Anti-Sharia Legislation and the U.S. Constitution

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks several state legislatures have considered or passed anti-Sharia legislation. Supporters say this legislation prevents the implementation of religious laws that supersede the U.S. Constitution. Critics claim the legislation discriminates against Muslims and Arab Americans. The debate has raised broader constitutional questions about the place for religious law in American society. These questions and more will be argued in a symposium titled “Can We The People Tolerate Islamic Law? Anti-Sharia Legislation and the U.S. Constitution.” The symposium will be held at 1p.m. Friday, April 12, in the E.J. Ball Courtroom at the University of Arkansas School of Law. The event is free and open to the public.

“Sharia” is the Islamic code of morals and religious law. Many of the “anti-Sharia” bills originally called for the banning of Sharia but were amended when federal courts ruled their language was discriminatory.

“This symposium brings together a diversity of viewpoints on the constitutional questions raised by anti-Sharia legislation,” said Stacy Leeds, dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law. “I look forward to the discussion that will come from this group of experts. I am also very proud of the hard work of our student editors of the Journal of Islamic Law and Culture in facilitating interest in complex legal questions.”

The symposium will be moderated by Joel Gordon, director of the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas. Panel participants include:

  • Abed Awad, attorney and Sharia expert with Awad & Khoury LLP
  • John Eidsmoe, attorney with the Foundation for Moral Law
  • Bernard Freamon, professor at Seton Hall School of Law
  • Mark Potok, senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Stephen M. Sheppard, associate dean for research and faculty development, William H. Enfield Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Arkansas School of Law

Awad is an attorney, public speaker and community leader. His practice in the New Jersey-New York area focuses on general civil litigation, including complex matrimonial law, commercial law, Islamic law and international law. Awad was a managing editor on Pace International Law Review and has been published extensively on different areas of the law in various publications, including in The International Lawyer, New Jersey Law Journal, Pace International Law Review, The National Law Journal, The Matrimonial Strategist, The Journal of the Legal Profession and Middle East Executive Reports.

Eidsmoe is a frequent lecturer and debater at colleges, universities, churches and civic groups. As a constitutional attorney, he has successfully litigated court cases involving First Amendment religious freedom and has defended home education and Christian schools, championed the right of students and teachers to study the Bible in public schools, debated ACLU attorneys on radio and television, and served on the Ten Commandments Legal Defense Team.

Freamon is a professor at Seton Hall School of Law, where his primary teaching focus is in evidence and legal philosophy, with a particular concentration in Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic legal history. In recent years, Freamon has increasingly turned his attention to the problem of slavery in the Islamic world. His Doctor of Juridical Science dissertation, submitted and approved in 2007, is concerned with conceptions of equality in Islamic law and their relation to the problem of slavery in Islamic legal history.

Potok is one of the country’s leading experts on the world of extremism and serves as the editor-in-chief of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s award-winning, quarterly journal, the Intelligence Report, its Hatewatch blog and its investigative reports. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Potok has appeared on numerous television news programs and is quoted regularly by journalists and scholars in both the United States and abroad. In addition, he has testified before the U.S. Senate, the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights and in other venues.

Sheppard teaches international and environmental law, constitutional law, legal history, and jurisprudence, property, remedies and other common law courses at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He is a member of the graduate faculty in political science, the core faculty in public policy, and the advisory faculties for European studies and the King Fahd Center for Middle Eastern Studies. His public service includes enlistment and commission in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and membership in the Iraq Advisory Group of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, in 2005.

“Can We The People Tolerate Islamic Law” is hosted by the University of Arkansas School of Law, the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies, The Journal of Islamic Law and Culture and the International Law Society in the School of Law.

For more information about the symposium, call 479-575-4436 or 479-575-2175.


Andy Albertson, director of communications
Office of Economic Development


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