(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/1/19) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called on all Americans of conscience to contact lawmakers in South Carolina and urge them to oppose anti-Islam legislation introduced earlier this month.
Introduced last month by state Senator Larry Grooms (R), Senate Bill 29 would ban the application of foreign law in South Carolina. Its language is modeled on other Islamophobic legislation introduced in state legislatures across the country, the first versions of which explicitly mentioned banning Sharia law. While these anti-foreign law bills no longer mention Sharia law by name, they target Islamic religious principles and practices and serve only to fearmonger about Muslim Americans.
Grooms introduced the same bill in 2017 and 2013, but it failed to move out of committee both times. The 2015 version of the bill, not sponsored by Grooms, specifically named Sharia.
Background on Anti-Foreign Law Bills
Attempts to outlaw the application of Sharia or other bodies of law in judicial proceedings grew out of a concerted push by known Islamophobe David Yerushalmi. Anti-foreign law bills did not exist prior to Yerushalmi’s efforts to raise alarm bells about Sharia and draw their language, often verbatim, from a piece of model legislation authored by Yerushalmi in 2010.
The language these bills use is often purposefully broad to block legal challenges to their discriminatory natures. In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a lower court's decision to block implementation of an Oklahoma state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited courts from applying or considering "Sharia law" in a federal court challenge brought by CAIR. The following year, Oklahoma legislators circumvented constitutionality concerns by hiding the anti-Sharia bill’s bias behind a broader, facially neutral “foreign law” ban and passed anti-Muslim law HB 1060.
In 2011, the American Bar Association (ABA) passed a resolution opposing legislation like Senate Bill 29, noting that it is "duplicative of safeguards that are already enshrined in federal and state law," saying, "Initiatives that target an entire religion or stigmatize an entire religious community, such as those explicitly aimed at 'Sharia law,' are inconsistent with some of the core principles and ideals of American jurisprudence."
Since 2010, elected state representatives have introduced at least 221 anti-Muslim “foreign law” bills in 44 state legislatures. As of 2018, 15 of these bills are law in 13 states, covering nearly a quarter of the nation.
The Washington-based civil rights group has challenged similar unconstitutional and discriminatory “anti-Sharia,” “anti-foreign law” and “anti-Islamic Indoctrination” bills that have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide.
To counter this coordinated anti-Islam campaign, CAIR published a toolkit offering a pair of anti-Islamophobia resolutions that recognize the contributions of American Muslims and reaffirm the right of citizens to practice their faith within the law and free of government interference.
CAIR’s toolkit has sections such as “Understanding the Legislative Process,” “Legislative Advocacy: Limits for Non-Profit Organizations,” “Checklist: Meeting with an Elected Official,” and “Ensuring an Effective Meeting with an Elected Official," as well as fact sheets that may be given to lawmakers and their staff in support of the two resolutions.
CAIR’s Toolkit: Recognizing American Muslim contributions in Our States
CAIR is urging Islamic communities nationwide to ask state lawmakers to stand with their Muslim constituents in countering the injustice of growing Islamophobia nationwide that is being spread by anti-Muslim activists and hate groups.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
CONTACT: CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com