My Word: Meaningless bill caters to Islamaphobes
Jobs, crime, economy, housing, environment, education and infrastructure took a backseat, as one of the first bills considered in legislative committees — before the start of the state Legislature on March 5 — is HB 351, formally titled "Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases."
This measure, sponsored by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee on a party-line vote, with all nine Republicans supporting it and the panel's four Democrats opposing the bill. It is to go before the Judiciary Committee today.
This bill focuses on family law, but targets Muslims — Shariah law — and would impact the use of religious tribunals — bet dins for observant Jews or canon law for observant Christians. The bill would restrict and/or deny the use of religious law for matters involving marriage, divorce and child custody.
David Barkey, counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, calls the bill "legally unwarranted and morally abhorrent."
Article VI, Clause 2 of the Constitution, called the Supremacy Clause, establishes the U.S. Constitution as "the supreme law of the land," making it impossible for any foreign law to supersede American law. So there is not a single instance in the United States in which foreign law or Shariah law trumped U.S. law
So why the rush in introducing a bill that will essentially be meaningless?
It's a bill designed by David Yerushalmi, the father of the anti-Shariah movement in the U.S. Yerushalmi is a polarizing figure with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam.
Metz, in co-sponsoring the bill, fails to understand Shariah. Shariah refers not necessarily only to punitive justice, but, more important, to the teachings of being good to your parents, your neighbors and your family. It deals with rulings on marriage and divorce, and distribution of wealth and inheritance — none of which contradicts American law.
Anti-Shariah legislation calls into question our society's fundamental commitments to religious liberty and meaningful access to the courts without prejudice.
It's time for our elected leadership to concentrate on making Florida better and not waste tax dollars by passing obsolete, meaningless laws that serve to please a few diehard Islamaphobes.
Islam is an American religion, and Muslim Americans are part of the American landscape.
Atif Fareed is chairman of American Muslim Community Centers in Longwood.