharia tenets, but the state’s Superior Court shot that down.
Since 2010, lawmakers in over 40 states have introduced bills aimed at blocking the use of Sharia law. Some bills listed Sharia by name, but others referred more broadly to religious or cultural laws that would go against the "fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the U.S. and [state] Constitutions." Bills passed in 14 states.
But the legal consensus is that existing law already fully guarantees individual rights. In no American community does a code based on Islamic, Jewish, Catholic or other religious precepts hold sway over American law.
Got a question for a fact-checker? Ask PolitiFact by emailing the Truth-O-Meter at [email protected]. Put "Ask PolitiFact" in the subject line.
American Bar Association, Resolution: Opposing ant--Sharia legislation, Aug. 9, 2011
Pew Research Center, Applying God’s Law: Religious Courts and Mediation in the U.S., April 8, 2013
Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Sharia law bills in the United States, Feb. 5, 2018
Washington Post, Sharia in America, June 30, 2017
New Jersey Superior Court, SD v. Mjr, 2 A.3d 412 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2010), July 23, 2010
PolitiFact, No, majority of states did not ban Sharia law, Feb. 8, 2018
Photo: Halal butcher, Ben Woolsey, via Flickr Creative Commons license