Why Does PA Care About Banishing Sharia Law?

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 33 | Posted Dec. 21, 2011

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What you don’t know can most likely kill you. That’s at least the thought process behind a new bill that’ll be considered in the Legislature when it reconvenes next year. Rep. RoseMarie Swanger of Lebanon County has introduced House Bill 2029, which would amend Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, prohibiting “the application of foreign law which would impair constitutional rights.” And her bill is being supported by more than 40 state reps for one reason: Fighting commonwealth Islamic Jihad within the walls of state government.

It might sound crazy, but in a June 14, 2011, memo to all members of the House (titled “American and Pennsylvania Laws for Pennsylvania Courts–Sharia Law”), Swanger writes bizarre phrases like, “America has unique laws of liberty which do not exist in foreign legal systems, particularly Sharia Law.” And: “We are a nation of laws. Unfortunately, increasingly, foreign laws and legal doctrines—including and especially Sharia Law—are finding their way into U.S. court cases.” Also: “The embrace of foreign legal systems such as Sharia Law, which was inherently hostile to our constitutional liberties, is a violation of the principles on which our nation was founded.” And the bill she introduced to the state House mirrors legislation introduced and passed across Red America in recent years (Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee).

But there’s a problem: Like the voter-ID legislation, which will also be considered in 2012, this is a solution without a problem. There is no visible threat of Sharia Law—a set of Islamic principles some Muslims live by—taking over Pennsylvania. And in banning all foreign laws from Pennsylvania courthouses, some critics claim Swanger is not just using her own cynical form of xenophobic demagoguery over the people of the state and her district, but will make it harder for Jews and Christians, too, to settle personal, civil legal matters.

“The echoes for me are strong of Germany in the 1930s,” says Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Reconstructionist synagogue Mishkan Shalom in Roxborough, “when repeatedly, Jewish Law was brought forward and defamed in the courts as a way of defaming all Jewish tradition.”

When news spread of the anti-Sharia Law last week, Jewish and Muslim leaders from Pittsburgh to Philly began organizing press conferences and meetings rallying against this bill. One such press conference happened last Wednesday, in which the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) organized with local interfaith leaders to decry this bill. Holtzman joined CAIR Philadelphia Executive Director Moein Khawaja, Temple University Religion Professor Dr. Khalid Blankinship, CAIR National Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, CAIR Philadelphia Civil Rights Director Amara Chaudry and others. The news of this bill was not taken lightly.

Holtzman says this bill and others like it are used to “villainize” Muslims, and perhaps the lawmakers who signed onto this bill haven’t thought through the ramifications of banning all foreign law. “They’re putting this forward and somehow think that we won’t pay attention to the anti-Muslim feeling that underlies these laws,” she says. “It may surprise those of us who are not lawyers to realize how often the legal systems of other religious groups are considered and treated with respect in the legal system.”

For example, Orthodox Judaism doesn’t recognize civil divorce, and women aren’t allowed to apply for a religious one. Civil divorce settlements may require husbands to obtain a religious divorce. If he doesn’t, the civil courts sort it out often in order to create an opportunity for a divorced woman to continue living in her community. Other Jewish laws are often brought into the legal system in dealing with state inspection of kosher foods, and autopsies.

“My fellow Jews need to buck up,” says Eric Dondero, editor of Libertarian Republican.net, over the phone from Houston. “The big problem right now is Islam and Islamism invading our country. And if they want to continue to move in, we need to fight back. Their culture is coming here.”

Dondero, a former staffer for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, has blogged extensively about what he calls “creeping Sharia Law” over the past several years. He says if you want to know what Sharia looks like in the United States, all you have to do is look at Europe, where he claims Muslim Europeans have “invaded” the countryside.

“They’re invading Switzerland and a Swedish island called Malmo, where the Muslims are raping all the European and Swedish women,” he says, recalling that city’s reports of lawlessness between the Jewish, Muslim and Neo-Nazi populations. And he fears that if Sharia Law isn’t banned in all states the way it was banned in his, the U.S. is next.

Those at the press conference in Philadelphia see things a bit differently. “The idea is that Muslims only want to apply this law to themselves for matters of personal status, marriage, things like that,” says Blankinship, who has been practicing Islam since the 1970s. “So if somebody writes up a will now and includes Sharia in that law, is the will therefore invalidated?”

The director of Temple’s Religion Graduate Studies says what he perceives to be anti-Muslim fervor is out of control, and this bill is evidence of that. “It is beyond description to say, ‘the Muslims will come in and impose Sharia law on all of the Americans’ when the Muslim population of the U.S. is about six-tenths to eight-tenths of 1 percent, and that community is marginalized put upon and extremely divided amongst itself,” he says. “The idea that this tiny and marginalized minority is going to impose this, that would seem to portray the American public as being very weak individuals, that they want this group to walk all over them and control them.”

For her part, Swanger hasn’t made any statements regarding her bill since last week’s public firestorm. She did not respond to requests for comment from PW.

But it’s unlikely she’ll back down come 2012, even though CAIR’s legal team has vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. A plethora of Republican presidential candidates have made similar arguments against Sharia Law and frontrunner Newt Gingrich has even based several of his newsletters on this very subject, especially during the controversy surrounding the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in N.Y.C.

But its enactment into law doesn’t even seem like the real problem. According to CAIR Civil Rights Attorney Amara Chaudry, Swanger’s rhetoric is “nativist” and “is signaling me out and saying I am foreign and I am dangerous because I am foreign.”

According to Dondero, that’s true. “We like sex, booze and rock ‘n’ roll. Sharia Law and Islamism is the exact opposite of that,” he says, claiming he saw the ‘Muslim invasion’ of Europe while backpacking across the continent a few years back. “It went from topless beaches in the south of France to, all of the sudden, you see a bunch of women with burkas all over the place. And we don’t want that to come to our country. We like our women to be sexy and busty and blonde; obnoxious sexually, you know?”

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 33 of 33
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1. Philly Muslim said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 09:38AM

“The State Legislature would have to pass laws to impose any of the scary punishments that some third world Muslims use. All this will do is stop Muslims from being able to have Muslim wills or use Muslim arbitration... you know, the type of contract that everyone enters into voluntarily.”

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2. philadelphian said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 09:57AM

“"this is a solution without a problemThere is no visible threat of Sharia law" . are you kidding me. this writer is an idiot. you surely cant live in philly. every single day i come across a muslim person making exccuses for poor illegal behavvior by saying the koran is their law. if a cop shows up for a domestic at a mulsim household all of a sudden its" your laws to pertain to me, im muslim i follow sharia law and the koran" . on a daily basis muslim dont pay their rent because its not in the koran. dear lord in heaven get your head out of your ass and open eyes.”

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3. philly gal said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:40AM

“philadelphian, wow. ok, um, your argument is completely illogical and very difficult to respond to, but i'll try. your examples of ways muslims use islam to make "excuses for poor illegal behavior" simply demonstrates your bigotry and anti-islam sentiment. to suggest that HB 2029 is necessary to prevent instances of domestic abuse or to ensure that tenants pay their rent is absurd. no PA court would turn a blind eye to violence against women because someone claims their religions permits it, and, if any police officer walks away from a muslim home when called to investigate domestic disturbance simply because the attacker cited the Qur'an, that officer is to blame. if you know of this happening, i hope you report it to the police immediately. those officers aren't doing their job and must be held accountable. thank you for pointing out how corrupt the PPD is.”

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4. RUNMAD said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 11:07AM

“Hmmm, "We like our women to be sexy and busty and blonde; obnoxious sexually, you know?”

And they say it's Islam that oppresses women. Such a shame that people are duped into thinking that a naked woman is a free and liberated woman. This genius is admitting that he WANTS women to be naked and "obnoxious sexually." Yah, that's a great way for a woman to get ahead. Such a disgrace.

Islam affords women the right to choose how to dress, and encourages them to dress modestly so they are judged by their character, not their physical appearance. I thought women want to let their minds do the talking, not their bodies?

The Taliban/Al Qaeda is not Islam. They're the same as the KKK. Anyone who uses them as the standard for Islam also admits that Christianity is a white man's religion that teaches death to Jews and Blacks.”

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5. Terri said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 12:02PM

“Remember separation of church and state? If Sharia law is imposed by any muslim and that application results in the breaing of one of our laws (domestic abuse, assault, sexual abuse, discrimination, fraud, not paying their bills, murder, etc.) then they should be punished to the full extent of our laws. Why do we need a bill that states the obvious.

We have one set of governing laws in this country period. Obviously then, do not include sharia law in a will and expect it to be enforced in court. I am surprised that the courts even discuss a "religious divorce" during the divorce of Orthodox Jews. It's ridiculous, really.

Many people come here to live in a society governed by law. They seek to escape one that uses fear, intimidation or abuse done in the name of a religion disguised as law. Wake up my fellow citizens, if you see an illegal act committed in application of sharia law - call the police.”

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6. Chris King said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 01:18PM

“Many of you say "No way, not in America. It could never happen". Tell that to the Britts, where there are almost a hundred Sharia Courts, and areas the Police will not even enter. Knowing that, does it still sounds so Tin Foil crazy? If you think so, you may need to pull your head out of the sand.”

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7. NoBiogotry said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 02:30PM

“who will be next to prosecute ... christians, jews, hindus ... wake up America”

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8. Halal Food said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 02:37PM

“OMG, Look sharia has taken over Philly!

LOL - EVERYONE in Philly eats Sharia Compliant food all the time, it's called HALAL. Almost every food cart, and tons of restaurants serve halal (sharia compliant food) and guess what, there have not been mass poisonings in philly or any nonsense. The only thing sharia has done is its given Philly some damn good food.

FOX 29 Loves Halal Chicken:
http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/good_day_philadelphia/good_day_food/ya-gotta-try-this:-halal-chicken

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9. Steve said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 03:18PM

“Terri, that's how it works. You think because a Muslim puts something in a contract that they want interpreted via sharia they can all of a sudden rape and murder and U.S. criminal law won't touch them? The "sharia courts" that Chris King is so afraid of are for personal law and they must be done in accordance with British law. A woman in a divorce can go through sharia courts if she wants but she can also go through the standard court system if she believes that sharia courts didn't protect her rights. It's pretty simple actually. It just seems you don't understand this issue at all and are afraid that somehow if we don't ban sharia then courts will without legislative approval decide to make us into the most repressive third world Muslim country that exists.

:|”

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10. Steve said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 03:20PM

“I should also mention--since halal food posted above--that sharia in the courts can be as mundane as a Muslim suing a food company for claiming his food is halaal. The courts then make a ruling using sharia to decide whether or not it was false advertising.”

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11. mandinka said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 03:43PM

“A solution without a problem?? Why not look to NewJersy where they have used Sharia to settle litigation contrary to US and Sate laws. No mooslims are like camels and are trying to get their nose under the tent”

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12. 215born&raised said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 03:51PM

“Guys, this is clearly a personal prejudice of a person(s) w/power seeking to abuse that power by proposing a bill that seeks to prohibit only what he/she himself doesn't like to see as is evident from his own statement Dondero himself admitted in the article that he saw the ‘Muslim invasion’ of Europe while backpacking across the continent a few years back.' and he didn't like that personnally.

I've always been happy by how our women who cover correctly dress when out in public because they're protecting themselves, their families, and others (including Swanger's and Donderos's). By covering what is only for themselves and their husbands to see (i.e. "sexy and busty and blonde; obnoxious sexually") they are avoiding tempting married men & fathers. (i.e. Clinton, Cain, and a whole slew of politicians, and religious figures sch as Jimmy Swaggart).

Additionally, Blankinship makes a very good point. Refer to the paragraph
"It is beyond description to say, ....”

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13. CHris King said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 04:46PM

“Steve said - "but she can also go through the standard court system if she believes that sharia courts didn't protect her rights."

In reality, women are often pressured by their families into going to these courts and adhering to unfair decisions and may lack knowledge of their rights under British law.”

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14. chris king said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 04:50PM

“Here is a intersting link. Just food for thought, it does not pay to live with your head in the sand.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2VkIu8TL_I”

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15. Anonymous said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 07:27PM

“".........We have one set of governing laws in this country..." , a naive statement.
The laws are being interpreted by judges who either don't know, or are sympathic to Sharia regardless of U.S. prescience in law.
Don't say Sharia laws governing citizens can't happen here.
Rose Marie Swanger is correct in sponsoring this bill.”

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16. Right Here on the Left Coast said... on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:46PM

“According to legal watchdog organizations, there are several hundred cases nationwide in which sharia law is being applied, either in part or whole. The idea that the PA legislature would have to enact the draconian laws of the Mohammedans overlook the tendency for the modern judiciary to legislate from the bench.”

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17. philadelphian said... on Dec 22, 2011 at 11:05AM

“philly gal. YOUR argument is completely illogical and hard to respond to. what part of reality are you out of touch with?? you bring up crap like us courts and ppd. the idea of sharia law is that it completely circumvents the justice system we have here. and please, dont paint my words into the narrow corner of domestic abuse within the muslim community. they apply to the entire rainbow of crimes and misdeeds. landlord tenant disputes are not the only contractual issues either, just an easy obvious one that most everyone has heard of. the idea of anyone being a victim here is ridiculous.”

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18. REAL Philadelphian said... on Dec 22, 2011 at 11:26AM

“Philadelphian, you seem hilariously paranoid. You're unquestionably delusional. And you know absolutely nothing about American or Pennsylvania law.

I used to rent from a Muslim landlord. You know how we resolved our disputes? We talked, like normal people.

