On Thursday evening, March 19, the Irving City Council passed a resolution that expressed support for Texas House Bill 562, a proposed piece of legislation that is scheduled for its first public hearing in Austin next week. It is a bill that has been nicknamed American Laws for American Courts.
Irving’s symbolic nod was close, won only in a vote of 5 to 4. The resolution was one heated agenda item, too. It brought out an estimated 500 residents from the City of Irving in the Dallas area. The local, large Muslim population also turned out at City Hall, complaining that HB 562 was discriminatory to them because the bill codifies that US and Texas laws supersede foreign laws.
It is something that should make perfect sense — that the laws of the United States and Texas, and their respective constitutions supersede foreign law. HB 562 was authored by state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) and was coauthored by 34 other state legislators. One of them, state Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) spoke on behalf of the bill at the meeting.
The Muslim community’s point of contention with the City’s resolution was that they felt targeted by HB 562 because of their faith; however, there was nothing in HB 562 that mentioned race, religion, or creed. Nor did Leach’s proposed legislation prevent the practice of “tribunals” where religious leaders act as arbitrators in family, business or other situations whether it be Catholic Ecclesiastical Law, Jewish Halakhah Law, or Muslim Sharia Law.
“This bill does not mention, at all, Muslims, Sharia Law, Islam, even religion. It specifically talks about foreign laws not taking precedent over US laws and those of the state of Texas,” Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne stated during the council meeting.
HB 562 would only prohibit the application of any “foreign laws” should they infringe upon federal or state law. It protects the fundamental rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and Texas Constitution.
Unfortunately, that is what appeared to be the problem.
Previously, Breitbart Texas reported that an Islamic Tribunal using Sharia law was operating in Texas. One of its “judges” Dr. Taher El-badawi told Breitbart Texas that the tribunal which operates under Sharia law was a form of “non-binding dispute resolution.” There are four Islamic attorneys onsite who called themselves “judges”.
Subsequently, it turned out that the same four Dallas lawyers were not listed as members of the State Bar of Texas, which made them ineligible to practice law legally in the state, according to Breitbart Texas.
HB 562 also stirred up the progressives. During public comment, one woman resident blamed conservative media like “Breitbart and Fox News” for Islamophobia, but she did not blame radical Islam. Councilman Dennis Webb picked a fight with the Mayor.
When 25 year Irving resident Harvey Hassan, who identified himself as a Muslim, spoke, he blamed the US for Bin Laden, claimed that Hamas was created by Israel, and said that fears of Islam are unfounded. He also added that Sharia tribunal courts would save Texans tax dollars.
On the other hand, a resolution supporter asked “How can affirming our Constitution be negative? Both our Constitution and Pledge of Allegiance affirms justice for all.”
Later, Van Duyne reminded everyone that this is a country that affords everyone the right to come down to a city council meeting in a society with freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the freedom to petition the government and change laws.
Yet she has taken a beating in the local mainstream media for wanting to uphold US and Texas law. They have painted her as an Islamophobe. She pondered,“Why people think this is hatred or bigotry is beyond me. We live in the most diverse zip code in America.”
Despite HB 562 fear-mongering, the Mayor urged people to read the proposed legislation. After the vote, she spoke to Breitbart Texas. She said she was disheartened by the not-so-subtle message emanating from those against the resolution. “If you are pro-US Constitution you must be anti-Muslim? It’s shocking and not true. All of us who live in this country should embrace our constitution and our way of life.”
Van Duyne punctuated for everyone at the meeting the importance of Texas and US laws, as well as uniting behind them. She said, “respect them, obey them, embrace them.”
She also told Breitbart Texas that the reason the resolution came about was at the insistence of constituents who supported HB 562 and brought it to the attention of the Irving City Council.
In 2013, the North Dallas Gazette reported that of Irving’s 200,000 inhabitants, 30,000-40,000 of those residents were Muslim. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is home to the fourth largest Muslim population in the United States, says Dallas Magazine.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.