Detroit legislator, Muslim groups call proposed state law "polarizing" and "racist"

Aug 16, 2011

The only Muslim in the Michigan state legislature says a bill that targets “foreign laws” is xenophobic political pandering, and offensive to the Muslim community.

Detroit State Representative Rashida Tlaib blasted the bill that aims to “restrict the application of foreign laws.”

She says the bill, sponsored by West Michigan Republican Dave Agema, is a coded reference to Sharia law.

Tlaib says Muslims have lived in Michigan for generations without ever trying to impose religious laws. “This is taking a community, targeting them, and  casting suspicion on them,” says Tlaib. “And it’s completely wrong.”

The bill has more than 40 Republican co-sponsors. Governor Snyder’s office says he doesn’t have a position on the bill yet because he hasn’t reviewed it.

Agema, speaking on WJR’s Frank Beckmann Show, says his intention is to protect the Constitution, not discriminate against Muslim-Americans.

“It's not anti-Muslim at all,” said Agema. “In fact, America has freedom of religion. The problem is if you have every religion coming here -- you've got to remember Sharia law is not a religion. Sharia law is a way of life. It includes government. It includes punishment for everything you do.”

But Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan says its application would likely target Muslims.

“If someone wants to file a legal challenge because the Dearborn Public Schools offers Halal meat to students because the majority of the students there are Muslims, they can say Dearborn schools system is under a foreign type or system of Sharia.”  

Walid says if Governor Snyder were to sign the law, civil rights groups would “file a lawsuit the very next day.”

Similar legislation has been introduced in more than 20 states.