By your twisted, insane logic, we need to forbid the observation of Jewish or Catholic law as well.

But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and challenge you to cite ONE instance in which "sharia law ...completely circumvents the justice system we have here."

I already know you can't do it.”

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19. Cleanup Philly said... on Dec 22, 2011 at 11:57AM

“If anyone has been following legal news, this is a problem, this is real, and it is growing. The application of Sharia law in certain states has led to a decrease in hard-fought rights for women and children, especially in the area of divorce and family law.

I suggest that the author do some legal research into the subject of the application of marital contracts that abridge the rights and obligations conferred by states before stating things like "this is a solution without a problem."

When you sign a marriage contract, often in the Islamic tradition it is in Arabic, and often, the signee does not know what it says. What it usually says is that the husband gets full and unconditional custody of the children, is limited in his financial obligations in case of divorce. There have been several news and TV accounts of this problem. If the husband flees to a Muslim state that recognizes only sharia law, there are no grounds for return of the children by US law to honor US custody.”

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20. Chris King said... on Dec 22, 2011 at 01:18PM

“Cleanup Philly - You are exactly right. A dear friends sister married a Muslim from Egypt. Next thing you know her forced into a Hijab. Grandma can not come visit unless he ok's it. No presents from Grandma unless he looks at them and approves them. She would love to leave him, but what does he threaten her with? "If you taker me to court I will take our kids to Egypt and you will never see them again"... He is no less than a Filthy Bearded 14th Century Throwback.”

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21. Anonymous said... on Dec 22, 2011 at 09:24PM

“Muslim man divorcing Muslim woman, she went 1,500 miles away, he is supporting her for two years, pays her apt rent, insurances, childrens expenses, he travels every 2 weeks, rents a car, hotel room, he is under sever financial strain. She does not work!! He is doing it to see the kids and be a good father. While the Florida courts work their way thu the divorce. So stop spreading lies about Sharia!! and that Muslim husbands take advantage of women under it, they do NOT go stock free!!”

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22. Anonymous said... on Dec 22, 2011 at 09:27PM

“Ignorance is bliss. Clean up Philly said:" When you sign a marriage contract, often in the Islamic tradition it is in Arabic, and signee does not know what it says. usually husband gets full and unconditional custody of the children (BALONEY), is limited in his financial obligations in case of divorce. " Utter ignorance or purposeful lies. I know a young Muslim man currently divorcing a Muslim woman, he lives and works 1,500 miles from where the wife took the two children, he flies every two weeks to see the kids, the mother will not even allow him to have the kids visit his hometown, so his parents and everyone have to travel 1,500 miles to see the kids over Christmas break!! He supports her financiall, pays apt rent, all expenses, insurances, etc mother does not work the US laws allow it!! He is under financial strain, travel, rent car, hotel room every 2 weeks!! So stop spouting lies .”

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23. Paul Sims said... on Dec 23, 2011 at 08:55AM

“Thou shalt not head tantivy around the First Amendment!”

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24. The end of modern civilization said... on Dec 23, 2011 at 10:24AM

“What the article doesn't mention is that the Muslim birth rate is 6 per family while Europe is about 1.3 and the US is barley 2.1. It is inevitable that Muslims will dominate the world and Sharia Law will be the only law as every nation becomes Islamic. Europe is experiencing the beginning of the end and the US is going to be the last one standing. As the Muslim population greats larger and larger here, they will demand more and more concessions and before you know it, they will be in the schools, business, judiciary and government and you can kiss the 1st and 2nd amendments goodbye. We must keep Sharia law out, but understand that is only temporary until they have enough of a population to implement their laws. No matter what, the US is doomed and will cease to exist in its' current form within 200 years. Sorry. http://www.shariastinks.com”

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25. Anonymous said... on Dec 23, 2011 at 03:15PM

“The problem with this is that the legislation does not define what is "shariah law", because in shariah law you must pray 5 times a day, women should cover themselves, and so forth. So if shariah law is banned then essentially what the law is telling us that we would be committing a criminal act if we prayed 5 times a day and if a women chose to cover herself. They are slowly chipping away at our right to be an open practicing Muslim, we in PA should try our best to join up with others to prevent this from passing.”

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26. Anonymous said... on Dec 23, 2011 at 03:40PM

“Response to number 25 poster...the intent of the law is to ban Judges from following/implementing laws other than US law. No one's going to stop people from praying once a week or several times a day. No one is going to prevent women from wearing hijabs (unless you're getting on a roller coaster or a nurse washing for surgery, etc). What we don't want in the US is a judge following Sharia law instead of US law. This is the United States of America where we follow the Constitution and laws passed by the Congress as well as laws passed locally and by State legislators. Laws written centuries ago in a far away land have no place in the USA.”

