Sharia Law in USA? Allowed By Constitution?

Now that Canada allows muslim immigrants to settle disputes via koranic law (sharia), can the USA be far behind?
And, does the US constitution allow for other legal systems to take the place of established courts? Could a muslim-owned corporation (in the USA) elect to follow koranic law, and would this be allowed? :confused:

I’m not sure what kind of disputes you are talking about. If you’re talking about disputes which would ordinarily end up in civil court, then I see no reason why they couldn’t be settled there. You can settle these kind of claims any way you want as long as both sides agree to have them settled that way.
If you’re talking about criminal complaints, I doubt that they’ll ever allow that to happen. I believe, for example, that if you murder someone under Sharia law you can pay the relatives of the victim some dollar amount and escape punishment. I doubt very seriously that the criminal justice system would put up with this.

Nah, remembering that the First Amendment says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, and that the Courts have held pretty strictly to a wbroad interpretation of that (Ten Commandments in public places, voluntary school prayer) and this is in the face of scores of millions of fundamentalist Christians trying to push that envelope. It is hard to imagine, a couple million max, Muslims getting The Court to go along with them setting up any kind of binding court system whatsoever.

The exception is a court system to handle disputes wioithin the mosque – it is hard to see the courts fooling with that – or imams acting in entirely voluntary family arbitrations – but true civil or criminal courts? Can’t see it

…Yes? I don’t really see why Canada would be a precedent for the US.

I think mike1dog probably has it right. Two parties in a dispute can probably settle things however they like as long as it’s not illegal.

I’m only guessing, but I think that depends on the situation. Private organizations are allowed to make their own rules - for example I guess MuslimCorp would be able to ban employees from eating pork and maybe they’d be able to arbitrate some disputes according to Islamic law. But I doubt they’d be able to cut people’s hands off for stealing.

The closest thing that has already occurred in the U.S has been to permit several of the Indian and Eskimo groups of Alaska to set up councils to discipline people according to their traditional codes rather than involve an Alaskan prosecutor or their Attorney General’s office to prosecute the crime under municipal or Alaskan laws.
There are two immediate distinctions that I see, here:
There is already an established (if fuzzy) identification of Indian nation lands as separate from the U.S. or state (as demonstrated in the burgeoning casino industry in states with anti-gambling laws).
The handing over of such discipline may have been limited to juvenile offenses. (I do not recall the details.)

I do not see any way that Sharia could be invoked to discipline people in criminal cases, although I suppose that a judge in a neighborhood heavily populated by Muslims could use Sharia guidelines for creative sentencing if he or she was not already chained to some of the ridiculous mandatory sentences.


This is a bit of a misperception. The act of repaying a family for the death of one of their members (which has an ancient history among many groups, including the Israelites of the Bible and has a modern counterpart among some libertarian advocates), is that each person contributes to the prosperity (and survival) of the family, and their loss should be compensated. Given that the vast majority of murderers are acting on a spur of the moment passion or to a specific provocation and that the majority of such people are unlikely to murder again, seeking compensation for their action rather than insisting on physical punishment makes sense. (Someone who repeatedly murders at whim or for profit is not covered under those guidelines.)

For civil disputes there shouldn’t be a problem, as long as the resolution didn’t itself violate any criminal law. See here for another example of non-government conflict resolution.

Mmmm – neither the United States nor any state has a law prohibiting the teaching of heresy by a given church’s standards in any church within its legal bounds. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly legal for a church court to indict, try, and depose and defrock a preacher who violates the theological standards of that church.

People in a dispute may undergo mediation or arbitration, where they agree to have their dispute settled by a disinterested third party.

Such decisions are not legal or illegal but extralegal – enabling people to resolve issues without recourse to the court system. If two Amish have a dispute and take it to an Amish elder for resolution in accordance with the Amish way of life, they’re dealing with it according to their beliefs. The same would hold true for two Muslims. Obviously, a decision based on shari’a which conflicts with a person’s rights as an American citizen can be overridden by a court of law – but if they agree that the shari’a decision will bind them, they have every right to seek a ruling in accord with shari’a.

How does this work in child custody disputes? If two parties in a divorce both agree to have their dispute mediated by Shari’a law, can the mother still sue for custody of the children in regular Canadian courts?

Just to flesh out this example (the link is to Judge Judy’s page), the way this works, and the way the Sharia Court could work is this. A friend of mine filed a small claims court action, and the item was picked up from the docket by a rep from one of the pseudo-court shows like Judge Judy. My friend was asked if he would consent to dropping the formal legal case and having it “tried” in the TV court instead. All parties had to agree that they would accept any action proscribed by the TV Court as a substitute for the real one.

All parties agreed and my friend won the case in TV court.

Supposedly, if the defendant didn’t pay up after having lost in TV court, there might be a suit in conventional court to collect!

Musicat writes:

> Supposedly, if the defendant didn’t pay up after having lost in TV court, there
> might be a suit in conventional court to collect!

Neither the defendant nor the plaintiff ever pays anything in TV courts. The TV show pays the money that’s awarded to anyone there. They also pay both parties and the witnesses a standard amount for their appearing on the show.

Here’s an example of an aspect of Sharia that is incompatible with the US Constitution (if I got all my facts right, and with my iffy internet connection I’m not pausing to look them up):

Under Sharia, the testimony of non-Muslims is not allowed - IIRC it may even be assumed to be untrue.

Under the Constitution as amended by the 1964 Civil Rights Amendment, people of all religions have equal access to the courts.

I don’t see why any secular government should let people of religion have a court of their own. Everyone is equal already under this system, there doesn’t need to be another one, but then again its Canada we’re talking about.

We had a lengthy discussion on this point a few months ago: What the hell is Canada doing endorsing Sharia law?

Here’s what I said at that time:

Well, there’s that little matter of free exercise of religion. Many religious organizations have internal court systems as part of their religious beliefs (e.g. - Roman Catholic church, Orthodox Jews, Anglicans, just to name a few). It’s not a question of the government “letting” them have an internal court for religious purposes - rather the opposite - government has to tread warily to avoid infringing on constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion.

What’s your beef with Canada?

By the way, it’s not as if the Canadian federal or provincial governments decided to “allow” Sharia courts. The concept of private arbitration dates back to the English common law, and Arbitration Acts to regulate private arbitrations have been on the books for decades. What’s happened in Canada is that some Muslim groups have decided to set up systems for private arbitrations under these long-standing laws, just like any other private group could do.

Just like there’s “Judge Judy” doing private arbitrations, there’s nothing stopping a new tv show on Muslim lines - maybe “Iman Ali” :smiley:

Long story.