Flawed ‘anti-sharia bill’ fails to win over Colorado lawmakers

Author: John Tomasic - April 13, 2017 - Updated: April 13, 2017

Opponents of Colorado 'anti-sharia' Senate Bill 277 -- representatives of religious and civil rights groups -- at a press conference before the ill was voted down by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, April 12, 2017. (John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman)
Representatives of religious and civil rights groups at a press conference before a conservative religious freedom bill and the anti-sharia bill were heard in Senate committees, April 12, 2017. (John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman)

A Republican-controlled committee voted down a bill meant to protect Coloradans from foreign laws that might infringe on the “fundamental liberties” guaranteed by U.S. federal and state constitutions.

Sponsored by Fort Collins Senate Republican Vicki Marble, Senate Bill 277 was introduced quietly on Friday, March 31. It never mentions the word “sharia,” but it soon came to be known at the Capitol as the “anti-Sharia bill.”

The sweeping language — some might say euphemistic language — of the bill came under fire during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Witnesses suggested ways the bill could bedevil international business contracts and other agreements.

There was little argument against that assessment.

It seemed clear from the arguments that bill wasn’t concerned with international business contracts. It was about family law — about the fear expressed in similar bills introduced around the country that Islamic tenets would be adopted to dictate relations among Americans.

A woman in the front row at the hearing was only half-paying attention to the proceedings. She was reading “The Shia Revival,” a popular and unnerving 2006 book written by U.S. scholar Vali Nasr about the main Shia-Sunni sectarian divide that has fueled conflict for centuries in the Islamic world.

The woman looked up when Iman Jodeh, with the Colorado Muslim Society and the Interfaith Alliance, began to speak from the witness table.

“The sharia law is not one that should be feared,” Jodeh said. “As a matter of fact, it should be admired. Sharia was created at a time when there was no law for Muslims. It was created to defend the rights of Christians and Jews living in predominantly Muslim areas…

“You mentioned the U.S. Constitution, the notion that everyone is created equal in the eyes of God, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that there must be no compulsion in religion — these are all tenets of sharia law.”

She noted that a similar anti-sharia or “foreign law” proposal passed in 2010 by voters in Oklahoma was later struck down by the conservative Tenth Circuit Court for being unconstitutional.

“Let’s not waste our time,” she said.

On this version of anti-sharia law, at least, the committee agreed.

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.

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