GOP lawmakers try to push sharia bill

It’s been hailed as unconstitutional, deemed a waste of time and usually is referred to as the “anti-Sharia” law.

But to those supporting House Bill No. 4769, a bill that would affirm that no foreign laws are used in American courts, the fight is not yet lost.

The lame-duck round in Michigan state government has commenced and has put pressure on the bill’s sponsors to get things voted upon and hopefully signed before the end of the year.

In June 2011, State Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, proposed the bill to the House Judiciary Committee, where it has sat for more than a year, still waiting to be voted upon.

The bill was met by opposition from Muslim students on campus, who held a group discussion last October to address its potential effects.

Those involved are unsure as to when it will be voted upon.

Frank S. Ravitch, a law professor and the Walter H. Stowers Chair of Law and Religion at the MSU College of Law, referred to the proposed legislation as a “stealth bill” that is targeted at Sharia, the Islamic law, and other international enactments because they don’t want secular courts to use it in any way.

Although Agema said the bill is not aimed at or against any certain group of people, religion or law, opponents differ and said this already is a part of the U.S. Constitution.

Ravitch said the bill could go either one of two ways: Pass and do nothing, or fail as unconstitutional­ — either as a violation of fundamental right or as a violation of separation of powers, which he believes it is.

“I think that the proponents of the bill are trying to essentially find a way probably to win political brownie points,” Ravitch said. “Because (the idea of) Sharia law (being) something going into effect in Michigan law … is, quite honestly, pretty ridiculous.”

Ravitch said it is frustrating when a law will do absolutely nothing and is wasting time and taxpayer money.

He said he thinks it is unlikely the bill will pass into law.

Agema, the bill’s lead sponsor, said he does not know when it will be voted upon in the commitee, but said the bill is a preventative measure to protect individuals mostly in international domestic disputes.

He said other non-American laws have been brought up in court many times before, and this is a measure to put an end to that.

Mohammad Khalil, an assistant professor of religious studies, said this sort of legislation is driven by a simplistic understanding of Sharia and the Islamic world.

“For Muslims in America today, Sharia is more personal. They will fast; they will pray,” Khalil said. “And when someone says there is an ‘anti-Sharia’ bill, it leads me to believe that the word ‘Sharia’ has been over simplified or there is a misunderstanding in the concept of Sharia, (and) it doesn’t make sense to me.”

From personal experience, Tarek Tabbaa, the media head of the Muslim Students’ Association, said he views Sharia law as very individualized and would not even think of it being brought up in a state of law.

“Sharia law is more geared toward family matters and disputes within a family than a court dispute,” Tabbaa said. “It’s not like you can take it to a (judge).”

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