Oklahoma faces a plethora of problems going into the November election, from high incarceration rates to poor medical outcomes to systemic poverty to budget problems.
But out here on the prairie our two gubernatorial candidates are arguing about Sharia Law. Look no further than that fact to see how unrealistic and far-right and weird our political system has become in Oklahoma.
A Tulsa World article last week pointed out the candidates were asked at a recent Rotary Club meeting if they supported State Question 755, which would forbid courts from using international law or Sharia Law to decide cases. Lt. Gov. Jari Askins apparently said the question, if passed, would have “unintended consequences,” according to the article. U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, pictured right, didn’t take a position at the meeting, but later came out full force in favor of it, the article stated, calling on Oklahomans to approve it.
Sharia law, of course, is based on the Koran, the religious book of Islam.
Here’s the ballot title for the measure:
This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.
International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.
The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.
Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
Shall the proposal be approved?
There are at least two points to make here:
(1) It’s preposterous that such a measure is even under consideration. The state’s courts, as I pointed out in a recent Oklahoma Gazette article, are legally bound to use federal and state laws when considering cases. The idea that a judge or attorney here in the Bible belt of all places would decide or argue a case using Sharia Law is ridiculous.
The question seems to be part of an effort to insult other cultures and a major religion. It’s probably also part of the same hysteria that drives the movement that claims President Barack Obama is a secret Muslim.
It’s surreal that our candidates for governor have to even debate such a non-issue, and it’s equally surreal the mainstream media has to cover it.
Oklahoma faces tough problems and banning Sharia Law from the courts isn’t going to fix anything or do anything.
(2) On another level, the question is also anti-intellectual and jingoistic because it’s an implicit criticism of other cultures. Certainly, federal and state laws should be used when deciding court cases. That’s obvious. But it’s a good thing to understand the legal systems of different cultures or how countries deal with each other. The measure implicitly makes a case for isolation.
In a recent Oklahoma Gazette article, Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said this about the question’s major proponent, state Rep. Rex Duncan (R-Sand Springs):
He fears something, but he doesn’t know what it is. I think it’s really just silly, and when a bill such as this comes about, it really is just a slap in the face to good, hardworking, American Muslims trying to go about their business and provide for their families and be proud of who they are and what their faith is.
If Fallin becomes Oklahoma’s next governor, expect more ideological-driven and divisive initiatives and legislation like SQ 755.