Refraining from eating pork? Giving alms to the poor? These could become criminal activities in Tennessee, where a proposed law would make adherence to Sharia — or Islamic law — illegal and punishable with jail time.
While a number of other states have filed legislation seeking to keep Sharia out of the courts, Tennessee is going one giant step further by attempting to outlaw it entirely.
Senate Bill 1028, introduced by State Sen. Bill Ketron, gives the state Attorney General authority to designate “Sharia organizations,” defined as “two (2) or more persons conspiring to support, or acting in concert in support of, sharia or in furtherance of the imposition of sharia within any state or territory of the United States.” Anyone who provides material support or resources to a designated Sharia organization could be charged with a felony and face up to 15 years in jail.
The bill states its intent is not to outlaw free religion, or the practice of Islam. It claims that Sharia presents a real threat to Tennessee. Ketron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tennessee is just the latest in a string of states to consider anti-Sharia legislation. But unlike in some other states, where the language in the legislation avoids explicitly mentioning Sharia by name, Tennessee’s bill goes so far as to call Sharia “treasonous” and incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.
From the bill:
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 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.
The knowing adherence to sharia and to foreign sharia authorities is prima facie evidence of an act in support of the overthrow of the United States government and the government of this state through the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions by the likely use of imminent criminal violence and terrorism with the aim of imposing sharia on the people of this state.
Faced with criticism, on Wednesday, Ketron and State Rep. Judd Matheny, who introduced the House version of the bill, put out a statement framing the legislation as an antiterrorism bill.
This bill does not interfere with the constitutionally protected rights of those who practice Sharia religious law,” added Senator Ketron. “This is not about religious rights or about those who practice Islamic beliefs. It’s about protecting our citizens from acts of terrorism that come from Sharia jihad which is a growing threat in all our states.”
Tennessee is still in the midst of a heated debate over the building of a new mosque in Murfreesboro.
For an in-depth look at the origins of Sharia anxiety in the U.S., check out TPM’s investigation on the subject.
Here’s the text of the bill: