Pennsylvania Anti-Sharia Bill Causes Stir with Interfaith Leaders


by Randy LoBasso
Philadelphia Weekly

You knew this was coming. The Pennsylvania Legislature is currently considering an “Anti-Sharia Law” law that’d ban state courts from considering any “foreign legal code or system” that isn’t identical with the Constitution. According to an article on the bill at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the potential bill, likely aimed at those who fear Islam creeping onto their front lawn, is having the opposite effect and has decidedly offended, according to the Gazette, “some Jews.”

As such, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee is organizing a forum of Jewish, Islamic and Catholic scholars tonight who’ll discuss the implications and how this wink and nudge toward the anti-Islamic extremities latched to the under crust of the religious and Tea Right may affect them, too, especially if they ever want to get divorced.

According to its language, Bill 2029 prohibits “the application of foreign law which would impair constitutional rights.” It’s co-sponsored by more than 40 state House members and though written by anti-Islam activist Rep. RoseMarie Swanger, R-Lebanon, does not mention the word “Sharia.”

Sharia Law is the moral and religious law of Islam. According to a Salon interview with Abed Awad, a New Jersey-based attorney and an expert on Sharia, the law can be brought up in courts as it pertains to marriage between two Muslim Americans—though doesn’t really cause a blip otherwise. Courts currently only consider aspects of Sharia law in family matters, as they do Christian or Jewish law, when it “does not offend our constitutional protections and public policy.”

The Pennsylvania law being proposed, therefore, could get in the middle of family matters, like, according to the Gazette article, “the divorce cases of Orthodox Jews and religious matters that end up in civil court,” and not achieve the bill’s end goal of simply scaring the fuck out of Michael Savage listeners.

Sharia Law has been the subject of many GOP witch hunts over the past few years, including former Presidential candidate Herman Cain claiming during a debate, “There was an instance in Oklahoma where Muslims did try to influence court decisions with Sharia law,” and “instances in New Jersey,” even though this is not true. Newt Gingrich regularly speaks of Islamic Law dominating state courthouses, too, and uses the sinister vocabulary “creeping Sharia” when doing so.

Such false statements have led some other GOP-dominated states to pass or move to pass anti-Sharia legislation, you know, just in case. In August, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie openly mocked Sharia Law frighteners after appointing Muslim-American judge Sohail Mohammed to the state bench.

Still, Rep. Swanger has repeated Cain’s claim in defense of her bill. “I have read about some other states where foreign law has been creeping into the courts, especially family courts,” she said. “I’m thinking of the Near East, where women are not highly regarded and don’t have the same rights as men. If those women come here, I want them to have the same rights that we have.”

In a memo to House members, Swanger also said Sharia is “inherently hostile to our constitutional liberties.”

On Wednesday, Philadelphia’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations will hold a press conference challenging the bill, alongside other area interfaith leaders.