US civil rights groups decry 'anti-Muslim' bill in Idaho

Similar 'anti-Sharia' bills are being considered in several states across the United States.

    Hundreds of 'anti-Sharia' bills have been introduced in the US since 2010, say rights groups [File: Julie Jacobson/AP Photo]
    Hundreds of 'anti-Sharia' bills have been introduced in the US since 2010, say rights groups [File: Julie Jacobson/AP Photo]

    A spate of bills in state legislatures across the United States have been decried by civil rights groups as Islamophobic. 

    Most recently, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington, DC-based Muslim civil rights group, has called on Idaho's Senate to vote against a bill recently passed by the state's House of Representatives that seeks to ban the implementation of "foreign law" in the state.

    According to CAIR, the bill, known as HB-419, targets Muslims and fits into a long pattern of "unconstitutional" bills that demonise Muslims by barring Sharia, or Islamic law.

    HB-419 was passed by Idaho's House of Representatives at a time when similar bills are being considered in several US states, including Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin. 

    In an open letter to Idaho State Senator Jeff C Siddoway, Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, CAIR's Government Affairs Director, Robert McCaw, described HB-419 as "contrary to our nation's values of not elevating or marginalising one faith or community".

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    "Legislation designed and adopted to attack a specific religion is a clear violation of the [US Constitution's] Establishment Clause, which requires that government be secular and treat all religions equally," McCaw wrote.

    "It is impossible to mask the anti-Muslim discriminatory intent behind HB-419."

    Collusion with anti-Muslim groups

    That bill was introduced by House Representative Eric Redman, who had introduced two similar bills in the last two years.

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based hate watchdog, at least 201 "anti-Sharia bills" have been introduced in 43 states since 2010.

    Earlier this month, the SPLC revealed that it had obtained 47 pages of Redman's email correspondence with anti-Muslim groups between May 2016 and August 2017. The group obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

    The groups with which Redman corresponded - among them American Laws for American Courts (ALAC), ACT for America, American Public Policy Alliance (APPA) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP) - have "a lengthy history of bigotry", the SPLC said on its website.

    "Anti-Muslim hate groups play an integral role in the introduction of anti-sharia bills and overhyping the nonexistent threat of 'sharia law' in the United States," the group added.

    Although Redman's most recent version of the bill does not specifically reference Islamic law, the first version, which was introduced in 2016, included pictures of a severed hand and a man about to be decapitated. It also made allegations that the Muslim prophet Muhammad was a paedophile, according to the Associated Press.

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    Earlier this month, Redman was quoted by the Idaho Statesman newspaper as saying the bill "is not simply about Sharia and other foreign laws but also trans-nationalism, in other words, the documented creep of foreign and anti-public policy laws being recognised by state and federal courts.”

    In the past, Redman has also defended his bills against charges of Islamophobia.

    "We have freedom of religion here, but they don't have the right to bring their Sharia law overreach on our constitutional laws," the politician told the Washington newspaper Spokesman-Review in 2017.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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