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Critics: Idaho's Anti-Sharia Law Bill Based on "Misconceptions"

Hate crimes against Muslims increased 54 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to FBI statistics. (Samia Ann El Moslimany/CAIR-Washington State)
Hate crimes against Muslims increased 54 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to FBI statistics. (Samia Ann El Moslimany/CAIR-Washington State)
March 2, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – Members of the Muslim community are speaking out against Idaho legislation they say is targeting them.

House Bill 419 passed through the House this week and is now heading to the Senate. The bill would "prohibit the application of foreign laws in Idaho courts." It's the third year in a row State Representative Eric Redman, R-Athol, has introduced the bill and, while its language isn't specifically aimed at Sharia law, Redman has said that is the intention.

Amineh Safi, government affairs department coordinator with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says the bill is unconstitutional. She also thinks Redman doesn't understand what Sharia law is.

"Sharia law is not some oppressive regime or practice that Muslims are trying to incorporate,” she says. “On the contrary, it is Islam – and therefore, Sharia law – that tells us to serve our neighbors and respect them, and to be good citizens of a country and abide by the laws of a country."

While no Idaho judge has made a decision based on foreign laws, Representative Redman believes it could happen.

In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center obtained 47 pages of email correspondence through the Freedom of Information Act between Redman and organizations the center calls "anti-Muslim hate groups," such as ACT for America and the Center for Security Policy.

Attacks against Muslims and their places of worship are on the rise. According to FBI data, hate crimes against Muslims increased by 54 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Safi says her organization has heard reports of children as young as seven being bullied because of their faith. She says political leaders can drive that kind of hate.

"When people who are supposed represent all of us, and are supposed to uphold and protect law, and they are perpetuating these same misconceptions, then people believe them and they think that they're justified,” says Safi. “So, it just re-empowers people who have a misunderstanding and they think that their misunderstandings are somehow true, because a representative is passing them along."

About one percent of Idaho's population is Muslim. Several other states around the country are considering similar bills to ban Sharia law.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID