Of the 3,687,050 Oklahomans, 30,000 are Muslims. This means that less than 1% of the population of Oklahoma is Muslim (.81% to be exact). So, what would motivate seven out of ten Oklahomans to ratify a state constitutional amendment which prohibits judges from taking into consideration Sharia law in their decision making process? Is it simply ignorance or something more sinister—where politician are utilizing Islam-bashing for political and financial gain.
The “Save Our State” Amendment is yet another example of the ignorance and insidious misconceptions about Islam in general and especially about American Muslims. Just this last summer, the “near ground zero” mosque debate, brought to light the Islamaphobic and xenophobic hysteria surrounding the issue of building mosques in America and the prospect of Sharia law being “implemented” on American soil. Right-wing groups then made commercials attacking several Democratic candidates for respecting the First Amendment and saying they had no problems with the project. In the case of Oklahoma, legal experts have questioned whether the measure is necessary, given that there is no apparent danger of foreign law becoming binding on the state. They go on to contend that Shariah law is just as much of a threat to legal system of the United States as Jewish Halakhic law or Catholic canon law.
The original measure in Oklahoma was proposed by Rex Duncan, a Republican state representative, who has stated that such a measure would protect the “children and grandchildren” of present day Oklahomans. Despite the law gaining a 70% approval vote on November 2nd, it was immediately challenged in court by Muneer Awad, the head of the regional branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Mr Awad contented that the law thwarted his right to religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. “Islam was the target of this amendment,” Mr Awad said. “This amendment does not have a secular purpose.” On November 8th, Judge Vicki Miles LaGrange agreed with Mr Awad’s concerns and granted a temporary restraining order against the measure, in advance of a hearing on November 22.
On November 29th, the federal judge ruled against a voter-approved restriction on Islamic law. In a 15-page order, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange continued to keep the restriction out of the Oklahoma Constitution. Her ruling was a victory for Mr Awad and the Muslims of Oklahoma. The judge wrote: “This order addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our (U.S.) Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights. Throughout the course of our country’s history, the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals, an occurrence which our founders foresaw and provided for through the Bill of Rights.”