July 31, 2011

SCRATCH A HATRED FIND A HATER:

The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement (ANDREA ELLIOTT, 7/30/11, NY Times)

[T]he campaign's air of grass-roots spontaneity, which has been carefully promoted by advocates, shrouds its more deliberate origins.

In fact, it is the product of an orchestrated drive that began five years ago in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the office of a little-known lawyer, David Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam. Despite his lack of formal training in Islamic law, Mr. Yerushalmi has come to exercise a striking influence over American public discourse about Shariah.

Working with a cadre of conservative public-policy institutes and former military and intelligence officials, Mr. Yerushalmi has written privately financed reports, filed lawsuits against the government and drafted the model legislation that recently swept through the country -- all with the effect of casting Shariah as one of the greatest threats to American freedom since the cold war.

The message has caught on. Among those now echoing Mr. Yerushalmi's views are prominent Washington figures like R. James Woolsey, a former director of the C.I.A., and the Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, who this month signed a pledge to reject Islamic law, likening it to "totalitarian control."

Yet, for all its fervor, the movement is arguably directed at a problem more imagined than real. Even its leaders concede that American Muslims are not coalescing en masse to advance Islamic law. Instead, they say, Muslims could eventually gain the kind of foothold seen in Europe, where multicultural policies have allowed for what critics contend is an overaccommodation of Islamic law. [...]

It is not the first time Mr. Yerushalmi has engaged in polemics. In a 2006 essay, he wrote that "most of the fundamental differences between the races are genetic," and asked why "people find it so difficult to confront the facts that some races perform better in sports, some better in mathematical problem-solving, some better in language, some better in Western societies and some better in tribal ones?" He has also railed against what he sees as a politically correct culture that avoids open discussion of why "the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote."

On its Web site, the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish civil rights organization, describes Mr. Yerushalmi as having a record of "anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry." His legal clients have also drawn notoriety, among them Pamela Geller, an incendiary blogger who helped drive the fight against the Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero. [...]

Mr. Yerushalmi's legislation has drawn opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as from Catholic bishops and Jewish groups. Mr. Yerushalmi said he did not believe that court cases involving Jewish or canon law would be affected by the statutes because they are unlikely to involve violations of constitutional rights.

Business lobbyists have also expressed concern about the possible effect of the statutes, as corporations often favor foreign laws in contracts or tort disputes. This is perhaps the only constituency that has had an influence. The three state statutes that have passed -- most recently in Arizona -- make corporations exempt.

'
One can certainly believe him when he says the legislation is only meant to apply to one group of people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 31, 2011 8:29 AM
  
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