Muslim advocacy leader reacts to state Senator's vow to revive anti-Sharia bill
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03/14/12 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

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A bill that died in the Florida legislature this year would have outlawed the use of foreign laws in courtrooms. But the bill’s sponsor has said he will reintroduce the initiative next year if he is reelected. The leader of a Muslim advocacy group isn’t happy about the message that sends.

“Shame on Mr. Hays. Shame on him for promoting division in a time when our country needs unity. Shame on him for promoting legislation that marginalizes minorities; that attacks particular faith groups.”

Hassan Shibly, director of the Tampa Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the failed initiative by Republican Senator Alan Hays both unnecessary and harmful to religious freedoms of all Americans. Shibly said the Muslim community is unfairly portrayed by people who ignorantly fear them.

“I was in Orlando the other day, in a Muslim doctor’s house – a multi-millionaire, on the board of all these non-profit organizations, saving American lives every single day in his practice. He’s one of the only doctors that accepts Medicaid patients. And he’s a very devout and practicing Muslim. And he said, ‘it’s so shameful that in my community I’m so respected and I’m saving human lives every day – my patients aren’t Muslim, they’re average Americans and I’m saving their lives everyday – many of whom can’t even afford the treatment and I’m treated like an enemy; like a criminal.’”

And as celebration of the failed so-called anti-Sharia bill winds down, Shibly is now taking on another cause.

“Star Taxi, it’s alleged that they allow their taxi drivers to read the bible on their break, to smoke, to go to the bathroom, to do whatever they want, but if they’re Muslim they cannot be caught praying even when they’re praying outside of public view in private. One Muslim was caught privately praying – in fact, he had to pray next to a dumpster because Star Taxi wouldn’t give him time or any accommodation even though they are required by law to do so – to pray in any private place. So, he had to find his own private place next to a dumpster where he wouldn’t be bothering anybody and they still fired him for doing that and I think that’s just outrageous.”

Shibly is representing eight Orlando Taxi drivers in a discrimination suit. He is worried that defending the rights of Muslims, and all religious followers, to practice freely will fuel the argument made by Senator Alan Hays. Shibly said that would be unwarranted.

“This has nothing to do with Sharia. This is about title VII of the civil rights act which protects the religious freedom of all people in America.”

The complaint filed by Shibly also alleges that the taxi drivers weren’t allowed to speak their language to each other.





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