The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Nativist Lawyer Kris Kobach Jumps on Anti-Shariah Bandwagon

By Leah Nelson on August 27, 2012 - 12:00 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Propaganda

Kris Kobach, the immigrant-baiting attorney behind a raft of “attrition through enforcement” laws designed to make unauthorized immigrants’ lives so miserable that they choose to “self-deport,” is letting his Islamophobic colors fly.

Talking Points Memo reported last week that the Republican National Convention (RNC) has amended its platform to include a ban on “foreign law.” Kobach introduced the plank, saying, “I’m not aware of any court that’s actually accepted the argument, but in cases involving either spousal abuse or assault or other crimes against persons, sometimes defenses are raised that are based in Shariah Law.”

Shariah law is Islamic religious law, and the far political right has spent much of the last two years ginning up groundless fears that it will be imposed on the United States — an impossibility under the Constitution. Already, two states have banned “foreign law” based on those fears, and close to two dozen others have considered such statutes despite Oklahoma’s law being struck down last January.

Kobach’s embrace of the anti-Shariah cause should be no surprise to those familiar with his career. Kobach has a history of targeting Muslim immigrants, whom he apparently sees as a special threat to national security.

These days, Kobach serves as Kansas’ secretary of state, a normally low-profile position that he has leveraged to catapult himself onto the national state as a proponent of strict voter registration laws and “attrition through enforcement” immigrations laws.

But in 2002, while serving in the Department of Justice as John Ashcroft’s chief advisor on immigration and border security, Kobach helped create the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a controversial program that required tens of thousands of Muslim and Middle Eastern visa holders to register with the government and be fingerprinted. Civil liberties and Arab-American groups argued, with good reason, that the policy amounted to racial and ethnic profiling. The Department of Homeland Security shut it down until 2011.

After his departure from the DOJ, Kobach joined the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), where he devised prototype “attrition through enforcement” immigration legislation. Versions of his model legislation eventually became law in states including Arizona and Alabama, though federal courts have enjoined their most punishing provisions.

IRLI is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant hate group that yearns for a return to immigration laws favoring white, northern European newcomers. The laws Kobach developed as counsel there have principally affected immigrants from Mexico and Central America – but apparently, the nativist firebrand never lost his appetite for targeting Muslims.

Interestingly, the anti-“foreign law” policy Kobach pitched to the RNC bears a not-too-surprising resemblance to a piece of model legislation written by David Yerushalmi – a lawyer, who, like Kobach, has made a name for himself peddling hateful model legislation to any and all takers.

If Kobach’s signature is “attrition through enforcement, Yerushalmi’s is “American Laws for American Courts” – model legislation he created for an outfit called the Public Policy Alliance. Though the legislation itself does not contain any reference to Shariah law or Islam, the Public Policy Alliance describes it in explicitly anti-Muslim terms, claiming on its website, “[W]e are preserving individual liberties and freedoms which become eroded by the encroachment of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, such as Shariah.”

Versions of anti-Shariah laws have passed in Oklahoma and Kansas. According to a recent article in The Nation, Oklahoma’s law was struck down by a federal court that said it had failed “to identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve.”

Perhaps the Kansas nativist seeks to learn from the master. Elaborating on his anti-Shariah position in a Thursday appearance on Secure Freedom Radio (first reported by RightWingWatch), Kobach tipped his hat to Yerushalmi’s model law.

“We’d like to see all of the states take a firm stand against Shariah law being used in their courts,” Kobach told host Frank Grandy. “I think it will allow state legislators who are trying to move similar legislation like Kansas’s and other states, they can point to the national party platform and say, ‘Hey look, this is part of our national platform, this is not some unheard of or imaginary threat, this is part of the national Republican Party platform,’ and hopefully that will help assuage concerns that some of the more wobbly Republicans might have.”

  • aadila

    I can’t see why sharia would be any better or worse than what the Republican party is offering.

  • Reynardine

    Thank you also, Rights.

