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Florida Muslims rally in opposition to bill

Muslims from all over Florida rallied at the State Capitol Tuesday.  It’s become a regular event during the legislative session.  But Tom Flanigan reports the group actually had some hostile legislation to oppose this year….

More than a hundred people gathered on the steps of Florida’s Historic Old Capitol. This was the Fourth Annual Florida Muslim Capitol Day.  In past years, the event was a chance for members of the Islamic faith from different parts of the state to get together and make their presence known to lawmakers.  This year there was a more specific focus..

“Do we like HB 1209?  (“NO!!!”)  “Do we like HB 1209?  (“NOOO!!!”) “How do we want legislators to vote on HB 1209?”  (“NOOOOO!!!!!!”)  “The reason we don’t like HB 1209 is because we think it’s bad for America and it violates our constitutional rights.”

House Bill 1209 would ban what it calls any foreign legal system or code to be used in any number of situations in Florida.  Most specifically, marriage and family law circumstances.  Although not mentioned by name in the bill, it’s presumed the foreign legal system being referred to is “Sharia Law”.  That’s the literal interpretation of the principles set forth in the Koran.  The prime sponsor of the bill in the Florida House is Larry Metz, Republican from Eustis.  Its Senate companion is primarily sponsored by Alan Hays from Umatilla, also a Republican.  But Muslim Day organizer Ahmed Bedier told the crowd they didn’t actually write the legislation.

“We know that because the person who drafted this law and came up with this idea is a lawyer all the way in Arizona who’s not even a lawmaker.”

Bedier identified that man as David Yerushalmi who heads the group “Society of Americans for National Existence.”  It takes a decidedly anti-Islamic viewpoint.  But Bedier says it’s not only Florida Muslims who need to be concerned.

“The Jewish community and one of their leading organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, has said that this legislation would in fact hurt observant Jews in Florida, just as it would hurt the observant Muslims in Florida.”

Bedier insisting the bills, if passed, would force believers to violate their religious and moral principles in deference to secular law.  Especially in certain kinds of family situations.

“We’re not the people who are un-American.  They are for violating the constitution and introducing legislation that limits religious freedom.”

But while the rally continued on the Old Capitol steps, the progress of the bill’s Senate version continued inside the New Capitol.  The Hays bill passed the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations.  The House version is already on the floor.


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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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