Muslim group seeks to educate Houstonians on Islamic law?
"People have a concern that the government through the court system is or will get into private religious matters that the courts have no business litigating," said Jonathan Saenz, the institute's director of legislative affairs. "And we want to make sure that we protect the U.S. legal system from the influence of foreign law."
But existing U.S. law already governs when foreign law may apply, just as British or French law decides in which cases to recognize American law, said Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, a law professor at Emory University and Islamic scholar.
Restricting the consideration of foreign law can be detrimental to trade or international movement, he said. A business contract with a company in Malaysia, whose law reflects some aspects of Sharia, could be illegal. A couple married in Saudi Arabia might not be recognized as such in the U.S.
In Texas, Carlson said they restricted the bill to family courts after business groups objected. Ninety percent of cases invoking Sharia law relate to custody and divorce cases, she said, listing two instances in Texas given to her by the American Public Policy Alliance, founded in 2009 to promote "anti-Sharia" laws.