Florida’s Senate is holding a hearing today to consider legislation that would ban the use of foreign laws – like Sharia – in state legal proceedings. Foes of the measure say it is a not-so-subtle attack upon the Sunshine State’s Muslim community.
“This bill is exactly what we’ve been saying it is,” Ahmed Bedier, president of United Voices of America, told the Miami Herald. “It’s intended to target and limit religious freedoms for Muslims.”
The debate over Sharia, the body of law based on the Koran and the religion of Islam, has provoked sound and fury not only in Tallahassee, but also in another two dozen state legislatures around the country.
Sponsors of measures, like Florida’s SB 1360, acknowledge that there is no danger of state and federal law being altogether supplanted by Sharia or other foreign law, but foresee Sharia law creeping into state legal proceedings.
Indeed, inGreat Britain, five Sharia courts have been established to adjudicate disputes within that nation’s Muslim community. The British government has reluctantly gone along.
And Sharia law is being applied here in this country, in certain Muslim communities.
Perhaps the most notorious case occurred in 2008 when aNew Jerseywoman sought a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband, whom she claimed had raped her.
A state trial judge denied the restraining order, ruling that the husband had acted according to Sharia law, under which “his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to” was not prohibited, no matter state or federal law.
Defenders of Sharia – which means “Path,” in Arabic – who say that proposed bans on Sharia law are an offense to Muslim Americans, an affront to religious freedom, insist that the incident inNew Jerseyis no reflection on Sharia.
But the respected Council on Foreign Relations disagrees. Strict interpretations of Sharia, the legal code in the majority of Muslim countries “are used to justify cruel punishments such as amputation and stoning and unequal treatment of women in inheritance, dress and independence,” it attests.