  • Rights

    It is a mistake to equate the institutionalized term Sharia law with the authentic teachings of the Quran and Muhammad. Sharia Law as jurisprudence was developed by early Muslim scholars and thinkers -long after Muhammad’s death- notably the four Imams, who represented the four schools of thought that the Sunni Muslims accept. The Shi’ite Muslims have more Imams.

    These people interpreted the Quran and Muhammad’s teachings according to their own minds, which resulted in serious schisms among the Muslims. These divisions in turn spawned many Sharia laws. Then the followers of these schools of thought further expanded these writings to boundaries wholly unrecognizable based on the Quran and Muhammad’s teachings. Which Sharia law you followed depended on which Imam or school of thought you followed. Worse, it depended on which derivative subgroup or sect you followed.

    So what’s my point? Simply this: there exists no one recognizable Sharia law that even a Muslim country could follow. And I cannot think of one Muslim country that has the Sharia law across the board. Indeed even during the “Golden Age of Islam” I cannot think of a land where the Muslims implemented Sharia law across the board. Combine with all that the stalwart fact that the US Constitution strictly bars implementation of any laws, Sharia or not, that stand at variance with it.

    Sharia law in America? Yes, there is a chance. But it is only as much as that of a meteor falling on my head during the next five minutes, or for that matter, on Kobach’s. Anti-Sharia law movement in America, or Europe, therefore should be justifiably regarded as hate-mongering and bigotry against Muslims.

  • Kiwiwriter

    The “Shariah Law” fear is just a weapon being used by xenophobes and cynical opportunists to frighten people and gain attention, support, and numbers.

    The same attitude was seen back in the 1840s to Irish immigrants, because of their Catholicism.

    And we all know about the hatred of Jews and the prattle about Jewish rituals, e.g., “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which is still trotted out by hardened anti-Semites and cynical opportunists.

  • Reynardine

    Thank you, Mr. Swaim.

  • Lawrence Swaim

    The idea that American Muslims use more stealth and infiltration tactics than any other group is what is known as bigotry. There is no “they,” and there is no constituencies known as “the Muslims” about which one can generalize, anymore than you can generalize about “the Jews” or “the Christians.” American Muslims are doctors, lawyers, cops, taxi drivers, students, etc. etc. etc. They are all individuals, and should be treated as such.
    The Supremacy Clause in the Constitutions would prohibit use of Shariah law (or rabbinical or Canon Law) over American Law..
    The profound issue that continues to resonate in the Shariah Law hysteria is that of religious liberty. We say we believe in it, but do we really, or is that just a rhetorical device for political use? We’re going to find out, apparently. What is deeply troubling to this writer is the manner in which the Republican Party, one of our two great national political parties, included an entire plank of their Platform to the deliberate dissemination of religious bigotry.
    As the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe demonstrates clearly, once religious bigotry becomes embedded in a political culture, and the culture of a particular political party, it is very hard to get it out. And religious bigotry has a tendency to get out of hand very quickly. In Europe anti-Semitism led to war and left Europe in rubble. Islamophobia is simply an updated form of anti-Semitism.
    There is nothing more despicable to a true American than religious bigotry. We need to meet this fight squarely, because if religious freedom goes down, the terrorists will have won the day, and we will have lost our country.

    Lawrence Swaim
    Executive Director
    Interfaith Freedom Foundation

  • Reynardine

    You may be a wrong heifer, but you sure can slng the bull.

    Honor killings have taken place in all societies, were common in Mediterranean Europe through the third quarter of the Twentieth Centuries, have figured in some classic ril uhMerikun feuds, and happen among us to this day, though we call them domestic violence. I have meanwhile known quite a few Muslims, male and female, with not one honor (or any) killing among them. In their society, as in ours, it was a trait of ril hilbilles. Like you, maybe. Now, take two Excedrin, and if you’re not all better, call your doctor in the morning.

