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NC Senate passes ‘Sharia law’ bill

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NC Senate passes ‘Sharia law’ bill

By Annalise Frank — afrank@newsobserver.com

RALEIGH — The state Senate on Friday passed a bill that would keep courts from recognizing Sharia law.

While proponents of the legislation said it would keep people safe from foreign laws, critics derided the bill as sending a message of intolerance and bigotry to followers of Islam.

The Senate had already approved the measure when it was attached to a controversial measure that would impose stricter regulations on abortion providers in the state. But the foreign law provision wasn’t sufficiently critiqued because abortion overwhelmed the floor debate, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Democrat from Durham.

Now called House Bill 522, the provision’s contents haven’t changed. It reminds judges that the U.S. and N.C. constitutions are the law of the land and no foreign law can supersede them. Sometimes international laws are used in court as evidence before a judge, or in written opinions. But this bill would stop judges from considering foreign law when it violates a citizen’s constitutional rights.

“Unfortunately we have judges from time to time … that sometimes seem to forget what the supreme law of the land is, and sometimes make improper rulings,” said Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton, a Wilson Republican and the legislation’s Senate sponsor.

Though the bill doesn’t specifically mention it, Newton was clear during Friday’s session that the legislation targets Sharia law, a legal system based on the religious and moral tenants of Islam. Few Muslim countries apply the entire body of rules, instead choosing measures relevant to them. More than 60 countries use at least part of Sharia law in their governance.

Its improper use has “worked to deprive” U.S. citizens and immigrants of their constitutional rights, Newton said. There have been 27 reported cases around the country in which Sharia law has been used, he added.

More than 20 states have introduced legislation banning Sharia law or foreign law in state courts. Many bills – including North Carolina’s – would apply only to cases in which the application of foreign law would violate a person’s constitutional rights.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of Chapel Hill, a Democrat, said she thinks the bill’s sponsors don’t truly mean to inform judges that foreign law is unacceptable, but rather the people of North Carolina.

“I think the audience is really wider,” Kinnaird said.

The N.C. Bar Association opposed the bill in its former incarnation, House Bill 695. The American Bar Association said in a resolution that the passage of such bills will have a “widespread negative impact on business, adversely affecting … economic development in the states in which such a law is passed and in U.S. foreign commerce generally.”

The danger doesn’t come from the legislation’s exact wording, said Omid Safi, a professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. He contends this wave of anti-foreign-law legislation comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of Sharia law and a “bigoted” perception of Muslims.

“We would be delighted to have a conversation about what Sharia law actually is and what it is not,” he said. “It would be important, if we’re passing legislation on the topic, for (lawmakers who support the bill) to actually benefit from the expertise of people who might actually know something about the subject.”

The bill wouldn’t affect only Sharia law. Jewish organizations have spoken out against anti-foreign-law legislation across the United States because the measures could negate the common Jewish practice of resolving disputes according to their religious laws, Halacha.

 

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  • Reynardine

    No religious law can inform secular law, and intentional bigamy is a felony in every American jurisdiction.

  • jameyfan

    I think you missed my point. I’m certainly no Shariah expert but as a Muslim I do know more than you think. However, I’m afraid that there are people who purposely misinterpret shariah to suit their own needs and that’s what I’m worried about. I’m not against shariah by any means but I am against those who abuse their power, like corrupt imams, to tell us what’s shariah even if it’s wrong. If we vulnerable Muslims get confused, imagine how Non-Muslims feel?! Corrupt people like the Talibanis for examples give our religion a bad name so there are people who are genuinely scared which I’m sure is great for some greedy, bigoted, opportunists.

  • JD

    Pope Bomb Scare At Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida; Explosive Device Found Where Francis Is Scheduled To Visit On Wednesday

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/22/pope-bomb_n_3636613.html

    A bomb has been found at a shrine that Pope Francis was due to visit on Wednesday and hold a mass.

    The homemade explosive device was discovered in the bathroom of the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, in the parking lot, reports ABC.es.

    The Sao Paulo military police detonated the bomb,
    which had a fuse and a dynamite-like covering, after members of the
    Brazilian Air Force found it while conducting a security inspection.

    A statement released by the police said, “It was a home-made device with little potential to cause fatalities.”

    The Anti-bomb squadron carried out the disposal safely, noting, “such
    episodes formed part of our security forces’ training in Aparecida and
    at no point were civilians’ lives in danger.”

  • JD

    Then who will run the government in North Carolina.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    A good text (though I have not reviewed every detail of it) is here: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41824.pdf.

    For example, on pages 8-9, it says about sharia, “Without an authoritative body of law with specific parameters, courts may find themselves faced with a need to determine the precise principles of sharia and thus offer judgment on the content of a religious doctrine, which is generally impermissible under the First Amendment.”

    That is, if someone simply says that a contract is to be interpreted “according to sharia,” and the parties disagree on the proper relevant interpretation, a court will generally say that it can’t reach any conclusion, since doing so would involve a government-sanctioned ruling on what sharia is. The solution, then, is generally to specify the terms explicitly and to name a particular person or body to rule on any unexpected situations.

    One interesting thing is how these anti-sharia bills are becoming more sophisticated over time. For example, this bill doesn’t blindly ban any use of foreign law (a common misconception), which would prevent North Carolina firms from engaging in any contract not based on North Carolina or at least U.S. law. Instead, the bill only bars the consideration of foreign law when it invalidates a citizen’s constitutional rights. So, for example, a contract subject to a foreign law calling for a higher or lower minimum wage for workers is fine, since we can change the minimum wage here without changing the Constitution. That’s a difference in laws, not in constitutional rights.

