David Yerushalmi is a New York lawyer and anti-Muslim activist who is a leading proponent of the idea that the United States is threatened by the imposition of Muslim religious law, known as Shariah.
About David Yerushalmi
David Yerushalmi is a key figure in the U.S. anti-Muslim hate movement who serves as legal counsel to other anti-Muslim groups and individuals such Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative. He is also the original author behind model anti-sharia legislation that has been proposed in state legislatures across the United States, despite the lack of evidence of any threat to U.S. laws and the constitution.
Yerushalmi has stated that “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization.” He has also proposed outlawing Islam and deporting Muslims and other “non-Western, non-Christian” people to protect the U.S.’s “national character.”
In his own words
“I don't have a problem saying that Western cultural and civilization is simply supreme. It's superior to that which is conquered, and I have no problem with saying that Islamic culture is violent, it’s misogynist, it’s discriminatory and it's backward, and all I have to do is point to the entire Muslim world.”
— Interview with the “THE SAAD TRUTH,” June 26, 2017
“Islamic Law, or Shariah, is a common threat doctrine. And it’s the common threat doctrine not just of the global jihadists involved in kinetic warfare around the globe. It is also that motivating force that creates the civilizational jihad here in the United States by the Muslim Brotherhood groups.”
— “Offensive and Defensive Lawfare: Fighting Civilization Jihad in America’s Courts,” Center for Security Policy press release, October 28, 2015
“The more carefully reviewed evidence, however, suggests that because jihadism is in fact traditional Islam modernized to war against the ideological threat posed by the West against Islam proper, there is no way to keep faithful Muslims out of the war. If this is true, any Muslim who sticks his neck out of the mosque to yell some obscenity at the West should be considered an enemy combatant and killed or captured and held for the duration of the war.”
— “Knowing the Enemy: A Book Review,” American Thinker, September 9, 2006
“Islam seeks our destruction … There are of course those conservatives who recognize that Islam is not a “religion” in the Western tradition but rather a license to murder by the wretched of the world. But, they are frightened by a ‘religious war’ against the Muslim Umma. Of course, it is only a religious war because Islam deems it a religious duty to destroy the West.”
— “Is the War Against Terror Rational?,” Intellectual Conservative, August 4, 2006
“But if standardized testing suggests a racial component to IQ, if the New York City and national murder statistics suggest there is a racial component to murder, why is that necessarily a bad racism? With all of the liberal talk of evolution and biology, why do 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?”
— “On Race: A Tentative Discussion,” The McAdam Report, May 12, 2006
“There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote. You might not agree or like the idea but this country’s founders, otherwise held in the highest esteem for their understanding of human nature and its affect [sic] on political society, certainly took it seriously. Why is that? Were they so flawed in their political reckonings that they manhandled the most important aspect of a free society — the vote? If the vote counts for so much in a free and liberal democracy as we ‘know’ it today, why did they limit the vote so dramatically?”
— “On Race: A Tentative Discussion,” The McAdam Report, May 12, 2006
“Our greatest enemy today is Islam. The only Islam appearing in any formal way around the world is one that seeks a world Caliphate through murder, terror and fear.”
— “Newt’s a Little Too Smart,” The American Spectator, April 27, 2006.
David Yerushalmi views the United States and other Western nations as being in a “full-scale war” with Islam and its adherents. In response, he has launched his own counter-offensive against those he deems as an insidious threat.
Yerushalmi practices what he calls “lawfare” — a multi-platform attack on Muslims’ freedom, staged by pushing his model anti-sharia bill in state legislatures and filing aggressive lawsuits against supposed enemies of free expression and America’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage.
An Orthodox Jew and veteran of the most extreme religious right-wing elements of the Israeli settlers movement, Yerushalmi often cites the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 as his “epiphany” moment about the alleged danger Islam poses — both physically and culturally — to the United States and the Western world. Originally from Florida, Yerushalmi was working at a pro-free market think tank based in Jerusalem at time of the 9/11 attacks. He later relocated from Israel to Brooklyn, New York, and began to study Islam. He told The New York Times in 2011 that his research led him to the conclusion that “militants had not ‘perverted’ Islamic law, but were following an authoritative doctrine.” Since then, he has launched a number of anti-Muslim campaigns in the name of “stopping sharia” in the United States.
In 2006, Yerushalmi founded the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), an anti-Muslim organization devoted to promoting his theory that Islam is inherently seditious and sharia, or Islamic religious law, is a “criminal conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government.” He equates sharia with Islamic extremism so totally that he advocates criminalizing virtually any personal practice compliant with sharia. In his view, only a Muslim who fully breaks with the customs of sharia can be considered socially tolerable. Ideally, he would outlaw Islam and deport its adherents altogether.
Muslims aren’t the only group with whom he has a bone to pick. Yerushalmi also rails against liberal Jews and the “progressive elites” he says they influence. He has described black people as “the most murderous of peoples” and reportedly once called for undocumented immigrants to be placed in “special criminal camps,” detained for three years, and then deported.
In 2008, SANE introduced a project called “Mapping Shari’a in America: Knowing the Enemy” to gauge the degree to which American mosques were promoting violent jihad. Later that year, on November 11, Yerushalmi appeared by video at the Shariah Awareness Action Network’s event, “The Constitution or Shariah: Preserving National Freedom.” During his presentation he outlined how to use “lawfare” to combat Islam and urged lawyers in the audience to go on the “offensive” and take a “hard-nosed” approach in their efforts against the imposition of Islamic law — and to prepare for vicious attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Muslim-Brotherhood-progressive syndicate that has formed around the issue of Islamophobia.”
