History is important. It gives us perspective into modern problems. We can gain immediate comfort seeing how so many "new" issues have been considered by courts in the past. As I have written, American court opinions explain that the threat of Islamic actions against our nationals is the very reason we have diplomatic assets overseas, and how al Qaeda targeted the United States in part because of the economic sanctions we promoted against Iraq well before our 2003 military invasion. They also show that FBI wiretaps are hardly a new controversy; neither is the phenomenon of Muslims exploiting charities in hopes of achieving worldwide domination.
Legal history is particularly relevant to national security and counterterrorism, and not merely because we are a country governed by the rule of law. Judicial opinions are interesting because of the facts they generate. Court cases are an undervalued source of strategic intelligence about the threats we face from radical Islam within the U.S. People is this category generally do not advertise their hopes, dreams and aspirations, and being parties in litigation forces them to disclose more about themselves than they otherwise would. Court opinions give us a vantage on the goals and methods of people who are not always willing to be transparent.
The history of Islam in the U.S. courts is not a long one, which is a good thing. It means this aspect of legal history is easily digestible. Most of it comes from the last 25 years. We now have another year under our belts. Which cases from 2007 will future historians and strategists use to glean trends relevant to American national security?
As I predicted several months ago, 2007 ended with highest number of American court opinions involving Islam of any in U.S. history. They totaled 888 cases (792 federal opinions and 94 state opinions). While there were plenty of other cases involving Muslims, this search yields only those cases where Islam is specifically mentioned in the opinions.