    The problematic issue may be that we don’t necessarily know which foreign laws might be considered a violation of Americans’ constitutional rights until we test them in the U.S. legal system, making those contracts more uncertain for businesses and individuals. And, of course, foreign entities would prefer to deal with U.S. companies in a state where they can still apply foreign law (something that may be a necessity if we are talking about a contract involving U.S. citizens spending time working in the foreign country, where they would generally be subject to the laws of that country) without worrying about issues with the U.S. or a state constitution.

  • Solid Snake

    Hmm, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that. I just thought that they weren’t going to just let anyone claim they were following Shariah without at least some proof or confirmation from a group of Scholars. But I guess the fact that the two parties have to agree pretty much makes sure that, ,whatever they are claiming to follow, they are both satisfied with it. Although I can still see how that can be abused especially by extremists.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    “And I am pretty sure there will be a committee of North American Scholars who will advise Non Muslim judges.”

    Not so fast. One of the clear principles of American jurisprudence is that the government can’t decide what is the correct interpretation of religious law. So, even if someone wanted to, they could not have a U.S. court make any such determination.

    What parties who want to follow a religious law can do is agree on a member of the clergy or a religious court to make a ruling and to have the U.S. justice system enforce the contract in which they agree in advance to abide by that ruling. The court could then either issue an order that the ruling is valid, or, in extreme cases, declare the contract void because of bribery or corruption or because the ruling blatantly violated U.S. public policy.

    Put differently, this bill is indeed a lot of fearmongering and a play to bigotry, and the legislature knows it. That’s why the law primarily “reminds judges that the U.S. and N.C. constitutions are the law of the land,” because judges already cannot rely on religious law.

    The main areas where this bill could matter appear to be, first, declaring some rulings by religious bodies unenforceable as a matter of public policy (say, if the ruling explicitly notes that it is giving no or lesser weight to women’s testimony because they are women) and, second, to potentially denying recognition to foreign divorce and custody rulings involving a U.S. citizen where the principles followed appear to deprive the U.S. citizen of rights they would have here.

  • Tighe McCandless

    Nisr, what you don’t realize is that that very thing is actually the next piece of major legislation on the state legislature. I mean, Godzilla is going to be invading the continental United States next year. You laugh now, but you wouldn’t if you could see Raleigh as the smoldering, irradiated wreck it might very well become.

    That said, it’s good that Godzilla has officially dropped his formerly hardcore anti-Japanese stance. At least we know he’ll destroy anyone now.

  • jameyfan

    or speak out against spying, fracking,special interest groups,congress insider trading, detaining without trial, and droning. You know stuff that we really need to worry about!

  • jameyfan

    Yup this corruption is one of the reasons Islam is given a bad name, although the learned ones know it’s not religion. Of course we have propagandists who take advantage of this to deliberately smear Islam.

  • mindy1

    He tends more towards large cities anyway 😛

  • Nisr Dimashq

    Next they should pass a bill that bans Godzilla from North Carolina.

  • Solid Snake

    That’s a very valid concern. In fact this has been a big problem, at least from my experiences.

    I have known men who were married with several kids and they decide to get married to a younger wife. Of course this isn’t encouraged by Islam for many reasons.

    The man has to juggle the happiness of his current wife, treating both wives equally, the financial burden placed upon him, and the emotional burden placed on all parties.

    Sadly these people aren’t thinking about the responsibilities. You will often hear “Oh, well the Prophet (PBUH) married so many wives” etc etc in an attempt to justify their actions.

    And if someone points out to them that the Prophet often married poor, widowed, and weak women to help them and not just for the hell of it, they ignore it.

    Men like the one I mentioned sometimes understand the ruling (It is permissible to marry more than one as long as you are following the guidelines) but they lack the etiquette, which is a huge part of Islam.

    Anyway, I dont think a man (or woman) can ‘game’ the system, for lack of a better term, in a politically stable and corrupt free society like the US. You cant just bribe someone. And I am pretty sure there will be a committee of North American Scholars who will advise Non Muslim judges.

    Many of the abuses attributed to Islam by Islamophobes are due to the corruption and instability of Mid Eastern countries.

    I have many stories coming from my birth country about people escaping punishment or twisting Shariah because they had powerful friends or money.

  • mindy1

    God forbid they use their time to pass bills banning, hunger, hate, etc…
    :/

  • jameyfan

    There’s no doubt that this is anti-Islamic but I have mixed feelings as far as Sharia law goes pertaining to Muslims. There are different interpretations of sharia. What if a husband decides to marry another woman without his wife’s approval and gets away with it because he can say he’s following “shariah” or if he divorces and doesn’t pay any alimony because he’s following “shariah”? The wife can sue but this can be awfully confusing for non-Muslim judges who might have no choice but to depend on misogynistic clerics to help make a decision.

  • Jon Diamond

    This bill is a perfect example of using fear to attains one’s real goals. Sort of like using the September 11th attacks against a country that had nothing to do with it. Obviously, the fact that they were trying to get access to Iraq’s oil reserves was probably the real reason it was attacked.

    This bill is the same thing. Tacked onto the bill were also measures to make getting an abortion very difficult in NC. Just like the bill passed in Texas, it will cause the closings of many abortion clinics in that state.

    In essence, they are using fear of Muslims to get the abortion bill passed that they wanted. Because, had anyone voted against the bill, they would be seen as “soft on terror”. Political ads would be run against them in future elections.

    By the way, Muslims make up less than 1% of the population of NC. They do not have the political clout to institute Shariah measures even if they wanted to. But, then again, this really was not about the Muslims. Right?

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