Is the accommodation of Muslim practices in U.S. courts an example of what some have called “creeping Sharia” in the American legal system? How do you explain U.S. courts interpreting contracts based on Sharia law?
Sharia is not creeping into the U.S. court system. There are three types of cases that may require a court to even take notice of Sharia law:
The first is a case in which a party alleges that some government practice interfered with the ability to practice his or her faith as required by Sharia law. Such a Free Exercise claim is identical to claims that government practice violates Jewish law, canon law or other religious laws. Courts decide only whether the claim is sincere and whether the government action violates the person’s rights.
The second is an arbitration agreement providing for arbitration under Sharia law. These can be enforced by courts if voluntary and not in violation of public policy.
The third, and least common case, is one in which a foreign country’s law governs a dispute (e.g., an accident that occurred abroad) and the country’s law includes Sharia law. In general, the same rules apply: American courts will not interpret religious law and will not apply foreign law in violation of basic public policies. The rules are no different for Islamic law than for canon law, Halakha (Jewish law) or other religious laws.