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10 states already considering creeping Shariah bills in 2015


Imagine2050 Staff • Feb 03, 2015
Noxubee County Courthouse in Macon, Mississippi. Lawmakers in the state are considering a total of six anti-Shariah bills in 2015.

On a recent episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart joked: “Looks like we’ve staved off the threat of Shariah law for maybe one more congressional season, but… it’s coming.”

It has been easy for comedians and even journalists to dismiss anti-Shariah legislation-often referred to as a solution without a problem-as silly or inconsequential. But to ignore them would be to ignore the commitment of the organized movement of fearmongers working to pass the bills and to ignore the real harm they do to Americans, Muslim or otherwise.

Although Stewart was joking, anti-Muslim groups and elected officials are already at work to block the alleged Shariah takeover. To show their seriousness, the movement has managed to get measures introduced in 10 states so far this year.

Anti-Shariah legislation

The bills are based on model legislation American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) authored by anti-Muslim lawyer and activist David Yerushalmi. Proponents of the measures claim it is prevent state courts from applying Shariah law or other laws deemed “foreign.” In truth though, they only serve to stoke anti-Muslim prejudice and perpetuate conspiracy theories about Islam.

Take it from Yerushalmi himself, who according to the New York Times initially tried to convince the Bush administration that Shariah was a real threat. When that failed, they moved to the states.

“If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose,” Yerushalmi said. “The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this question, ‘What is Shariah?’ ”

Now, the latest crop of ALAC bills-with the exception of Oregon-do not specifically use the term “Shariah” or mention Islam. Instead, they opt for more neutral language like “foreign” or “international” law. This, of course, is by design in order to avoid constitutional scrutiny. The practice of omitting the explicitly religious terms from the bills started in 2013 after a federal judge ruled that Oklahoma’s anti-Shariah amendment was unconstitutional and targeted a specific group of people.

As the Brennan Center and others have pointed out, it is not uncommon for state and federal judges to take foreign law into consideration when deciding a case, though it is highly unlikely that they would supersede American law. These laws can also have a slew of unintended consequences affecting those who belong to other faiths or no faith at all.

For now, listed below are the 10 states who are considering ALAC-inspired bills in 2015:

Indiana

Indiana introduced SB 38, which states “a court may not apply, enforce, or grant comity, res judicata, claim preclusion, or issue preclusion to a foreign law, ruling, or judgment if doing so would violate the fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Indiana.”

Kentucky

Kentucky has introduced HB 29. This is at least the second time Rep. Kim King has introduced such a bill. Despite not being able to highlight any instances where Shariah law was use, she claimed its goal is “to ensure US citizens are protected by US and Kentucky laws.”

Mississippi

Mississippi has introduced SB 2116, SB 2702, HB 177, HB 1216, HB 493, and HB 1218. When asked if Shariah was really a threat to Mississippi, HB 1216’s sponsor Rep. John Moore claimed “it is a threat all over the country” and that the state should have such a law “because should it happen, we would have to go with the ruling of a court.” SB 2116’s sponsor Sen. Joey Fillingane previously co-sponsored Mississippi’s voter ID bill.

Montana

Montana has introduced SB 199, which would “Prohibit the application of foreign law in state courts.”

Oregon

Oregon has introduced SB 176, which specifically mentions “Sharia law.”

South Carolina

South Carolina has introduced SB 101. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lee Bright, proposed a similar bill last year and has a history of making egregious comments such as calling individuals entering the country unlawfully “an invasion” and accusing state Sen. Lindsey Graham of being a “community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Texas

Texas has introduced HB 670, HB 562, and HB 899. HB 670’s sponsor Rep. Daniel Flynn outlined his anti-Muslim paranoia behind the bill in an email to his constituents.

Virginia

Virginia has introduced SB 1318, which seeks to prohibit the “Application of foreign law in Virginia courts; domestic relations.”

Washington

Washington has introduced HB 1246 and SB 5125. In summary, both bills state their goal is “protecting citizens” from “foreign laws.”

West Virginia

West Virginia has introduced HB 2027, “Requiring circuit courts to review foreign court judgments for jurisdiction before such orders may be enforced.”

ACT! For America’s anti-Shariah agenda

One of the main groups committed to seeing ALAC laws passed state-by-state is the anti-Muslim grassroots organization ACT! for America. Founded and headed by anti-Muslim demagogue Brigitte Gabriel, the group claims to have more than 800 chapters and boasts 279,000 members. The group uses social media and email to mobilize its base to lobby sympathetic-mostly conservative-state lawmakers to introduce ALAC laws.

However, more often than not, these bills are failures. According to the Institute for policy and Understanding, 102 bills have been introduced in 28 state legislatures. Only nine states have actually passed some form of ALAC-inspired bill.

During an interview with Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro, Gabriel vowed that ACT! will get ALAC “into 20 states this legislative season.” It remains to be seen whether her group can make that happen.

Jon Stewart clearly views the Shariah fear mongering as an absolute joke. It’s unfortunate that some of our state elected officials do not. Instead, they choose to cater to anti-Muslim groups and opportunists-and there is nothing funny about that.

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