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27. John Weaver said... on Dec 24, 2011 at 05:14PM

“I am a British middle class professional aged 65 who has spent 17 years working in foreign countries, including Libya (Zawiya oil refinery), UAE, and business visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bharain. So I have some actual experience of muslim culture outside of my own country, and enough education to make some sense of it.

I am sorry to have to say, my conclusion is that Islam in whatever form is fundamentally incompatibile with Western democratic ideals. All talk of living with "multiculturalism" is delusional, you will not find such concepts in Muslim countries. If you dont believe me, profess yourself to be Baha'i in Iran or offer to build a church in Saudi Arabia. The first is a capital offence, and the second simply wont happen. You will be given all kinds of reasons why this is "culturally" unacceptable, but it is in fact religious. They are currently teaching 10th grade children in SA how to surgically cut off hands and feet as part of the SA penal code. Dig that?

Wake up!”

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28. Cleanup Philly said... on Dec 28, 2011 at 02:32PM

“#22, I did not say that all states implement or recognize sharia law here. I did say that more and more states are recognizing elements of sharia law. You certainly will see Muslim divorced couples who are bound by US law. Their state, that judge, did not include the terms of the marital contract, if Islamic, in their divorce settlement.

That the article goes so far as to say "this is a solution without a problem" is where there is too much overstatement.”

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29. othersideofthecoin said... on Dec 28, 2011 at 05:29PM

“You are a hypocrite Rabbi. You fought for your own right as a woman to become a rabbi and then you castigate people who fight to make enslavement of women through Islam on our own soil and brand them as Nazis.

You are misreading history and misinterpretaing current events. Women are flogged, stoned to death, forced to adhere to obedience to every whim of their husband, have no protection from divorce laws that automatically take their children away and throw them in the street. You absolutely disgust me, parading around like some spiritually concerned emotionally distraught caring person.

Who do you care about? Look at the Arab Spring, look at the results in Egypt where the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood are taking over. You denigrate the real heroes and courageous people fighting terrorism through their attempts to update the laws so that they are relevant to American realitites and Western realities. Go walk through some of the horrific neighborhoods in Europe by yourself.”

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30. othersideofthecoin said said... on Dec 28, 2011 at 10:23PM

“correction: A sentence in my first comment should have read "You castigate people who fight against the enslavement of women through Islam on our own soil and brand them as Nazis."

Clean up Philly wrote: "When you sign a marriage contract, often in the Islamic tradition it is in Arabic, and often, the signee does not know what it says. What it usually says is that the husband gets full and unconditional custody of the children, is limited in his financial obligations in case of divorce"

Clean up Philly has it right. People do not know what they are getting into. The realities for the children can be horrific if the marriage goes sour. Even if people do things in their native languages, often they do not know understand what legal binds they are getting into. Remember the book "Not Without My Daughter" by Betty Mahmoody?

Questions for the rabbi: Why do you believe in the "victimhood" status of Muslims in the USA? Why don't you worry about the Copts in Egypt, or secular muslims in th”

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31. othersideofthecoin said... on Dec 28, 2011 at 10:29PM

“Questions for the rabbi: Why do you believe in the "victimhood" status of Muslims in the USA? Why don't you worry about the Copts in Egypt, or secular muslims in the new Morocco, or the Christians in Nigeria? Why don't you worry about the people in jail for blasphemy in muslim countries? Why don't you worry about the people in muslim countries who DO NOT want to live by Islamic law?  

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32. Rep. RoseMarie Swanger said... on Dec 29, 2011 at 01:01PM

“My aim is not to banish only Sharia Law, but to prevent any foreign law from being considered in our civil and criminal courts. Much foreign law is contrary to our constitutions and the rights and privileges contained therein, especially pertianing to women. And to make it perfectly clear, I DID NOT write the co-sponsorship memo which made numerous references to Sharia. When this was released without my prior approval, I immediately retracted it and replaced it with language referencing all foreign law, with exceptions, including interenational business law and freedom of religion. Religious practices of any faith will be be affected, just the consideration of foreign law in PA courts by our judges.”

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33. Rep. RoseMarie Swanger said... on Dec 29, 2011 at 01:05PM

“Excuse my haste in comments above. "Pertaining" was misspelled, and the last sentence should read "Religious practices of any faith will not be affected . . . . ." My intentions have been so skewed and misrepresented, that I get more than a little emotional by this unjust criticism.”

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