08/16/2013 - Interfaith groups and concerned residents are telling state lawmakers not to override the governor's veto of a bill they feel is rooted in bigotry. The bill, which outlaws Sharia Law in Missouri, passed overwhelmingly in the legislature.
Faizan Syed, executive director of the St. Louis Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relation, said Gov. Jay Nixon has taken a lot of heat for his veto of a bill which outlaws Sharia Law in Missouri.
photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
"I am glad Governor Nixon vetoed this bill," said Beth Damsgaard-Rodriguez of Glendale. "For me, his action was a no-brainer, but I do think he should be commended for declaring that the bill addresses a non-issue. We have so many real issues in the state, but our legislators come out with this for us?"
Damsgaard-Rodriguez, who has led interfaith dialogues at area churches and is a consultant for youth tolerance programs, said the anti-Sharia Law measure is basic fear-mongering. She said she is not a scholar on Sharia, but she said every religion has rules from the past that are outdated and subject to ridicule.
"The point is, no city in Missouri is contemplating imposing Sharia Law on its residents," said Damsgaard-Rodriguez. "So, this bill really just seems to be about being hurtful. Folks who are wary about Muslims should go to the source. Meet some. Go to an interfaith dialogue."
In an effort to further interfaith studies, tolerance and understanding, Damsgaard-Rodriguez has helped organize House of Worship Tours in the St. Louis area.
"The mosques here and the Islamic Foundation invite people to meet with them," said Damsgaard-Rodriguez. "We have a new segment of Bosnian Muslims in our St, Louis population. They have been exemplary citizens for 20 years. They work hard and are open and positive. They have been a great addition to our city."
ACT For America
David Wissler with ACT For America, which has the self-described mission of protecting "Christian interests," said his group is urging legislators to override the Nixon veto of the anti-Sharia Law bill. The group wants the bill approved as state statute across the U.S.
The bill passed in the Missouri Senate by 24-9 and by 109-41 in the House. If the bill comes up for an override and legislators vote as they did on the original bill, they will succeed in voiding Gov. Nixon's veto.
"We do not need to wait for radical Muslims to locate here and to try to impose Sharia Law on Missouri," said Wissler, who resides in Crestwood. "These people want to get their foot in the door and impose their culture on us. This is the time to act.
"There was really no reason for Nixon to veto this bill, which passed by big majorities," added Wissler. "I was thrilled that the anti-Sharia Law bill passed by so many votes in Jefferson City."
Wissler's ACT chapter has met at Crestwood City Hall in the past, but was asked not to return to the city's location after it started showing a film called "The Third Jihad." The controversial film has been praised and vilified for its approach to foreign policy issues and the Muslim faith.
"We were meeting at Crestwood City Hall as part of the Gravois Township Republicans and all hell broke loose about the film," said Wissler. "Apparently some aldermen got anonymous phone calls about not liking the film on city property.
"I think there is a coverup about the intentions of radical Muslims," said Wissler. "I also think Nixon is covering up about his real reasons for vetoing the bill against Sharia Law. He does what Obama tells him to do.
"We need this bill upheld," insisted Wissler. "It's been kicked around in the legislature for several years now. We finally get it passed, and Nixon goes and vetoes it."
In contrast to ACT for America, the St. Louis Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relation (CAIR) is urging that Gov. Nixon's veto be sustained in the statehouse session this September.
Faizan Syed, executive director of the local CAIR chapter, said his group applauds the governor "for his courageous action in vetoing the bill on Sharia Law." He said the bill is bad for adoptive families, bad for St. Louis companies doing international business and bad for Missouri.
"I know the governor has taken some heat for what he did," said Syed, a 2006 graduate of Kirkwood High School. "On the Internet, you'll find the governor being attacked with some very bigoted language. It's by people who hate all Muslims, but it's not very credible stuff.
"The bill has been floating around the legislature for several years," said Syed. "In its original form, it was very clearly unconstitutional. Now the language of the bill is more vague, but the original intent to put down Muslims is still there."
Missouri lawmakers have joined Louisiana, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee in passing a law banning Sharia Law from being adopted by cities, counties or states and their court systems.
Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for Missouri and southern Illinois, said her organization has expressed concern and dismay over legislative acts against Sharia, as well as increasing violence against mosques and Islamic centers in recent years.
"The anti-Sharia bills are more than a matter of unnecessary public policy. These measures are, at their core, predicated on prejudice and ignorance," said Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL. "If the hysteria over Sharia Law continues to percolate through our political and social discourse, there is bound to be unintended consequences."