Sponsors propose amendment to Shariah bill
Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:02 pm
NASHVILLE (AP) — Opponents of legislation that would make it a felony to follow some versions of the Islamic code known as Shariah say a proposed amendment that strips out any reference to a specific religion would make the measure tougher to fight in court if it passes.
The original bill gave the state’s attorney general authority to designate an entity a “Shariah organization” if he finds the group knowingly adheres to Shariah, which the legislation defines as “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.” Muslims, who say the original measure is too broad, fear it would outlaw central tenets of Islam, such as praying five times a day toward Mecca, abstaining from alcohol or fasting for Ramadan.
Gadeir Abbas, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the original bill’s direct reference to Shariah made it easy to be challenged under the First Amendment, but the new version would change that.
“Now you really have to challenge it under like a due process violation, saying that designating someone as a terrorist organization without a court proceeding is a due process violation,” he said. “And it’s hard to do that without there being an actual sense of enforcement.”
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said the “amendment is a step in the right direction because it no longer targets one religious group,” but believes the legislation overall is unnecessary because it’s very similar to a law at the federal level.
“The federal government already has ample authority, through law enforcement, to identify and designate terrorist groups, to freeze their assets, and to prohibit individuals from providing virtually any kind of support to those groups,” she said. “This bill would not help to combat genuine threats to public safety, which the federal government already has the tools to do.”
Republican Senate sponsor Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro said the amendment reflects sponsors’ “original intention to prevent or deter violent or terrorist acts, but does so without any room for misinterpretation regarding the language’s effect on peaceful religious practices.”
Published in The Messenger 3.23.11