Steve Chapman

If a Muslim-owned company wants to lend or borrow money in accordance with the Islamic ban on interest, its choice should likewise be respected. If a Muslim wants to allocate his estate according to Islamic rules, what's it to you? Outlawing such accommodation for Islam would illegally discriminate against one religion.

That problem is what led a federal appeals court to overturn the Oklahoma ban, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2010 as an amendment to the state constitution. The measure was a drone missile targeted specifically at Islam, in brazen defiance of the First Amendment.

In Kansas, by contrast, the lawmakers were so careful to avoid that pitfall that they largely defanged the measure. A decision resting on the application of foreign or other legal codes would be invalid only if the verdict violates "the fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the United States and Kansas constitutions" -- something courts generally are not allowed to do anyway.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, who generally disapproves of anti-Shariah measures, says the Kansas law "is so narrowed and watered-down it doesn't look to me like a very big deal." It's not impossible that it would prevent a court ruling, he says, but "it would be unusual."

Even so, the laws are based on fears that are unwarranted, if not fraudulent. Muslims, who make up a tiny percentage of the population, are not about to seize control of American law. The same conservatives who accuse judges of trying to stamp out expressions of Christian faith now imagine they are eager to do the bidding of ayatollahs.

Of course, it's always possible that people practicing a religion with many dark associations will bide their time, infiltrate our institutions and someday put us under the control of secretive foreign clerics. Those Catholics may be sneakier than you think.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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