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Tennessee bill would jail Shariah followers

23 February 2011 General 7 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Bob Smietana, The Tennessean

A proposed Tennessee law would make following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail.

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, introduced the same bill in the Senate and House last week. It calls Shariah law a danger to homeland security and gives the attorney general authority to investigate complaints and decide who’s practicing it.

It exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous. It claims Shariah adherents want to replace the Constitution with their religious law.

A dozen other states are considering anti-Shariah bills, and there’s a federal lawsuit in Oklahoma over one.

Imam Mohamed Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Nashville on 12th Avenue South said Islam teaches its followers to obey the law of the land. Shariah law, he said, teaches moral values.

“What do you mean, really, by saying I can’t abide by Shariah law?” he said. “Shariah law is telling me don’t steal. Do you want me to steal and rob a bank?”

The Attorney General’s Office had no comment.

It is unclear whether the bill will go before lawmakers in its current form. The measure was filed Thursday to beat the deadline to introduce bills for the current session, Matheny said. It has not been assigned to a committee.

Changes considered

Matheny, the House speaker pro tempore, said he is concerned that aspects of Shariah law might conflict with the U.S. Constitution, but he does not intend to criminalize practices such as the preparations for prayer or dietary rules. He said he would consider amending the bill before asking the legislature to consider it.

“I’m still researching it,” he said. “My intent is to educate and to look at it.”

Most anti-Shariah bills in other states would ban courts from citing Shariah law. Oklahoma voters approved a referendum in November that banned state courts from using Shariah law in their rulings. A federal judge blocked the Oklahoma law from being implemented, pending a federal lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional.

The Tennessee bill goes further by proposing criminal penalties for following Shariah. Matheny said the bill was model legislation, given to him by the Tennessee Eagle Forum, a conservative advocacy group.

Bobbie Patray, state president of the Eagle Forum, confirmed that the law had been drafted by David Yerushalmi, a Chandler, Ariz.-based attorney. Yerushalmi runs the Society of Americans for National Existence, a nonprofit that says following Shariah is treasonous.

He also has close ties to Frank Gaffney, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy, a key witness for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a mosque being built in Murfreesboro.

Backers, critics sound off

Rebecca Bynum, editor of the New English Review, a Nashville-based website that is critical of Islam, supports the bill.

“I applaud Senator Ketron for his effort to protect the citizens of Tennessee from the real and present danger presented by Shari’a and for the deep knowledge and thoughtful consideration that produced this bill,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Even if this bill does not pass, it will have done our citizens a great service by provoking informed discussion of this issue.”

Charles Haynes, a senior scholar with the First Amendment Center in Nashville, disagrees. He said the bill is based on a complete misunderstanding of Shariah law, which he described as a set of voluntary religious rules, similar to Catholic canon law or Jewish religious law.

The bill is wrongheaded, he said.

“It’s complete nonsense,” he said.

The bill also is unnecessary, Haynes said, because people of all faiths have to follow secular law.

“Civil law and the Constitution of the United States trumps religious law,” he said. “The government can’t label religious laws as wrong or treasonous or evil. The government may not take sides in religion. It may not say what is a good religion or a bad religion.”

Selah Sbenaty, a member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, said state legislators have bigger problems to worry about than Shariah law. He wishes they would spend more time trying to fix the state’s economy and less time worrying about Islam.

“I believe this bill is a waste of our tax dollars, and I am sure the bill will not pass,” he said. “The people of Tennessee are good, loving, hospitable, and do not tolerate bigotry.”

Contributing: Chas Sisk, The Tennessean

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Posted 5h 59m ago | Updated 5h 6m ago

Original post: Tennessee bill would jail Shariah followers

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7 Comments »

  1. “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

    poem by Martin Niemöller
    What religion wont they like next? Remember that pesky thing called the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights??????

  2. Imam Mohamed Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Nashville on 12th Avenue South said Islam teaches its followers to obey the law of the land. Shariah law, he said, teaches moral values.

    What do you mean, really, by saying I can’t abide by Shariah law?” he said. “Shariah law is telling me don’t steal. Do you want me to steal and rob a bank?

    The Attorney General’s Office had no comment.

    ☻ LOL

    That last point regarding the Attorney General’s Office’s non-comment just about sums-up the matter. There was no comment of common sense to be made!!

    Why do they continue to pretend to understand Islam when they clearly don’t? Why not, first, ask Muslims for the meaning of Islamic terms before writing and voting on such asinine bills?!

  3. First of all, this is a step in the right direction. We have to do everything possible to keep the United States from being propelled back into the dark ages. Secondly, if there is no threat of Sharia law in the United States then why do you care when these laws are proposed?

    We don’t question the purpose of Sharia law, we question the consequences of committing a crime under Sharia law. Have you ever heard the term cruel and unusual punishment? I suppose amputations, honor killings and stonings are lies spewed by Fox news? Give me a break.

  4. Worst Impersonation of Christ. The Tennessee bill exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous.

  5. Preemption: action taken to prevent other action beforehand.

    In our legal system, laws are not generally retroactive. Legislative action must be taken beforehand, otherwise action is not covered by law, and therefore not illegal.
    Example: Laws are already on the books which state that if you rob a bank, you will be caught and imprisoned. It is simply inconceivable that the government waited for a bank robbery to occur before passing these laws.
    It is important to prevent nor do we need another system of laws, especially those which contain elements contrary to our perception of human rights.

  6. Seriously – What The F*ck???

  7. could one of the many learned muslim please explain sharia to me. (or at least some of it)
    1. is it punishable under sharia for consenting adults to have sex? and if so what is the punishment.
    2. can homosexuals partake in their pusuit of happyness as they chose, or should their actions be outlawed? and if so what is the punishment?
    3. can a 9 year old girl consent to marriage?
    4. should my sister inherit half as much as me if my parents die without a will?

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