  • wrongheifer

    Please correct me if I am wrong,…Aren’t American courts hearing cases of “honor killings” as we speak?…What makes anyone here think these new crimes aren’t the lead in for Sharia Law in our courts as well?…It is the stealth and infiltration tactics of the Muslims that is their greatest weapon.


  • Reynardine

    No, I’m not.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “But then, it’s never bright to turn your back on a Greek.”

    Ah, and a homophobe too….

  • Reynardine

    Dan, if you are going to return common courtesy with snottness, you’ll get no more of it. But then, it’s never bright to turn your back on a Greek.

  • CoralSea

    Is it possible to bring some sort of civil action on behalf of the taxpayers against both Kobach for pushing this bunk and the state legislatures who have actually spent the taxpayer’s time thinking about this stuff? After all, we are talking about totally redundant laws that he is pushing. Don’t these legislatures have anything better to do?

    There are corporations that get on their employees about “time theft” (not working while you are being paid and instead goofing around or doing other stuff). How about “legislative session theft?” And any monies recovered could be put in a fund for use by battered women’s shelters or public defenders or food banks or anything else that could actually be helpful to people who really could use the help.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “Dan, you are, in general, right.”

    …Words to live by…

  • Reynardine

    Dan, you are, in general, right. Louisiana, furthermore, uses the Continental Civil Code as modified by the U.S. Constitution, as does Puerto Rico, a commonwealth which could well become a state. The community property laws of Texas and Californiia derive from the Spanish Civil Code formerly in force there, and many contracts between U.S. and foreign parties incorporate portions of foreign law. Provisions of the kind this red-white-and-blue leech are proposing would play havoc with international commerce.

  • aadila

    Good point, Erika.

    But do you really expect Kobach to honor Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, which expressly endorsed birthright citizenship and was the most widely referenced (note FOREIGN) source for jurisprudence by the early Supreme Court?

    Given that SCOTUS still references Blackstone, I wonder if Kobach will argue that States have the right to defy Supreme Court rulings under the anti-foreign law laws passed by the States.

    This guy just gets nuttier and nuttier.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    This isn’t just a case of conservatives trying to fight a problem that doesn’t exist. In point of fact the right is once again trying to take away rights of religious minorities.

    I’m not a lawyer, but it is my understanding that it is not so rare for people to enter into agreements in their business or personal live where the parties agree to be bound by a religious law or authority. This can be sharia law, but I have read that it is more typically a Jewish rabbinical law that is cited.

    The point being that this agreement is legally binding in US courts as long as it is otherwise legal. (Lawyers on this site can correct me if this is not true.) In other words, if you agree to be bound by the decision of a rabbi or imam, the US courts will enforce that action unless there is a substantial reason to invalidate it.

    What these right wingers want to do it to take away your right to enter into these kinds of agreements.

  • old exbeat

    No Ten (or Thirteen) Commandments in the Court Rooms — foreign law.

  • Mitch Beales

    It’s about time America had a legal system based on the laws of its indigenous inhabitants. No more Hebrew law!

  • Reynardine

    Believe it or not, Florida has similar provisions.

  • Erika

    Imagine some state following laws of another country – from the Code of Virginia

    § 1-200. The common law.

    The common law of England, insofar as it is not repugnant to the principles of the Bill of Rights and Constitution of this Commonwealth, shall continue in full force within the same, and be the rule of decision, except as altered by the General Assembly.

    (Code 1919, § 2, § 1-10; 2005, c. 839.)


    § 1-201. Acts of Parliament.

    The right and benefit of all writs, remedial and judicial, given by any statute or act of Parliament, made in aid of the common law prior to the fourth year of the reign of James the First, of a general nature, not local to England, shall still be saved, insofar as the same are consistent with the Bill of Rights and Constitution of this Commonwealth and the Acts of Assembly.

    (Code 1919, § 3, § 1-11; 2005, c. 839.)

  • Reynardine

    Assuage, Hell. It would make me think Republican had somehow become a synonym for Nazi.