By Elizabeth Tenety
State Sen. Bill Ketron speaks outside the Senate chamber in Nashville on Feb. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) introduced a bill last week outlawing the practice of Sharia, a complex set of religious laws that guide behavior for Muslims.
The bill, embedded below, attempts to define Sharia law and to make following it a felony punishable by 15 years in jail.
The bill’s authors make several generalizations about Islamic interpretation of Sharia.
My former Post colleague Andrea Useem, a Muslim journalist, wrote this summary of Sharia in 2005:
In its broadest sense, sharia is a system of laws based on the Koran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Like other legal systems, it has been elaborated on and debated by trained scholars over the years. The result? Competing schools of legal thought over a body of work that primarily addressed the concerns of Muslim life beginning in the seventh and eighth centuries.
Across the Muslim world, sharia plays out in different ways, depending on whether the local government is secular, strictly Islamist or somewhere in between. It also depends on how local Muslim scholars interpret the law.
Tennessee legislators see Sharia differently. Here’s how they describe the religious laws:
Sharia as legal-political-military doctrinal system:
“Sharia, as defined and understood by traditional and authoritative sharia scholars and leaders, is a legal-political-military doctrinal system combined with certain religious beliefs; further, sharia is based historically and traditionally on a full corpus of law and jurisprudence termed fiqh and usul al-fiqh, respectively, dealing with all aspects of a sharia-adherent’s personal and social life and political society.”
Then, political Islam as required by Sharia:
“Sharia as a political doctrine requires all its adherents to actively support the establishment of a political society based upon sharia as foundational or supreme law and the replacement of any political entity not governed by sharia with a sharia political order.”
Sharia as inherently subversive to American values:
“Sharia requires all its adherents to actively and passively support the replacement of America’s constitutional republic, including the representative government of this state with a political system based upon sharia.”
Violent jihad as required by Islam:
“Sharia in particular includes a war doctrine known as jihad”… then… “The unchanging and ultimate aim of jihad is the imposition of sharia on all states and nations, including the United States and this state; further, pursuant to its own dictates, sharia requires the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions and the imposition of sharia through violence and criminal activity”
So while the bill’s sponsors say that the legislation only seeks to stop Sharia practices that conflict with the Constitution, the legislation implies that Islam requires Muslims to subvert the Constitution through violent or criminal means. Tennessee Muslim leaders have rejected that interpretation of their faith.
The legislation emerges against a backdrop of tense religious relations.
An ongoing debate over whether or not Muslim citizens should be allowed to build a new mosque in Murfreesboro, shows just how fraught relations are between Muslim residents and Islam skeptics. One recent headline read “Vanderbilt Poll Finds 62% Surveyed Say Muslims Should Have Same Rights.”
Naim Mohammed, middle, and other community members converse after breaking their fast for Ramadan and eating a meal prepared by community members Friday night at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Erin Parker/ The Washington Post
Oklahoma voters approved a measure similar to the Tennessee legislation in November. The measure, which outlaws the use of Sharia as a legal system, read, in part:
This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.
Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
Shall the proposal be approved?
70 percent of Oklahoma voters said yes.
How do you interpret the events unfolding in Tennessee?