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Some good reads as State Question 755 winds its way through court

Photo by Il Primo Uomo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A temporary restraining order will continue in effect until the end of this month blocking a controversial new Oklahoma law that, if implemented, would amend the state's constitution to ban the use of Islamic Sharia law in the state's courts. United Press International reported that in a hearing today, a federal judge in Oklahoma City extended an order blocking implementation of what was known on the ballot as State Question 755, approved by voters in the Nov. 2 election.

The ballot initiative was approved by an overwhelming majority - 70 percent - even though there is no known instance of Islamic law ever being cited in Oklahoma courts.

Two days after the ballot measure was approved, the director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed suit to stop its implementation on constitutional grounds. Today the restraining order was extended until Nov. 29, when a ruling is expected on whether the law violates the U.S. constitution.

So what to make of this complicated case unfolding halfway across the country, and what broader implications does it have beyond the Sooner State, for Muslims and non-Muslims? There have been some interesting reads lately regarding State Question 755, the questions it raises, the conversations surrounding it, and the political implications it carries.

Here are a few:

  • The New York Times had a great piece last weekend examining the role that Islam (and anti-Islamic fear-mongering) played in the election, to the extent that one state lawmaker who didn't support the measure because he thought it unnecessary was ridiculed in mailers sent out by his opponent's campaign that showed him next to "a shadowy figure in an Arab headdress."

  • Slate recently published a good explainer on what constitutes an Islamic will. The lawsuit filed by CAIR Oklahoma's director Muneer Awad alleges that the anti-Sharia law initiative would essentially invalidate Islamic wills, which are quite specific.

  • Time published a piece the other day that pointed out what for some is already obvious: Muslims have now joined Latinos and others before them as an election-year cultural wedge minority. "The strategy of designating an alien 'other' for political ends is hardly new in human history, and over the centuries it has been employed with equal expediency by the left and the right," the piece reads.

  • A critical opinion piece in The Atlantic last week questioned the constitutionality of State Question 755, as well as the political motives behind it. "We have seen a systematic attempt by one side of the political debate to amass power by screaming that the Muslims are coming, with their Mosques and their Korans and their Sharia, whatever that is," the piece reads.

  • On the very opposite end of that spectrum, Forbes published an opinion piece by Abigal R. Esman, the author of "Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West," that argues in favor of the Oklahoma law, pointing to a New Jersey legal case which its proponents have cited as their inspiration.

  • Lastly, The Wall Street Journal generated a torrent comments (more than 800) with a simple yes-no poll earlier this week that asked the question: "Is an Oklahoma referendum which bans Shariah law constitutional?"

The outcome of the State Question 755 case, much like that of the federal legal challenge against Arizona's SB 1070, will be closely watched to see what legal precedent it sets. But the political precedent, at least, has already been set: The Los Angeles Times and other outlets have reported that similar laws are already being considered in others states.
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