State representative’s bill shakes up East Lansing Muslim community

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On April 20, Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, proposed a bill that would ban Michigan residents from using other countries’ laws in Michigan courts, according to the House Law and Justice Committee bill records.

The bill has been referred to the committee, according to MLive. Ten states prohibit the use of foreign laws in their court systems, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The bill was introduced after a Muslim doctor in Detroit performed female genital mutilation on two children from Minnesota.

Eleven Republican state representatives currently co-sponsor the bill, but it has met opposition from Democratic state representatives–especially Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, and Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn because they believe the bill is xenophobic, according to the committee’s bill records.

MSU Muslim Students Association member, Hauwa Abbas, said she was “really surprised” by the bill’s focus since female genital mutilation isn’t associated with Sharia law, Abbas said.

“It has nothing to do with discouraging female genital mutilation,” said Abbas, an advertising senior. “It’s also not a part of Sharia law, so those two things don’t make sense when you put them together because they’re not synonymous with one another.”

Abbas said many Muslims practice female genital mutilation, but it’s not because of Sharia. It’s cultural. Most cultures that practice female genital mutilation are primarily Muslim, but the practice is not religious.

This leads to people making a general association between female genital mutilation and Islam, “because the country is predominantly Muslim,” Abbas said.

Outreach director of the Islamic Center of East Lansing Thasin Sardar said the bill is an “anti-foreign” bill and “essentially” targeting Muslims.

Sardar said Hoitenga is targeting the Sharia law in which Muslims follow after Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, was accused of female genital mutilation, even though Hoitenga said in a statement “this legislation does not target any specific group or religion.”

“We all can see right through her agenda,” said Abbas. “If you didn’t want to target a group or target a group of people, why would you even mention Sharia. Sharia is only for Muslims, everybody knows that.”

Sharia Law is a “code of ethics” for Muslims such as marriage rules, washing before praying and other rules for daily activities. They are not uniform and can vary from state to state, even community to community, Sardar said.

Sharia is a set of principles or practices intended to guide Muslims along a spiritual way, or path. It is not a replacement for or above the local laws where one lives.

“Just because Sharia permits something, doesn’t mean you can go and practice it,” Sardar said. “The local law of the land is considered supreme and you’re required to abide by it.”

Abbas said the lawmakers supporting this bill mistakenly associate Sharia with female genital mutilation.

But something that people overlook, Abbas said, is that parts of the U.S. Constitution reflect Sharia principles.

MSU religious studies professor Morgan Shipley, said even with the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the idea of a creator can bring up issues among Americans who have a type of “civil religion.”

“Americans are bound together by their patriotism,” Shipley said. “But when that’s connected to the issues of a creator, well is that a creator for only certain types of people? s that a creator for all people? What do you do for people who don’t believe in that way?”

Shipley said there have been numerous times in American history that certain migrants and religions, such as the Irish and Catholics, have been persecuted.

However, looking down upon other religions hasn’t stopped the notion of the U.S. being a creation by god, Shipley said, which gives a sense of religion always being connected with the ideas of politicians in the U.S.

Shipley said there hasn’t been all this discourse in the past, as Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers defended Muslim rights.

“You have these moments that blows your mind that 100, 200 years ago people could be so pluralistic and tolerant,” Shipley said.

Tolerance, Shipley said, could also not be seen as a positive thing.

Abbas said she’s lucky not to have met people who are intolerant of her being Muslim, but that doesn’t mean she feels safe.

“I feel so lucky to be able to not have to fear like that, but who knows? I could go to another location… and all of a sudden, my life is now on the line because of the rhetoric that’s been spread,” Abbas said. “A lot of our lives are on the line as of right now.”

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