MSO president, Webber call ban on Sharia law ignorant, wasteful

The bill's sponsor Don Wells says the bill would protect Missourians.

Increasing Islamic tension across the nation found its way into Missouri legislation this week in the form of HJR 31, a bill to bar Sharia law.

The bill, sponsored by Missouri Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, and Rep. Don Wells, R-Cabool, aims to ensure Shariah laws and foreign laws are not implemented in U.S. Courts.

Professor of Religious Studies Richard Callahan said HJR 31 only continues to foster the fear of foreign people and minorities in the United States.

“There is no reason to pass the bill, other than to signal both a sense that Muslims are not American, and that America as we know it is under threat of being transformed into some sort of alien Muslim state,” Callahan said.

The text of the bill first calls for U.S. courts to uphold the U.S. Constitution's laws but also mentions Sharia law as a law courts should reference for guidance.

"The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures," the bill states. "Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law."

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said he believed the bill will only create fear of Islamic belief and isolate a group of people from society but that the bill would probably pass once sent to the House floor.

“I think the bill is certainly fueling anti-Islamic sentiment,” Webber said. “I think at best, it is an absolutely frivolous waste of time and money that will have no impact on anything and will only drain the resources that should be used actually helping the people of Missouri.”

Wells acknowledged that the laws that he is trying to ban are not actually applied in U.S. Courts but said Missouri is at risk of being influenced by Islamic practices. Specifically, Wells said Sharia law threatens the safety of Americans.

“Missouri does not need foreign law in addition to the ones stated to make decisions in our courts,” Wells said in a statement. “Prohibiting Sharia law will also protect Missourians.”

Muslim Student Organization President Arwa Mohammad said she believes the proposed bill is the result of misunderstandings of Islamic faith and Sharia law in general.

“Sharia is not just a body of laws," Mohammad said. "It actually comes from a method in which Islamic jurists, through years of scholarship, study religious text to ascertain what divine rule is. I think a lot of times people simplify it into a black and white issue of what is allowed and what isn’t.”

Mohammad also said that those with little understanding of Islam mistakenly believe Sharia law is strict and unchanging.

“Shariah has been used throughout many different time periods and many different areas and can be adjusted to local customs,” Mohammad said.

Callahan said many religions have laws and legal codes, and the fact that Sharia is being singled out and treated differently confirms anti-Islamic sentiment.

“Sharia law cannot become the law that U.S. courts use, any more than courts can make rulings based on the Ten Commandments or the laws of Leviticus,” Callahan said. “But we don't see proposed bills banning those legal codes, do we?”

Callahan said Islam should not be viewed as foreign, seeing as the religion has been a part of the U.S. for centuries.

“Unfortunately, some Americans seem to have something at stake in suppressing religious diversity in this country and trying to use religious affiliation or belief as a marker of who is or is not "truly" American,” Callahan said.

A hearing for the bill is not yet scheduled, according to the Missouri House website.

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