A rabbi, an interfaith leader, and a Temple University professor joined the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Wednesday to denounce as "Islamophobic" a Pennsylvania bill they say is an attack on sharia law, which is followed by devout Muslims.
House Bill 2029, introduced by Rep. Rosemarie Swanger (R., Lebanon), says state courts shall not, in deciding cases, "consider a foreign legal code or system" that lacks "the same fundamental liberties" as the state and federal Constitutions.
The language is plain and seems innocuous. Swanger's June 14 letter promoting the bill to her colleagues, however, repeatedly mentioned sharia law as a menace.
"Increasingly, foreign laws and legal doctrines - including and especially sharia law - are finding their way into U.S. court cases," she wrote. "Invoking sharia law, especially in family law cases, is a means of imposing an agenda on the American people."
In her October memo to colleagues, Swanger warned of "infiltration of foreign legal doctrine" but made no mention of sharia.
Critics say her bill is based on a model of legislation, introduced nationally two years ago, that has had the effect of ostracizing Muslims.
Separately, the Anti-Defamation League of Eastern Pennsylvania, a Jewish antibias group, also criticized the bill.
Since 2009, more than two dozen states have considered measures to restrict judges from consulting sharia, or foreign and religious laws more generally.
"This bill feeds the perception that Muslims are anti-American foreigners," CAIR's Philadelphia chapter director, Moein Khawaja, said at a Center City news conference. He called on Gov. Corbett to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
"You seldom see such direct evidence of discriminatory purpose, particularly in a public document," said CAIR attorney Amara Chaudhry, waving a copy of Swanger's June memo. Nor, she added, is the bill needed, because the Supreme Court has ruled that religious laws cannot be used to circumvent generally applicable civil laws. (More)