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Salon: What Sharia Law Actually Means

Author: Justin Elliott
February 26, 2011

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Justin Elliot provides an explanantion for Islamic, or Sharia, law.

Last week in Tennessee, a Republican legislator introduced a bill that would make following sharia -- Islamic law -- a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. How such a law would be enforced is not clear; furthermore, it's probably unconstitutional.

It is clear, though, that an anti-sharia movement is growing in the United States. Last year Oklahoma voters approved a measure that bars courts from considering sharia. Similar measures have now been introduced or passed in at least 13 other states. Indeed, anti-Muslim political operatives have been warning of "creeping sharia" and "Islamist lawfare" for years, though the anti-sharia efforts have gained new prominence in recent months.

But even basic facts about sharia -- what is it? how is it used in American courts? -- are hard to come by. So I decided to talk to Abed Awad, a New Jersey-based attorney and an expert on sharia who regularly handles cases that involve Islamic law. He is also a member of the adjunct faculties at Rutgers Law School and Pace Law School. He recently answered my questions via e-mail.

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