I was so much hoping to get a Q&A lined up with Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano on the subject of Sharia Law in Texas. He’s got a bill that would prohibit family court rulings based on foreign legal codes if that violated our own constitutional protections.
These kinds of bills and state constitutional amendments have popped in several states and have been adopted in a bunch. They’re widely accepted as trying to keep the Islamic legal code at bay.
A story in the Houston Chronicle
mentioned Leach’s bill in its coverage of the anti-Muslim furor at the Capitol last week. Excerpt, referencing Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations commenting on Leach’s bill:
“We feel it’s a red herring and it’s just meant to mar the community,” Carroll said of House Bill 562
by Rep. Jeff Leach, R- Plano.
Leach, however, welcomed the group to the Capitol on Thursday when tweeted, “All Texans are welcome at YOUR Capitol – and all Texans are always welcome in my office. Come one. Come all!”
I did my reading on the anti-Sharia movement, including a profile of its intellectual progenitor, a Hasidic Jew from New York
. Fabulously interesting how Jews and evangelical Christians buddy up on these things. The latest state to ban intrusion of foreign legal codes was Alabama, in November. Some critics there thought it was pointless
and political grandstanding to get Christian votes.
One take on the anti-Sharia movement, from the Wall Street Journa
The movement is motivated largely by a handful of organizations that claim Islamic Sharia law and, to a lesser degree, laws of other nations, are creeping into courtrooms and American life, especially in divorces and child-custody disputes. Sharia, loosely defined as a set of moral and religious principles in Islam, is woven into the legal systems of many Muslim nations. It covers issues ranging from what to eat and drink to structuring a loan to setting up an inheritance and divorce, among other things.
I so much was interested in Leach’s assessment, because of the demographics of his district, in Collin County. The Religion Census estimated the county’s Muslim population at more than 23,000 in 2010 — one of the top 20 concentrations in the U.S.
Alas, Leach’s office says things are too busy this week for him to pull away for the Q&A I was trying to line up. Darn. I wanted to hear what his constituents say about his bill — Muslims and Christians both. And I wanted his take on some of the wild stuff I saw on the Internet, like the depiction of a “Lone Star Mecca”
taking shape right under our noses.
Should we be concerned?
Then I saw a piece on Sharia put together by Breitbart Texas
, the website that will cover what mainstreamers are often reluctant to touch. The headline:
ISLAMIC TRIBUNAL CONFIRMED IN TEXAS;
ATTORNEY CLAIMS ‘ITS VOLUNTARY’
OK, I’ll bite.
The less sensational (compared to the headline) account of this Sharia Law tribunal (see its website here)
makes it sound like a panel of church elders imparting judgment according to the faith. The Breitbart
story offers this, quoting one of the tribunal judges:
In matters of divorce, El-badawi said that “while participation in the tribunal is voluntary, a married couple cannot be considered divorced by the Islamic community unless it is granted by the tribunal.” He compared their divorce, known as “Talaq,” as something similar to the Catholic practice of annulment in that the church does not recognize civil divorce proceedings as ending a marriage.
You know, I don’t feel threatened by this, maybe because the judge offered a comparison to rulings from the Catholic Church, my church. Here’s more:
asked what happens when there is a conflict between Sharia law and Texas law. El-badawi said most of the time, the laws are in agreement. When pushed further he admitted that, “we follow Sharia law.” However, he explained, “If the parties are not satisfied with the tribunal’s decision, they do not have to accept it and they can take the matter to Texas civil courts.” He did not say what the social ramifications of rejecting the “judge’s” decision would be.
This seems similar to the way people of other faiths might seek mediation from church wise men. Don’t mainstream Jewish and Christian congregations offer those kinds of services?
Consider, too, that the New Testament includes an injunction against taking a Christian brother to court. The church is a better place to solve disputes, according to some interpretations. From Corinthians 6:1-8
(pretty snappy for a Catholic guy, eh?):
Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
This year’s legislative session is not the first shot for an anti-Sharia bill. Leach was a joint author of one two years ago, but it didn’t get a hearing. I was going to ask Leach if things have changed politically on the issue, if he expected a hearing this time.
I wonder, too, if this is the kind of bill that a member will file, to just say he’d done so for certain constituents, while hoping at the same time that it doesn’t come up for a hearing.
The GOP has enough trouble looking like bullies. It’s got the college tuition bills that look punitive against Hispanic kids. It’s got the inevitable anti-”sanctuary city” bills that chase mythology of officials harboring illegal immigrants. And now Muslims, with that blowup at the Capitol last week and the backhand from tea party freshman Rep. Molly White.
Could a Sharia bill be bad politics? It depends. Maybe I’m naive and don’t know what insidious Islamic conspiracies lurk right under my nose in Richardson. Does the Halal meat served by my favorite hamburger joint mean something more?
On the other hand, I could envision articulate, highly educated, reasoned Muslim witnesses before a House committee effectively explaining Sharia tribunals for members. It might make it hard for Leach to press the case for his bill and also look like a person who’s focused on the state’s real problems.
Leach is getting his footing on transportation issues, having held public meetings on the subject in his district. Leach also put together a coalition of officeholders to fight toll expansion in Collin County. Today, he filed two bills on roadway funding
He’s going to make headway on these issues and grow his House profile only if he’s a problem-solver and not a problem-maker for the Republican Party.
Chasing Muslims might not help him get where he wants to go.