A project costing hundreds of thousands of dollars titled “Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques” is being hyped as an “important study” by a lawyer, David Yerushalmi, who the ADL describes as one who has “a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.”

The study has been strongly criticized by liberal organizations but seized upon by conservative publications, such as FrontPage Magazine and National Review Online, “as proof that Islam constitutes a grave threat to national security. Writing in National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy said the results proved that, “what we wishfully call ‘radicalism’ is in fact the Islamic mainstream.”

What Is The Study About?

Wearing what they said were “Shari’a adherent” disguises, researchers looked for empirical evidence between Islamic practices i.e. hijab, gender segregation, straightening of the lines, the length of the imam’s beard and the existence of (what he terms) violence-prone materials in the 100 masjids surveyed. According to the study, only 3 aspects were found statistically significant. Remarkably, they also observed that the 12 imams who wore the watch on the right hand were right handed.

Gaubatz (director of the project) described these as markers for gauging whether and to what extent a mosque should be seen as extremist. Each of these attributes “comes from Shari’a,” he said.

How ridiculous is this conjecture, but what is more disheartening is that people are taking this seriously. This playing on shallow stereotypes diverts our attention from really seeking out those who do fall in the trap of radicalization and domestic terrorists like David Burget.

Not found ‘significant’ were whether or not the imam wore a thawb and the presence of modern hijab vs. traditional hijab (phew). It didn’t take long for the leap from this study to headlines like “Study: 3 in 4 U.S. mosques preach anti-West extremism” to take place. On one hand his study claims that we are being radicalized by ‘Islamists’ and on the other hand he says Shari’a itself is radical. As the “nation’s foremost non-Muslim expert on Islam,” which one is it?

You can read the study here. An adherence to Shari’a is termed Salafist ideology in the study, which begs the question: for Muslims who do not follow that ideology, do they not attend mosques? Do they not grow their beards?  Do they not wear watches? Are they not Shari’a compliant? Riyadh us Saliheen is one of the seven texts being tarnished as ‘severe material’ in calling to violent jihad without reservations. The study also uses al-Misri’s Umdat al-Salik as another example of a ‘violent’ book – it’s a shame for someone to have done such an expensive study of Islam in America and not know which books are read by which ideologies. The study mentions that wearing of hijab by girl’s ages 5-12 is ‘Shari’a-adherent’ behavior, which shows how much the researchers know about Islam.   

And how exactly were the imams inciting violence in the mosques? Were they giving khutbahs? NO! Were they urging worshipers in talks or study circles to go out and kill non-Muslims? NO! This was a conclusion of the study (which is not being advertised), that despite having “violent text” (their words) in the mosques, there was no indication of actually urging the joining of terrorist organizations or gathering of money to fund terrorist organizations.

So what did the Imams do? They answered a question.

Following the prayer service, the surveyor asked the following question: “Do you recommend the study of: (a) only the Qur’an and/or Sunna; (b) Tafsir Ibn Kathir; (c) Fiqh as-Sunna; (e) Reliance of the Traveller; or (f) the works of Qutb, such as Milestones, and Maududi, such as The Meaning of the Qur’an?”

If the imam or lay leader recommended studying any of the materials mentioned above except the Qur’an and/or Sunna then they were termed as Moderate to SEVERELY violent – leaving an “Ominous Jihadist Footprint” or leading to hyper yellow journalism i.e. Big Peace: “81% Of US Mosques Promote Jihad.”

Who is David Yerushalmi?

He contends that African-Americans are a “relatively murderous race killing itself.” Read his post with context yourself just to make sure that we aren’t jumping to conclusions. What do Americans expect from a racist xenophobe like him? MuslimMatters first wrote abut David Yerushalmi and his non-profit SANE in 2007. His views sound more radical than any Shari’a he is vilifying.

He has close ties to the likes of Pamela Geller; “he is her personal attorney. He incorporated the non-profit entity under which she and Robert Spencer produce their blogs.  This in turn allows David Horowitz to plow funds into their enterprise that have been given on a tax-deductible basis.  Yerushalmi is also representing her in a $10 million defamation lawsuit brought by the family of Rifqa Bary, a teenage girl torn from her Muslim-American family by Christian evangelicals who inveigled her into converting to Christianity and running away from their home while still a minor.” He claims to be an expert on Islamic law. Click here to read more about his views. He said his interest in Islamic law began with the Sept. 11 attacks when he was living in Ma’ale Adumim, a large Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

He was behind the Stop the Madrassa campaign that got Debbi AlMontaser fired from her job as the principal of the Khalil Gibran Academy; he filed a lawsuit which was dismissed, and he appealed and lost.

I read more about this ‘study’ in this post by Paul Berger in the oldest Jewish newspaper in the US, The Forward. From the perspective of other Jews, what do they have to say about this man?

In a telephone interview with the Forward, Yerushalmi, 55, said that the motivation behind Islamic extremism could not be explained by socioeconomic, political or cultural factors. “The one common denominator,” he said, “was Sharia.” It is too soon to judge the impact of this latest study, but  The Southern Poverty Law Center included him in a recent list of the country’s leading Islamophobes, and the Anti-Defamation League has cited his “anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.” In his telephone interview, Yerushalmi denied these charges. He said that he had defended black and Muslim clients pro bono and that the real target of his advocacy is liberalism.

