Tuesday, March 15, 2011

silent but deadly

The title is meant as a tongue in cheek reference to the Florida legislature's odd entry in the apparent national race to pass anti-sharia legislation. Florida's anti-Sharia bill is unusual in that it actually makes no reference to the Sharia or Islam or Islamic concepts at all. Instead Florida's SB 1294 is about the "application of foreign law". And the bill's language goes on to explain that:
the term “foreign law, legal code, or system” means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside any state or territory of the United States, including, but not limited to, international organizations or tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals.

And then the bill goes on to say that rulings, arbitration decisions, contractual obligations etc. based on foreign law can't be enforced:
if the law, legal code, or system chosen includes or incorporates any substantive or procedural law, as applied to the dispute at issue, which would not grant the parties the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.

The last part of the bill explains that it applies only to "natural persons" and "does not apply to a corporation, partnership, or other form of business association".

To be honest, I'm not absolutely certain how I feel about the bill since I don't have the legal training to determine exactly how it would be applied.

The bill seems limited to cases which have an international component, and if "sharia" is interpreted as "the legal system of this or that Muslim country" then I'm tempted to say "fine, I don't get my interpretations of the sharia from Iran / Saudi Arabia /Afghanistan etc. anyway." What I'm still unclear on is whether SB 1294 would also void out contracts and decisions involving U.S. citizen which are not based on foreign law per se (e.g. the laws of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, etc.) but are based on religious rulings (e.g. The Fiqh Council of North America, ones local imam, etc.)

Since the bill doesn't mention Islam at all, it will be interesting to see how it will be applied to Jewish arbitration bodies or cases where American law butts up against Israeli law and the laws of other non-Muslim countries (which is likely to be an issue in Florida generally, and Miami in particular).

A few Christians would be surprised to learn that the Bible itself also seems to have little faith in secular legal systems:

When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life! If then you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
(1 Corinthians 6:1-6)

And as a result, there are also Christian arbitration organizations which operate parallel to the US court system.

What I find most ironic is that it seems many of these anti-sharia efforts are backed by the Religious (Christian) Right while the same Religious Right are perfectly willing to impose their own opinions on abortion, homosexuality, US foreign policy (especially towards Israel) and social justice on the rest of the US population, even those who don't share their convictions. It raises the possibility that the anti-sharia movement might end up secularizing American society in ways that the Islamophobes would find constraining as well.

Past posts:
"lord i've really been real stressed/ down and out / losing ground..."
oklahoma and the sharia

Miami Herald: Republican lawmakers are taking aim at Islamic Sharia law, but they don’t specifically want to talk about it
Huffington Post: Florida State Lawmakers Push Bill That Would Ban Sharia Law

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