Tracking anti-Muslim legislation with the ISPU

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding offers a look at new data tracking anti-sharia legislation and how the same lawmakers behind these also push for restrictive policies against other marginalized communities.

Jummah Mubarak! In this special collaborative edition of Creeping Sharia, I’ve invited the team at the ISPU to curate a small reading list to help you get a deeper understanding of the past, present and future of anti-sharia legislation in the U.S. To be clear, this is not sponsored; no money has changed hands with this collaboration. As a journalist, I’ve followed their work closely and consider it critical to understanding American Muslims. Now, over to Dalia!

I’m Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a non-partisan research institution focused on publishing solution-seeking research on issues impacting American Muslim communities. One of our ongoing projects corresponds neatly with something only days away: the election of a whole new batch of legislators across the country. Our Islamophobia: A Threat To All project looks at seven years of anti-Muslim bigotry by comparing the actions of legislators seeking to restrict the rights of Muslims, women, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ individuals and other marginalized communities in the form of proposed legislation in all 50 states.  

Our analysis found that 97 percent of anti-sharia bills are sponsored or co-sponsored by Republican lawmakers, and that legislators who sponsor anti-sharia legislation also often sponsor anti-abortion, anti-immigration and voter ID legislation. Since 2011, there’s been a sharp decline in the number of Republican lawmakers sponsoring anti-sharia bills, from 563 legislators in 2011 to just 119 in 2017.

We know that anti-sharia legislation is harmful to American Muslims because it unfairly limits American Muslim legal rights and feeds a narrative of fear. But this analysis reveals that anti-sharia legislation is something all Americans should be concerned about – because more than 80 percent of the lawmakers behind anti-sharia legislation are also pushing to restrict the rights of other Americans, especially women and people of color.

View the Restrictive Measures Map.

Sharia Law in an American Context Reading List:

  • “Are you concerned by sharia law?”: Trump canvasses supporters for 2020. This Guardian report outlines a survey of Trump supporters gauging their fear of sharia law in America, along with questions on English as an official language; their concerns (or lack thereof) about Russia; and on the negative impacts of illegal immigration on the survey-taker’s community. This survey polls attitudes in many of the intersecting issue areas our legislative mapping project investigates.

  • Meet the man behind the anti-sharia movement. This 2011 deep dive by Andrea Elliott for the New York Times shows that the rise of anti-sharia law measures is no organic, grassroots movement. In fact, it’s “the product of an orchestrated drive” that began in the offices of a Brooklyn lawyer, David Yerushalmi. He’s a Hasidic Jew with a “history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam.” In 2011, he was listed by the SPLC as one of 10 people in America’s anti-Muslim “inner circle" and featured in the Center for American Progress report “Fear Inc.” on the funding behind Islamophobia.

  • Anti-sharia laws proliferate as Trump strikes hostile tone toward Muslims. A piece in The Guardian highlights 23 anti-sharia measures proposed in 2017, of which two became law, as well as tracing the trajectory of some Trump administration officials who left the White House after facing questions about Islamophobic statements.

  • Five myths about sharia, debunked. Asifa Quraishi-Landes is an ISPU scholar and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law. As a constitutional and Islamic law scholar, her pieces about sharia in an American context are particularly illuminating. This list for the Washington Post busts a handful of commons myths about sharia, and not just the obvious ones that Islamophobes believe. Did you know, for example, that sharia isn’t actually just Islamic law?

  • Tracking anti-Muslim legislation across the U.S. New from the Southern Poverty Law Center last week, here’s another anti-Muslim legislation tracking tool includes tracking of “Andy’s Law” legislation. (As the SPLC explains, “Andy’s Law” could pull Muslim businesses and mosques into potential lawsuits by allowing civil cause of action against people and organizations even indirectly involved in terrorist activity.)

👌 Shout out to ISPU’s new journalist toolkit

ISPU wants to help make journalists’ jobs easier – and we’ve got a brand new toolkit we’re hoping can do just that. Our digital reporting toolkit includes current demographic stats, checklists, video lectures from experts on issues like plurality, ideologically motivated violence and – yes – sharia. We’re committed to working with media professionals to increase confidence and accuracy in reporting on American Muslim issues.

If you’re a news media professional based in the Chicago/Midwest area, we invite you to join us for an in-person training in March. You can get more details from ISPU’s communications department at

🗣 Talk to me

…And back to me, your faithful newsletter writer! A big thank you to Dalia, Kat Coplen and the rest of the ISPU team for working with me on this, as well as to all of you for helping me make this possible. I hope you all enjoyed this little departure from our usual fare. I have two more collaborations planned for the next few months and I want to make them as helpful and interesting to you all as possible. So, as always, send me your feedback, questions and corrections!

- Aysha