The study concludes that non-Shari’a centric mosques may provide a foundation for reformed Islam which can integrate into a western ‘liberal’ citizenship, but according to his own words, Yerushalmi’s real target of advocacy is “liberalism.” Is this not a duplicity in his words? This makes me believe that the real objective is to reform Islam.

Anti-Islam Activism

Paul Berger notes that “one of the most striking aspects of Yerushalmi’s activism against Shari’a law has been his ability to edge his ideas into the mainstream.” With the death of Osama, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a crushed economy and a debt crisis like none the United States has ever faced, the bogeyman is Shari’a. Yerushalmi has sugar coated his biases, making it sound very acceptable to the masses. Women’s rights, children’s rights – but what is the real agenda?

His legislation has drawn opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as from Catholic bishops and Jewish groups but “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.” The case that he quotes for the rights of women suffering under Shari’a law used to give a verdict in the US is the same argument that could be applied to Jewish Law. From Judaism 101, according to the Talmud, only the husband can initiate a divorce, and the wife cannot prevent him from divorcing her.

It is hypocritical to say the least when an orthodox Jew who believes in the Torah and the Jewish Shari’a, the ‘Halacha’, and who believes in the authority of religious law and code of conduct would let his extreme prejudice lead him to go to such extents as to deter followers of another faith from following religious code. Is he going to also do a ‘conclusive’ study of temples and synagogues and the connection between wearing of to the kippa (yarmulke), discussing mitzvahs about the Amalekites, teachings of R. Shimon ben Yochai, let alone the readings of the Torat Hamelech? As New York Times reporter Andrea Ellliot writes,

The more tangible effect of the movement, opponents say, is the spread of an alarmist message about Islam — the same kind of rhetoric that appears to have influenced Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in the deadly dual attacks in Norway on July 22. The anti-Shariah campaign, they say, appears to be an end in itself, aimed at keeping Muslims on the margins of American life.

Failing to influence policy at the federal level, Yerushalmi moved to the state legislature

Andrea Elliot also points out that after failing to convince policy makers at the federal level, David Yerushalmi headed to the state legislatures. Yerushalmi’s template, the Anti-Defamation League notes, “has been the basis for anti-Sharia measures introduced by state lawmakers in several states in recent years.” Berger writes:

A legislative wave is surging through the nation’s heartland: In Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona, lawmakers have passed statutes prohibiting courts from relying on any foreign law, legal code or system that is contrary to state or federal public policy in reaching their decisions. … In some of these statutes and bills, Sharia, or traditional Islamic religious law, is explicitly cited; in others it is not. In either case, civil libertarians and Muslim groups denounce them as efforts to target Islam. And those pushing for these laws don’t deny this. Republican State Rep. Sally Kern, who sponsored such a bill in Oklahoma, stressed the political potency of the movement, saying, “It’s always helpful when you can say to your colleagues, ‘This piece of legislation is practically identical to about 20 other states.’

David Yerushalmi… has offered legislators a template that claims to sidestep constitutional objections to singling out Islam by avoiding explicit mention of it (though not all state legislatures have taken this advice).

Who are his co-conspirators?

The study is co-written by Mordechai Kedar, a professor of Middle East studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. Why is an Israeli professor who worked for 25 years in IDF military intelligence sending paid operatives to U.S. Mosques? For the past FOUR years! What is his interest in this? He isn’t even an American citizen. Another author of the study is David Gaubatz , a former employee of David Yerushalami, who has claimed that he found Saddam’s long-lost WMDs while in Iraq and has labeled Obama “Muslim” and a “self-admitted ‘crack head.'”

I was going to post this when the study first came out, but I wanted to find out who funded this study and could not find any links until Andrea Elliot traced the funds in her must read New York Times article: The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement.

The project, Mapping Shariah, led Mr. Yerushalmi to Frank Gaffney, a hawkish policy analyst and commentator who is the president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington. Well connected in neoconservative circles, Mr. Gaffney has been known to take polarizing positions (he once argued that President Obama might secretly be Muslim). Mr. Gaffney would emerge as Mr. Yerushalmi’s primary link to a network of former and current government officials, security analysts and grass-roots political organizations.

Together, they set out to “engender a national debate about the nature of Shariah and the need to protect our Constitution and country from it,” Mr. Gaffney wrote in an e-mail to The New York Times. The center contributed an unspecified amount to Mr. Yerushalmi’s study, which cost roughly $400,000 and involved surreptitiously sending researchers into 100 mosques.

It is a tight knit group with the same names coming up over and over again.  Spencer, Geller, Gaffney, and Yerushalmi. There are anti-Muslim conservatives who regurgitate whatever they are fed and then there are dangerous anti-Muslims bigots who keep feeding the frenzy. Four years have gone by, and day by day, state by state, anti-Muslim bigotry is growing. David Yerushalmi’s name, although not as well-known, is firmly entrenched with the rest of the venomous players of the great Islamophobic Crusade.