BOISE — Republicans on an Idaho House committee agreed Wednesday to introduce anti-Shariah law legislation designed to prevent Idaho courts or government agencies from making decisions based on Islamic or other foreign legal codes.
The proposal doesn’t specifically mention Shariah law, but it does say that courts, administrative agencies or state tribunals can’t base rulings on any foreign law or legal system that would not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by state and U.S. constitutions.
There are no known cases in which an Idaho judge has based a ruling on Shariah law.
“It is imperative that we safeguard our Constitution’s fundamentals,” said bill sponsor Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol
This is the second time Redman has pushed the bill in the Idaho Statehouse. The bill made it to the House floor last year but the Legislature adjourned before voting on it. He says the bill is needed to protect American values, and that the “encroachment of Shariah law” in the U.S. was one of the main reasons for it. When he sponsored the same bill last year, he brought literature talking about Shariah law and its use by American courts.
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Redman told the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday he believes state lawmakers have a role to play in preserving people’s constitutional rights.
“I believe in freedom of religion,” he said. “I just don’t want the impact of other foreign laws on our Constitution.”
The committee voted to introduce the bill with the two Democrats on it opposed.
“I think this is a topic that probably merits a discussion,” said Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.
Similar laws have been passed in about 10 states, said Robert McCaw, director of the governmental affairs department for the Council on American-Islamic relations. They are worded to block the application of all foreign law, but Islamic law is generally the target. Other states, including Oregon and Montana, are considering similar bills this year — Oregon’s mentions Shariah specifically. The language of Redman’s legislation is based on a model bill written by the American Public Policy Alliance.
“Muslims are not barbarians at the gates calling for our religious beliefs to be imposed on anyone,” McCaw said. “It’s foolhardy to think that less than 2 percent of the (U.S. population) will somehow overthrow the Constitution, the law of the land, with their own religious beliefs.”
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said the intent of such legislation is to demonize and marginalize American Muslims and called it “a nonsensical use of legislative resources.”
“You might as well pass a bill banning unicorns as one banning Shariah,” he said.
Hooper said the “increasing mainstreaming of Islamophobia” makes the bill’s passage more likely. President Donald Trump campaigned on perceived dangers posed by Islamic extremists, at one point calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and also calling for ideological tests for immigrants that would screen out people who believe Shariah law should supersede American law. On Friday he put a four-month hold on refugee resettlement and also banned travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.
Said Hooper of such laws: “They’re just a mechanism for targeting Muslims and Islam.”