'Sharia' bill hardly harmless

news-and-observer-logoBy Faiza Patel and Amos Toh, News and Observer, 6/7/2013

This week, the Concerned Women for America of NC -- a conservative group with a history of anti-Muslim incitement -- briefed North Carolina's legislature on the phantom threat that Islamic laws and customs (commonly referred to as "sharia") pose to the American legal system. This briefing came on the heels of House Bill 695, a ban on foreign law that was approved by the House last month.

Although the ban is packaged as an effort to protect the rights of North Carolinians from all foreign laws, it is fueled by a fringe anti-Muslim movement bent on demonizing the Islamic faith. But HB 695 is more than just an attack on the Muslim community. It will also create a series of damaging, unintended consequences for North Carolinians of all faiths.

The foreign law ban before the Senate purports to stop the state's courts from applying foreign law in family law proceedings if doing so violates constitutional rights.

Sounds harmless, right? It's not.

For decades, American courts have applied foreign law so long as it does not violate U.S. public policy. International business disputes end up in our courts all the time. Americans who marry abroad or adopt children overseas rely on our courts to recognize these relationships. Courts follow this rule because it helps Americans -- it makes international relationships, both business and personal, easier.

The respect that our courts show for foreign law is not a one-sided affair; we want other countries to respect the judgments of our courts as well. In an increasingly interconnected world, the advantages of the current system cannot be overstated. (Read the full article)

Faiza Patel is co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Amos Toh is a Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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