TAMPA, Florida - A Florida anti-shari`ah bill that would have restricted state courts from considering foreign laws has died on the Senate, following a storm of criticism from both Muslim and Jewish Floridians.
"This is a great success not only for the Muslim community, but for all Americans who believe in the Constitutional protections of Freedom of Religion," said Hassan Shibly, Tampa executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, according to a press release on Saturday, March 10.
This sends a strong message that we will not tolerate legislation intended to demonize, attack, and marginalize religious minorities in America, he added.
Senate Bill 1360 would have restricted state courts from considering foreign laws in most cases.
Authored by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the bill was identical to HB 1209, which easily passed the House 92-24.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the bill's sponsor, advanced the controversy by distributing booklets to other senators titled "Shari`ah Law: Radical Islam's threat to the US Constitution."
A similar bill was introduced last year by Florida legislators that failed because of concerns that it was too broad and could interfere with commercial and church affairs.
The new, more targeted bill specifically applies only to divorce, child support and custody hearings in family court.
It states that arbitration is unenforceable if a tribunal bases its ruling on a foreign law, legal code or system that does not grant people the same rights as the Florida state or US Constitutions.
In Islam, Shari`ah govern issues in Muslims' lives from daily prayers to fasting and from to inheritance and marital cases to financial disputes.
The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
As the bill died, CAIR Florida congratulated the Florida Muslim community and the multiple faith organizations for uniting and mobilizing against this bill.
"Our victory tonight is a great example of how the interfaith and civil rights community united can make a positive difference for all Americans," Shibly said.
The Senate decision followed huge effort exerted by Muslim and other faith groups in Florida.
On Wednesday, CAIR Florida held a press conference denouncing SB 1360 with several leading interfaith and civil rights leaders.
The press conference was planned after CAIR Florida learned that the sponsor of SB 1360, Senator Hays was passing around anti-Muslim literature in the Florida Senate.
The outrageous anti-Muslim literature passed out by Senator Hays prompted the Tampa Bay Times to publish an editorial decrying Senator Hays' anti-Muslim tactics.
Earlier this week CAIR met with over 100 congressional offices in DC to support national legislation that would protect the rights of all Americans and end religious profiling.
Meanwhile, interfaith groups met with the Florida Senate in Tallahassee to voice their opposition to SB 1360.
The leading civil rights group vowed to continue to monitor the legislator to ensure that no other anti-Muslim or anti-freedom bills are introduced.
Shari`ah has come under scrutiny recently in the US, with right-wing campaigners and politicians questioning its role and operating system.
Lawmakers in at least 30 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.