In 2011, Yerushalmi co-authored a report with Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli academic with a history of espousing anti-Muslim hatred, entitled “Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques” that promotes the belief that sharia is “inextricably linked” with global jihadist conspiracy to subjugate the West. The report concludes that the more strictly a mosque observes traditional Islamic practices, the more likely its imam advocates violent jihad and is working to radicalize his worshipers.
In early 2012, together with Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian Right law firm with which he has repeatedly collaborated, Yerushalmi formed the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC). Touted on its website as “the first truly authentic Judeo-Christian public interest law firm,” AFLC’s declared mission is “to fight for faith and freedom by advancing and defending America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral foundation through litigation, education, and public policy program.” Within weeks of its creation, AFLC had filed a challenge to a federal health care mandate that would have required most employers to cover birth control and a “friend- of- the- court” brief in defense of S.B. 1070, Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law. This set in motion a trend of Yerushalmi and his law firm filing briefs in support of policies based in bigotry.
In August 2017, AFLC filed another amicus curiae brief in support of President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. It was filed on behalf of seven “national security experts” including anti-Muslim figures Frank Gaffney and his Center for Security Policy, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. “Jerry” Boykin and Andrew C. McCarty. Yerushalmi said the brief “plants a flag of coherence,” and that the ban is “to protect this country’s security from the quiet and legal infiltration of jihadists flowing in from not only Muslim failed states, but also Muslim functioning states, Africa, and even Europe.”
In the brief Yerushalmi and Muise defend the ban and other proposed ideological screening methods because, “[t]he United States is in a defensive war against what is imprecisely called ‘radical Islam.’ The war proceeds on two tracks: the kinetic militancy of jihadists, and the cultural challenge of anti-Western, anti-constitutional Islamic law and mores.”
AFLC regularly represents the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an SPLC-designated anti-Muslim hate group co-run by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Yerushalmi and AFLC regularly sue cities that refuse to run AFDI’s provocative and inflammatory advertisements on public transportation vehicles. Over the years AFLC has sued numerous cities with varying degrees of success. In 2012 Yerushalmi successfully sued New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on behalf of AFDI to force the city to run ads paid for by the group that equated Muslim and Arabs to savages. The ad read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Other AFDI-sponsored ads Yerushalmi has defended in court include Quranic verses over a backdrop of the World Trade Center on fire, conflating the Koran with antisemitism, and crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
Yerushalmi and AFLC have taken up other cases involving anti-Muslim prejudice. In 2015, the law firm represented Andy Hallinan after he was sued for publicly declaring his Florida gun shop to be a “Muslim Free Zone.” After a Florida federal judge dismissed the case, Yerushalmi said it was a victory for “constitutional lawfare” over “civilization jihad.”
In September 2017, then-vice president of the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy, Jim Hanson, retained Yerushalmi and his partner Robert Muise to defend him in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by the father of an American Muslim teenager, Ahmed Mohamed, who came to be widely known as “Clock Boy.” Mohamed, 14, was a Texas high school student when he was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school that a teacher mistook for a bomb.
Hanson made the rounds on conservative media saying the clock resembled an IED trigger and was at least “half a bomb.” He also accused Ahmed of putting a Radio Shack clock in a briefcase in order to make it look like a bomb and stir up controversy.
The lawsuit was dismissed in January 2017. Yerushalmi welcomed the dismissal, saying the lawsuit was another “example of Islamist lawfare, which is a component of the Muslim Brotherhood’s civilization jihad.”
Yerushalmi is credited for being the mastermind behind model anti-sharia legislation known as “American Laws for American Courts” (ALAC). The anti-Muslim lawyer drafted the template ALAC legislation for the American Public Policy Alliance, a group that promotes Yerushalmi’s brainchild in legislatures across the country. The bills aim to prohibit state courts from ruling in favor of Islamic or sharia law. Yerushalmi claims America has “unique values of liberty and freedom” that do not exist in foreign legal systems like sharia law. Legal experts call such anti-sharia measures superfluous because there is no mechanism by which any foreign criminal or civil code can trump U.S. laws.
In 2011, Tennessee state Sen. Bill Ketron and his House counterpart Rep. Judd Matheny introduced an extreme anti-sharia bill in the state legislature. Authored by Yerushalmi, the bill sought to classify Islamic law as “treasonous” and a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. An amended and significantly milder version of the bill later passed.
At the beginning of 2018, ALAC-inspired legislation was passed in Idaho, South Dakota, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Some bills have faced Constitutional scrutiny. In 2010, a federal judge struck down Oklahoma’s anti-sharia constitutional amendment, ruling that it directly targeted a religious group and was thus in violation of the First Amendment. Recently proposed ALAC bills often use more neutral language such as “foreign” or “international” law.
Passing the legislation was never the sole intent. Instead, the bills serve a more nefarious purpose. In a 2011 interview with The New York Times, Yerushalmi virtually admitted the mission of ALAC laws is to sow fear and suspicion of sharia and Muslims among the general populace.
“If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose,” he told the Times in a round of interviews. “The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shariah?’”
Some of the groups actively lobbying on behalf of Yerushalmi’s legislation at the state level are ACT for America and the Center for Security Policy.
Yerushalmi’s disdain for Islam is coupled with an extreme nationalist pride for the United States. In a June 2017 interview, Yerushalmi stated, “The best thing that happened to the world was that Western Europeans came to the United States and conquered every bit of territory that we did from the American Indian. That no better thing occurred to the civilization of man than the reduction of the American Indian culture to essentially nothingness.”