Photo by Chriszwolle/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A photo of an Oklahoma state highway map, February 2010
The Atlantic's politics editor Marc Ambinder wrote yesterday about an as-of-yet obscure "anti-Sharia law" initiative that has made it onto the Oklahoma state ballot, and how if it performs well with voters, we might see a series of similar initiatives used as a cultural wedge issue in other states. From the post:
Will anti-Sharia law initiatives be in future election cycles what anti-gay marriage initiatives were before? That is, a cultural wedge issue the GOP uses to ensure that hard-core conservatives enthusiastically flock to the polls?
If so, then Oklahoma is the proverbial canary in the coal mine for this type of initiative. One of 11 ballot initiatives in the state this November, State Question 755, better known as the "Save Our State" constitutional amendment, would prevent courts from using international or Sharia law. The question made it to the ballot by passing the state Senate 41-2 and the House 82-10. In addition to potentially rallying the conservative base to the polls, the initiative, which bans something that is nearly impossible statutorily, is worth watching because the GOP may employ it in swing states two years down the line.
State Question 755 is of particular interest because Oklahoma was a proving ground for state anti-illegal immigration legislation that would foreshadow Arizona's SB 1070. In 2007 the state adopted HB 1804, a measure that received scant attention at the time but that would lead the way among state laws targeting undocumented immigrants. This despite the fact that Oklahoma is landlocked and has a relatively small Latino population (and, one would assume, an even smaller Muslim population).
Critics have called State Question 755 xenophobic. The initiative's proponents see it as a pre-emptive strike against the Islamic system of law coming to the United States, based on similar concerns that have been voiced in Europe. Ambinder goes on to write: "If this initiative over-performs in November, look for a potential wave of 'preemptive strikes' against Sharia law in the years ahead."
If so, it also means that Muslims could be joining Latinos as a cultural wedge minority in state politics.