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Sunday, March 18, 2012
Fear of Shariah law spreading
Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 7:49 a.m.
When the Florida Senate failed to take a vote, proposed legislation to ban the use of foreign laws in state courts died.
The bill had passed the House easily, and the Senate sponsor plans to reintroduce it next year.
The question is why?
The answer seems to be fear that the Shariah law -- the Islamic law used in some Muslim countries -- will spread to the United States.
The legislation made no mention of Shariah law. The bill simply said state courts could not use foreign law when rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution would be violated. And foreign laws were only banned in domestic cases, such as divorce and child custody.
The ban would not have applied to businesses, or for that matter, criminal cases
But, while Shariah law was not mentioned in the bill it was obviously the target.
Some supporters of the legislation warned that, without such bans, the spread of Shariah law could signal a slow Islamic takeover of the world.
Others say, the rights of American women would be threatened if Shariah law was used in the courts.
Perhaps the best response to this legislation, and these fears, came from Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who said, "You might as well pass legislation to ban unicorns."
Opposition to the legislation also came from the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group dedicated to defending the rights of Jews and others, as well as fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice.
In this case that prejudice comes in the form of anti-Muslim.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has said the only goal is to make sure only U.S. laws are used in state courts.
That begs the question of what other law would be used?
While judges have cited foreign laws as one of the precedents in a ruling, the rulings themselves have to be ground in federal or state law -- American law.
It is possible for Shariah law to be used informally in a family court case, such as divorce or child custody.
In those cases, the two people involved, and their lawyers, try to reach an agreement to present to the judge to avoid going to trial. That agreement can cover such things as how assets are divided, and who has custody of any children and visitation rights.
And, if a trial is to be avoided, the agreement must be made voluntarily by both people.
It is conceivable that the man and woman in the case could use Shariah law to reach a settlement.
Or they could use Jewish law.
Or they could use no law at all to decide what they think is best of themselves and their children.
But in any of these cases, the agreement will have to go before a Florida judge who is responsible, among other things, to make sure there are no violations of state law or constitutional rights.
As long as no laws are violated, how that agreement is reached is up to the two people involved in reaching it.
If the Legislature were to pass legislation banning the use of foreign laws, the result would be, as Hooper said, as effective as a ban unicorns.
Such a law would not be able to prevent two people from using Shariah law to reach an agreement on, say, custody of their children since that is not done in a courtroom.
And as long as the agreement conforms to American law, the judge can be expected to approve it.
The only thing this legislation would do is to demonstrate that at least some of our legislators are prejudiced.