Crisis Averted: The Advance of Shariah Law in Oklahoma Blocked by Constitutional Amendment
Barack Obama expressed on his recent trip to Indonesia a desire to heal fractured relations between the United States and the Islamic world. Unfortunately, back at home, America’s relationship with its own Muslim population seems to be just as fraught.
In the first move of its kind in the United States, 70 percent of voters in Oklahoma supported an amendment to their state constitution that would effectively ban the consideration or use of both Shariah and International law in a ballot initiative on Nov. 2.
Shariah is an abstract concept in Islamic jurisprudence that refers to divine law. It has almost as many sources it draws from (including reason and consensus) as it does differing interpretations. Muslims make up just 0.8 percent of the population of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State Representative Rex Duncan, who authored of the bill, called it a “pre-emptive strike” to assuage the fears of those who foresee Islamic law invading and influencing United States courts of law. At the very least, it is a concrete realization of the anti-Islamic sentimentthat has been in the air this past election season. Thankfully, Oklahoma’s Muslims and future generations of potential Muslim invaders now know that their laws and customs will not be tolerated within state lines.
If enforced, this law could deny the rights of Muslim prisoners held in Oklahoma jails to have access to halal food and would in effect nullify the marriages of couples who were married through a religious ceremony in an Islamic country, such as Egypt or Pakistan.
However, opponents and activists already plan to contest the law for violating the First Amendment. Some constitutional experts also expect the law to be struck down for its violation of the sovereignty of the federal government in handling international issues.
While this state constitutional amendment may be struck down, the U.S. is not the only place where such laws have been discussed. Over the last year, there has been debate over whether the European Union should ban halal meat—and consequently also ban kosher meat (something that has not yet been suggested in the United States).
In Israel, Christian and Muslim citizens are required to take an oath of loyalty to an exclusively Jewish state. In Egypt, being a member of the ancient Coptic Christian minority ensures social and economic isolation. Activists across America are struggling to make sure that the U.S. is not another example of such blatant and destructive bigotry.
Kayvan Farchadi is a staff writer for Campus Progress.
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