The flap over banning Sharia Law here has become a bonafide Okie spectacle.
By definition, an Okie spectacle is when some state political leaders and/or a majority of its voters draw attention and ridicule from media outlets and organizations for committing an act of basic bigotry or just plain dumbness. In this particular case, it’s both. Unfortunately, virtually all of us here get implicated by default only because we live here.
On Nov. 2, Oklahoma voters in a landslide vote-70 to 30 percent-approved State Question 755, a constitutional amendment which prohibits courts from using international or Sharia law to make decisions. As the measure stated, “Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.”
The problem here is that because courts are already duty-bound to use state and federal laws in deciding the cases, the specific ban on laws used by a specific religion constitutes a type of religious profiling that should be considered bigotry and unconstitutional. Why single out Islam? Why not Christianity or Buddhism as well?
As I wrote in the Oklahoma Gazette in a pre-election commentary about SQ 755:
Again, what’s the point? Can anyone imagine a judge here pulling out the religious text of Islam to back up a decision to sentence a meth cook to noon prayers? The measure “makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases,” but that’s what courts are already duty-bound to do. Why specifically mention Sharia? It explicitly criticizes Islam. What’s the gain here, except to take a cheap shot at one of the world’s largest religions?
On Monday, a federal judge in Oklahoma issued a temporary injunction against the new measure after Muneer Awad, the leader of state’s Council on American-Islamic Relations. filed a lawsuit against it. He argues, and I think rightfully so, the amendment is unconstitutional.
All of this brought much attention from outside Oklahoma. Stories about the issue have run in media outlets from ABC News to the Boston Herald to Politico. The progressive site Common Dreams called the issue “Right-Wingers Gone Wild.” The site Color Lines had this cogent remark about SQ 755:
In a midterm election cycle saturated by absurd racial fear mongering, it’s been hard for anyone on the Radical Right to really stand out. But Oklahoma succeeded in getting itself above the fold on Tuesday when 70 percent of voters checked a box to pass a constitutional amendment banning the consideration of Sharia law – or international law – in the court room.
Meanwhile, people taking a more historical look at the issue argue that the since the Ten Commandments are actually a part of the Koran, the right-wing here may have actually prohibited their use as legal precedent, which surely is not what most of those voting yes had in mind.
Last year, Oklahoma lawmakers event voted to erect a Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol.
University of Oklahoma law professor Rick Tepker, quoted on the CNN site. said this about the measure’s approval:
Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don’t cry. I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn’t that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren’t going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin.
This spectacle lives on. So it goes in Oklahoma these days . . .