Georgia Lawmaker Withdraws Bill Targeting Islamic Veils After Backlash

State Rep. Jason Spencer cited the “visceral reaction.”

A Georgia lawmaker withdrew a bill Thursday that would have criminalized Muslim women wearing religious face coverings in public after it received widespread condemnation.

House Bill 3 would have amended an anti-mask rule originally intended to keep Ku Klux Klan members from wearing hoods to commit anonymous hate crimes. Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), who authored the bill, wanted to change the law to include women wearing veils — like the niqab or burqa.

“After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created,” Spencer said in a statement. “While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created.”

Members of Georgia’s Council for American-Islamic Relations said support from interfaith partners helped stop the bill.

“First of all, we want to thank Rep. Spencer for doing the right thing by withdrawing the bill,”Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Georgia CAIR executive director, told The Huffington Post. “We thank our coalition partners, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who stood up for religious freedom. It was reassuring to see the Georgia community uniting so quickly to say that this is not acceptable.”

Penn. Interfaith Leaders Challenge Anti-Sharia Bill

A rabbi, an interfaith leader, and a Temple University professor joined the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Wednesday to denounce as “Islamophobic” a Pennsylvania bill they say is an attack on sharia law, which is followed by devout Muslims.

House Bill 2029, introduced by Rep. Rosemarie Swanger (R., Lebanon), says state courts shall not, in deciding cases, “consider a foreign legal code or system” that lacks “the same fundamental liberties” as the state and federal Constitutions.

The language is plain and seems innocuous. Swanger’s June 14 letter promoting the bill to her colleagues, however, repeatedly mentioned sharia law as a menace.

“Increasingly, foreign laws and legal doctrines – including and especially sharia law – are finding their way into U.S. court cases,” she wrote. “Invoking sharia law, especially in family law cases, is a means of imposing an agenda on the American people.”

Critics say her bill is based on a model of legislation, introduced nationally two years ago, that has had the effect of ostracizing Muslims.

Separately, the Anti-Defamation League of Eastern Pennsylvania, a Jewish antibias group, also criticized the bill.

Anti-Shariah Bill introduced in North Carolina

The state House Judiciary Committee sent a bill to the House floor today, even though no one – not even the sponsor – could come up with any evidence that it’s needed.

House Bill 640, sponsored by Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, would, according to the bill analysis, “prohibit the application or enforcement of a foreign law in a legal proceeding if doing so would violate a right granted by the North Carolina or United States constitutions.” It would also nullify provisions in contracts or agreements “calling for the application of foreign law or choosing a foreign venue…if it violated a constitutional right of a party.”

The first version of the legislation was passed by ballot initiative in Oklahoma. It specifically named Sharia, and was promptly blocked by a judge, who declared that unconstitutional.

Since then, newer versions of the measure in states from Arkansas and Texas to Indiana and Alaska have been more carefully worded. Cleveland’s version makes no mention of religion at all, and it wasn’t mentioned in committee.

But House Minority Leader Joe Hackney has no doubt. “It’s about sharia,” he said “It’s part of the far-right agenda. The extreme far right agenda.”