North Carolina became the seventh state to prohibit its judges from considering Islamic law after Gov. Pat McCrory allowed the bill to become law without formally signing it.
McCory, a Republican, called the law “unnecessary,” but declined to veto it. The bill became law on Sunday.
The state joins Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
Supporters hailed the bill as an important safeguard that protects the American legal system from foreign laws that are incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, while critics argued that the bill’s only purpose is to whip-up anti Muslim hatred because the Constitution already overrides foreign laws.
New Jersey lawyer Abed Awad has been involved with more than 100 cases that involved some component of Shariah, or Islamic law, and knows firsthand how complicated things can get.
In one of those cases, a woman claimed she was married to a man according to Islamic law in her native west Africa. The man asserted there was no valid marriage, leaving a judge to decide whether the two were ever legally married in the first place.
If the judge rules they were married, there will be a divorce, and she will receive alimony and a share of marital assets. If the judge rules that there is no marriage, then the woman will be left with nothing from her relationship.
To make a ruling, the judge will need to consider what Shariah, as understood in one corner of western Africa, says about what constitutes a legal marriage. He will likely have to consult Islamic law experts and apply what he learns to his decision.
But what if American judges were prohibited from considering Shariah and other foreign laws, as many state and national politicians want to see happen?
Muslim and Coptic Christian leaders in the U.S. are calling on the Egyptian government to exclude any mentions of Islamic law or language that discriminates against minorities in its draft constitution.
In an letter released Tuesday, the leaders urge the constitution writers to "recognize the equality of all Egyptians and to reject any language that would discriminate against any citizen of Egypt on the basis of that citizen’s religion or gender.”
Because Egypt is home to millions of Christians, attempts to describe Islamic law, or Shariah, as the source of the country’s law should also be rejected, the letter said.
Muslim civil rights groups are calling a new Kansas law that bans Shariah in state courtrooms an expression of Islamophobia that is vulnerable to a legal challenge.
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday (May 28), does not specifically mention Shariah, or Islamic law, but forbids state courts from basing decisions on foreign laws that contradict rights granted by the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions.
But the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim groups called the law little more than anti-Muslim propaganda.
The Oklahoma state Senate voted down a bill that would have prohibited state judges from considering foreign laws, including religious laws, in their decisions.
State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) submitted House Bill 1552 last year after a similar law approved by voters in a 2010 referendum was ruled unconstitutional.
Oklahoma’s House of Representatives approved the new bill by a vote of 76-3 in 2011, but it wasn’t heard in a Senate committee until this year. The Senate Rules Committee rejected the bill Thursday (April 5) in a 9-6 vote.
At this point in 2011, 22 state legislatures had either passed or were considering bills to prohibit judges from considering either Islamic law, known as Shariah, or foreign law in their decisions.
What a difference a year can make.
The wave of anti-Shariah legislation has broken in recent weeks, as bills in several states have either died or been withdrawn, raising questions about whether the anti-Shariah movement has lost its momentum.