Oklahoma's Sharia law ban under questioning by judges–ban singles out one religion
On September 13, 2011 At 8:52 am
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Fear of Islam is resulting in the attempt to ban it in Oklahoma. Judges who are deciding whether Oklahoma can ban Islamic law from the state's courts asked why Islam is being singled out. The ACLU's Micheal Salem, who is defending Oklahoma City Muslim Muneer Awad with support from other Islamic believers in the United States believe that if this ban is declared constitutional, "it will only take 50 percent plus one to ban the next religion," thus creating a slippery slope that would eventually nullify the 1st Amendment protections to freedom of religion. NewsOK reports:
“We just have Sharia law singled out,” Matheson said as he questioned Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick, who argued in defense of the ban becoming part of the state constitution.
“The intent here was to exclude Sharia law and international law,” Wyrick responded.
Oklahoma City Muslim Muneer Awad, with support from Islamic believers in other parts of the United States, claims in a court challenge that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution's protection for freedom of religion.
Another of the three appellate judges who will decide whether the ban will take effect, Terrence O'Brien, wondered if it would affect the preferences of people of other religions in child custody court cases.
Wyrick assured the judge the ban would not apply in those circumstances.
Oklahoma voters approved the ban known as State Question 775 "Save our State" amendment with 70.08 percent of the ballots. The ban's principal author former state Representative Rex Duncan (R) Sand Springs, called for a preemptive strike due to what he perceives as a growing threat from Islam, to keep liberal state judges from considering Sharia law. A few weeks later US District judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange in Oklahoma City disallowed the Oklahoma State Election Board from certifying the election results because she believes another court will declare it unconstitutional.
Fear of Sharia law is rampant in the US, with politicians and pundits furthering this fear. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum have all made their opinions clear as to their anti Sharia law proclivities, with Bachmann actually signing a pledge rejecting Sharia law.
I wrote earlier for IPS about the new Center for Security Policy report “Shariah: The Threat to America,” authored by a team billing itself as “Team B II” (in reference to the 1970s Team B notorious for its alarmist and now-discredited estimates of Soviet military capabilities). The group that produced the report featured a number of the right’s nuttier Islamophobes, including Frank Gaffney, Andy McCarthy, and David Yerushalmi. Given that this sort of thinking is making inroads among congressional Republicans — the report was endorsed by Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Trent Franks (R-AZ), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) — it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the report’s prescriptions to see just how extreme it is.
The central problem with the report is that the authors identify “sharia” with the most literalistic and brutal versions of sharia, and therefore fail to understand what the term might actually mean to the bulk of Muslims worldwide. (When Matt Duss asked Gaffney at Wednesday’s press conference to name any Muslims scholars or theologians who had been consulted in the writing of the report, Gaffney was unable to produce any names.) As a result their prescriptions would amount in practice to a criminalization of virtually any form of Islam.
The report also classifies Sharia law with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Luban writes further:
This is precisely what the report’s recommendations demand, whether or not it’s what the authors intend. Any Muslim who “espouses” or “adheres to” sharia – that is, any practicing Muslim – will thereby be banned from government or military service, prohibited from immigrating to the country, and even opened to prosecution for sedition. The only Muslims immune from this witch-hunt are those “who are willing publicly to denounce shariah” – a surefire recipe for the creation of conversos and crypto-Muslims, but hardly one consistent with the First Amendment.
We might be charitable to the “Team B” authors and argue that they’re simply ignorant: not understanding what sharia actually means, they have identified it with its most extreme manifestations, and therefore wrongly believe that by asking Muslims to renounce sharia they are simply asking them to renounce radical Islam. A less charitable explanation would be that they know exactly what they’re doing, and are seeking to outlaw Islam itself.