RICHMOND - A leading American civil rights group has criticized a new proposed Virginia bill to ban courts from considering any religious codes in litigation, confirming that the bill was a new step towards effort to stigmatize Muslims and undermine their religious traditions.
"Bigotry needs to be repudiated, not legitimized through the introduction of a bill that has such hate-filled and un-American origins," Gadier Abbas, staff attorney at the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a press release on Friday, January 20.
Titled Morris' HB631, the new bill was introduced by Virginia General Assembly Delegate Rick L. Morris (R-House District 64) on January 11.
The anti-Shari`ah new proposed law would ban courts from applying religious traditions to proceedings, such as the execution of a will among Muslims.
Not only the religious Muslim code, the new bill would also prohibit the application of the Catholic equivalent, canon law, and other religious guidelines.
The suddenly controversial bill is scheduled to be heard by a Virginia legislature House subcommittee next Monday.
In Islam, Shari`ah governs all issues in Muslims' lives from daily prayers to fasting and from, marriage and inheritance to financial disputes.
The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
In US courts, judges can refer to Shari`ah law in Muslim litigation involving cases about divorce and custody proceedings or in commercial litigation.
Sponsoring the bill, Morris said that he aimed at enforcing US laws only.
"It's definitely not an anti-Muslim bill," Morris told the Virginian-Pilot in a brief phone interview Friday.
He said his goal is to make it clear that Virginia judges can rely only on state and federal law in their rulings.
However, CAIR confirmed that the bill was drafted by anti-Islam activist David Yerushalmi.
Yerushalmi, a 56-year-old Hasidic Jew with a history of controversial statements about race, immigration and Islam, managed to gain the support of prominent Washington figures.
He is head of the anti-Islam hate group Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), which on its now password-protected website offered a policy proposal that would make "adherence to Islam" punishable by 20 years in prison.
The proposed Virginia legislation is just one of more than 20 similar bills that have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide in the past year.
Over the past few years, lawmakers in at least two dozen states have introduced proposals last year forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.
The statutes have been enacted in three states so far.
Earlier this January, a US federal court upheld an injection on a proposed ban on Islamic Shari`ah in the state of Oklahoma, saying the drive was unconstitutional and discriminates against religion.