KANSAS CITY - Republican Kansas governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill banning courts from citing Shari`ah law, drawing criticism from American Muslim groups who said they will proceed to a legal challenge against the bill.
The bill "makes it clear that Kansas courts will rely exclusively on the laws of our state and our nation when deciding cases and will not consider the laws of foreign jurisdictions," Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an e-mail to Reuters on Friday, May 25.
The bill, dubbed "American law for American courts", was passed by the Senate earlier this May.
It bans any court in the state from making a ruling based on foreign or religious laws, including Shari`ah.
The measure was spearheaded by Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, who, along with Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, has spoken publicly about the need to protect Kansans from Shari`ah.
Supporters said the law will reassure foreigners in Kansas that state laws and the US Constitution would protect them.
Opponents, however, said the bill singled out Muslims for ridicule and was unnecessary because American laws prevail on US soil.
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.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington denounced the Kansas law and said it is considering legal action.
"This clearly unconstitutional legislation, like all the others targeting Muslims' religious rights nationwide, invites a legal challenge," said CAIR Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili in a press release.
"The unmistakable and un-American bigotry espoused by the sponsors of these bills should be repudiated by Americans of all faiths."
CAIR spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, also lamented the governor's decision as inciting growing Islamophobia in the American society.
"It's unfortunate the governor chose to pander to the growing Islam-phobia in our society that has led to introduction of similar unconstitutional and un-American legislation in dozens of state legislatures," Hooper told Reuters.
The leading civil rights group vowed to continue to monitor the legislators 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.
Oklahoma voters approved a ballot initiative in 2010 that specifically mentioned Shari`ah law, but both a federal judge and a federal appeals court blocked it.