Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Reaction to Oklahoma's controversial, precedent-setting anti-Sharia law

Photo by Il Primo Uomo/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A closely watched and potentially influential state initiative banning the use of Islamic Sharia law (also spelled Shariah and Shari'ah) in Oklahoma passed by an overwhelming margin yesterday.

In The Washington Post's On Faith column today, political science professor Muqtedar Khan wrote:

Critics of Shariah in Oklahoma argue that they also oppose the Shariah law because it is against freedom of religion. In this age, when ignorance and bigotry are being celebrated in America, I am sure that most people in Oklahoma must have missed the irony in the situation.

The key sentence in the State question 755 is: It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Shariah Law. The proposition also bans international law. To consider how ignorant both the authors and the voters of the proposition are, please take a look at Article Six, Section I, Clause II of the US constitution. It is called the supremacy clause.

According to this clause, international treaties to which the U.S. government is a signatory become "the supreme law of the land". Treaties, along with custom and UN declarations are the main sources of international law (the proposition 755 actually mentions it). Thus by rejecting international law the proposition designed to institutionalize Islamophobia in Oklahoma, has effectually said "thanks, but no thanks" to the U.S. Constitution.

The initiative, approved by more than 70 percent of Oklahoma voters, is relevant beyond that state. It has been seen as a potential precursor to similar anti-Sharia "pre-emptive strike" initiatives in other states, and to Muslims taking on the role of cultural wedge minority in state political campaigns, a role now predominantly occupied by Latinos.

Oklahoma state politics gave birth to a strict anti-illegal immigration law that was a precursor to Arizona's SB 1070, a similar but far less familiar measure known as HB 1840, adopted in 2007. HB 1840 and Oklahoma's immigration politics were the subject of this year's documentary film "Panic Nation."

The back-and-forth in the comments section beneath the Post piece today has been heated and at times ugly. One reader identified as "Lyndabld" wrote:

We already have laws on the books - American Laws, and Shariah law has no place in America. It prohibits freedoms of choice, speech, and all rights. If the Muslims don't like our laws, then they are free to know, go back to Iran.

To which another reader, "Sali18," wrote in her response:
The sharia law vote in Oklahoma is one of the most ignorant and shameful moments in American election history. It's also against the 1st amendment, which states that congress shall make no law respecting the establishment, and thus, the non-establishment, of religion. Funny how Oklahomans are "defending America" against the Constitution. Funny how un-American they're turning out to be.