JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — Missouri Reps. Paul Curtman and Don Wells agree there’s no evidence that state courts are judging cases based on Islamic principles or foreign laws.
But that’s not stopping them from sponsoring legislation to ban the practice.
Bills introduced this year by the Republican lawmakers aim to prevent Missouri courts from applying laws from other countries or those based on Sharia, the Islamic religious law.
Wells maintains his measure is necessary because an oppressive and violent Islamic legal system is spreading across the world and could someday threaten Missouri.
Curtman’s bill, meanwhile, is less concerned with the encroachment of Islamic law, although its language is a near-exact copy of model legislation from a stridently anti-Muslim source.
Critics in the General Assembly, legal circles and the Muslim community call both measures bigoted and meaningless.
“This is an attack on Islam and clearly an Islamophobia bill,” said Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat who is Muslim. “It’s a bill that’s being pushed by ignorant people that know nothing about Islam.”
Similar measures have been considered in a handful of other states, including Oklahoma, where last November, 70 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment banning the use of Sharia law in state courts. The amendment has since been challenged in federal court as unconstitutional.
Missouri’s debate comes at a time of increasing scrutiny on Muslim Americans nationally and criticism that they’re being unfairly targeted. That discussion peaked last week with a high-profile congressional hearing examining radicalization in the American Muslim community.
The Missouri lawmakers’ bills differ slightly, as does the reasoning behind their introduction.
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