TN Bill Calls Two Or More Observant Muslims A ‘Sharia Organization’

shariaAfter initial objections, lawmakers in Tennessee are moving a new version (pdf) of the most expansive anti-Sharia bill yet. The legislation has already been passed by committees in each chamber. The bill’s house sponsor has even cited defense against possible retaliation terror attacks for Osama bin Laden’s death to justify its breadth.

Tennessee is one of more than fifteen states trying to push laws banning Sharia — referring to the legal code of Islam. The bill says Sharia is “inextricably linked” to its “war doctrine known as jihad.”

The February version of the Tennessee bill was spiked for specific references to a particular religion, but caveats in the new incarnation make clear that only Islamic practices are in the cross-hairs. The bill says it:

neither targets, nor incidentally prohibits or inhibits, the peaceful practice of any religion, and in particular, the practice of Islam by its adherents. Rather, this part criminalizes only the knowing provision of material support or resources…to designated sharia organizations…or to known sharia-jihad organizations with the intent of furthering their criminal behavior.

So abiding privately by Sharia (ie, being an observant Muslim) is fine. But when a Muslim starts practicing Islam with partners or in a group, they are forming a “Sharia organization”:

“Sharia organization” means any two (2) or more persons conspiring to support of acting in convert in support of, Sharia or in furtherance of the imposition of sharia…

That means, in Tennessee, a Muslim could not form a non-profit that operated a mosque, a religious charity, or any other organization that goes beyond practicing religion in solitude.

Furthermore, the standard for demonstrating adherence to Sharia is absurdly broad. The bill says subscribing to “Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali, Ja’afariya, or Salafi, as those terms are used by sharia adherents, is prima facie sharia without any further evidentiary showing.” Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i,and  Hanbali are the only schools of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence. So following Sunni religious rules in concert with anyone else would be illegal.

The new version of the Tennessee bill maintains the minimum 15-year sentence for knowingly providing “material support or resources to a designated sharia organization.” However, if the support causes a death, the sentence becomes life imprisonment.

The Tennessee bill’s key sponsor on the Senate side, Sen. Bill Ketron (R), who’s mulling a run for Congress, is an eccentric lawmaker, having proposed that the state look into creating its own currency in case the Fed collapses. More than a sixth of the bills he’s sponsored in the current session deal with deregulating alcoholic beverages (which incidentally are prohibited by Sharia).

The sponsor of the bill in the House, Rep. Judd Matheny (R)  has sought to promote the bill using potential retaliatory attacks for the killing of Osama bin Laden. “When developed it took into account several contingencies such as this,” he said.

Cross-posted from The Wonk Room.