Tennessee Lawmaker Renews Fight to Make Supporting Shariah Law a Felony in U.S.
A Republican lawmaker in Tennessee will continue advocating proposed legislation that would make it a felony in the state to knowingly support Shariah law despite criticism that the "shocking" bill is bigoted, he told FoxNews.com.
State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said the bill, S.B. 1028, will be amended to allow the "peaceful practice" of Islam. He rejected calls to withdraw the legislation following a news conference on Tuesday held by several civil rights and interfaith groups denouncing the proposal.
"[The bill] does not outlaw or in any way punish or target the peaceful practice of Islam," Ketron told FoxNews.com on Wednesday. "It targets those terrorist Shariah organizations, those who are extremists. It has nothing to do with how they worship."
The bill, if passed, would allow the state's attorney general to designate an entity as a Shariah organization if the organization knowingly adheres to Shariah; if the organization "engages in, or retains the capability and intent to engage in" an act of terrorism; or if the act of terrorism of the organization "threatens the security of public safety" of Tennessee residents.
According to the bill, Shariah is defined as a "set of rules, precepts, instructions, or edicts which are said to emanate directly or indirectly from the god of Allah or the prophet Mohammed and which include directly or indirectly the encouragement of any person to support the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States or Tennessee Constitutions, or the destruction of the national existence of the United States or the sovereignty of this state, and which includes among other methods to achieve these ends, the likely use of imminent violence."
The bill continues: "Under this bill, any rule, precept, instruction, or edict arising directly from the extant rulings of any of the authoritative schools of Islamic jurisprudence of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali, Ja'afariya, or Salafi, as those terms are used by Shariah adherents, is prima facie Shariah without any further evidentiary showing."
Violations of the proposed law would be a Class B felony, punishable by fine and a prison term of up to 15 years. Ketron said he's confident the legislation will be passed when introduced to the state's General Assembly next month.
"I feel personally that we probably have the votes to pass this," he said. "There are so many different arms of Shariah and depending on how people interpret and follow those laws, some become extremists. That's what this bill addresses."
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the bill would make it illegal to be a Muslim in Tennessee if passed.
"The bill's sponsor talks about not infringing on the religious rights of Muslim, yet he goes on to name every school of Islamic thought to be prima facie evidence of terrorism," Hooper told FoxNews.com. "We just hope adults will intervene at some point in the Legislature to drop this nonsensical, un-American and unconstitutional bill. When are conservatives going to say enough is enough here?"
Bill Nigut, southeast regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, noted that a similar measure passed in November by Oklahoma voters that banned the use of Shariah law in state courtrooms was later blocked by a federal judge pending the resolution of a lawsuit calling it unconstitutional.
"In general, we find this kind of legislation more about marginalizing the Muslim community rather than doing something to better protect the entire community," Nigut said. "I do worry that it feeds into a faulty perception that Muslims obey laws separate from U.S. and state law in Tennessee."
Nadeem Siddiqui, a 35-year-old American Muslim entrepreneur who attended Tuesday's rally in Nashville, told The Associated Press that the proposal was "overly broad" and declares "all Muslims and their practices" to be illegal.
"Shariah law is how I know how to fast in the month of Ramadan; how I wash before my prayers," Siddiqui told The Associated Press. "It also directs me in how much charity I need to give to the poor. It orders me to be honest and fair in my business dealings."
A spokeswoman for the state's attorney general said the office would not comment on the legislation. Calls seeking comment from Gov. Bill Haslam were not immediately returned on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said he found the legislation to be perfectly legitimate and thinks it will eventually be passed.
"When Shariah law is incompatible with constitutional law, the constitution of the United States should transcend Shariah," London said. "It is far more important and is the basis for our civilization. There's a growing understanding that Shariah is not compatible with the democratic principles we live. This is not something we want to embrace in America. It's not compatible with our way of life."