PATERSON, New Jersey - Muslim leaders in the north-eastern state of New Jersey have welcomed the withdrawal of a bill seeking a ban on Islamic Shari`ah, a move seen upholding religious freedoms in the United States. "This is a wise decision by the esteemed assemblywoman," said Dr. Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum, a think-tank based in Paterson, New Jersey, according to a press release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi introduced in late 2011 a bill seeking to prohibit the application of foreign laws in US courts.
But Muslim leaders said that the bill, known as A-919, had a similar language with other measures targeting Islamic Shari`ah in other US states."Of course we want our Constitution to be the supreme law of the land, Assaf, who was among several leaders to call for the bill to be withdrawn, said.
New Jersey need not follow other states that have either passed or attempted to pass similar legislation that has the principal objective of demonizing the faith of millions of American Muslims."
After meeting with Muslim and Arab community leaders to hear their concerns, Assemblywoman Schepisi decided to withdraw the bill.She said that the intent of the bill was not to single out any religion.
In the climate of what has been transpiring in the Muslim community in New Jersey, they were concerned it would further, in their view, portray Muslims in a negative light, Schepisi said, according to NorthJersey news portal.After sitting and listening to their concerns, I agreed to withdraw it, she said.
The same bill was originally introduced in 2010 by Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk but was never heard.
Religious Freedoms Muslim leaders say that anti-Shari`ah bills violate religious freedoms protected by the First Amendment of US Constitution.
"Rather than strengthening constitutional protections, these bills undoubtedly violate religious freedom and weaken the independence of our courts," said Chair of CAIR's New Jersey chapter Nadia Kahf.
"We thank Assemblywoman Schepisi for her decision in support of religious freedom and constitutional rights."
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.
In US courts, judges can refer to Shari`ah law in Muslim litigation involving cases about divorce and custody proceedings or in commercial litigation.
Anti-Shari`ah bills were recently withdrawn or failed to pass in Minnesota, Georgia and Florida.
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.
The statutes have been enacted in three states so far.
In 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.