After heated debates in two dozen states over banning Sharia law, the legal code of Islam, a national Islamic group is beginning a multi-million dollar effort to explain how Sharia applies to the lives of American Muslims.
The Islamic Circle of North America, a New York-based group, is spending $3 million on its Defending Religious Freedom campaign, which kicks off Monday and explains Sharia law and common misunderstandings.
The effort includes billboards, TV and radio ads in 25 major cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, in addition to town hall meetings and seminars on university campuses led by Muslim academics and activists. Each directs audiences to a website and manned hotline, 1-855-Shariah.
The campaign is a response to efforts to ban Sharia law over the last two years in state legislatures and on ballot initiatives, said Naeem Baig, vice president of public affairs for Islamic Circle of North America. Republican presidential candidates also have raised the Sharia debate.
Tennessee, Louisiana and Arizona have passed laws banning judges from consulting Sharia, or more generally, foreign or religious laws. Oklahoma voters approved a ban on Sharia law in 2010, but a judge blocked the rule after a Muslim man filed a religious freedom lawsuit. Legislatures in South Carolina and Florida are considering anti-Sharia bills.
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