An estimated 1.3 million Americans identify as Muslim, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, a respected count published by Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. That amounts to fewer than 1 percent of the population nationally. Florida has a similar share.
If passed, Hamze said, Florida's legislation would have virtually no effect because he says he's not aware of the issue ever coming up in a state courtroom. He believes the message, however, would be a harmful one.
Others have come to the side of Muslim advocates, including the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent defender of Jewish causes. Andrew Rosenkranz, regional director for the ADL in Florida, issued a statement calling the bills unnecessary and saying they could jeopardize agreements reached in religious settings such as a Jewish tribunal.
"The alleged threat of Islamic, other religious or foreign law to Florida's court system is completely illusory, and the Senate's consideration of this measure is an unwise use of resources," Rosenkranz said. "At best, this bill is wholly redundant as the Florida and U.S. constitutions already prohibit the unconstitutional application of foreign law in the courts."
Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalhala, the House sponsor of the bill, did not return a call seeking comment. In floor debate on the measure Thursday, he suggested it was necessary legislation.
"With the increasing internationalization of our economy, the opportunity for foreign law to become an issue in a court proceeding in Florida is greater than ever before," he said. "It's incumbent upon the Legislature to provide guidance."
Hays said those who oppose the bill are mistaken about its intentions. He said he wasn't aware what led to the legislation's introduction — another version of it failed last year — or who might have had a role in crafting its language, which he said was ultimately put together by Metz.
"I don't care where the law comes from or who the originators of the law are," Hays said. He said those with concerns need to do just one thing to ease their fears: "Read the bill."
Associated Press Writer Bill Kaczor in Tallahassee contributed to this report.
Follow Matt Sedensky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sedensky .
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.