Ed Kelley, editor of The Oklahoman, argued in a recent video editorial that Oklahoma should welcome international college students with open arms.
Using the archaic and clumsy term “foreigners,” Kelley said we need all of them we can get here on our campuses.
Kelley is right, of course, because of the immense culture international students bring to our campuses and the connections they create here, but he failed to mention his newspaper recently endorsed a candidate for governor, Mary Fallin, who endorsed a controversial state amendment that would prohibit the use of Sharia law, based on Islam, in our court system.
The amendment-considered by many an act of bigotry against one of the world’s largest religions-passed by a landslide, and Fallin is now governor-elect. But the controversy over the amendment lingers and Oklahoma has received a lot of negative publicity. Muneer Awad, the leader of state’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, has filed a lawsuit against the amendment, and a federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against it.
Let’s be clear: No court system in Oklahoma wold have ever used Sharia law to decide cases. The whole idea is absurd. Courts are duty-bound to use state and federal laws to decide cases. By essentially profiling one religion, the amendment is discriminatory. The amendment’s main intent seems to be to criticize Islam.
Kelley doesn’t speak of this issue when he refers to “foreigners” because he probably knows one of the side effects of the amendment could be that some international students, especially Muslims, will find Oklahoma an unwelcoming place. Would you go study in a place that had for no valid reason banned the use of your specific religion in court cases? It’s only logical that potential international students could view this as simple hatred and feel threatened under the circumstances. (This argument, of course, doesn’t address the views of American and Oklahoman citizens who are Muslim, which is another huge issue created by the amendment.)
The Oklahoman, to its credit, did oppose amendment, but it enthusiastically endorsed Fallin, an ultra-conservative Republican, who essentially said she was going to protect Oklahomans from Sharia law by endorsing the amendment. Her Democratic opponent, Jari Askins, who also ran as a conservative, simply said the amendment could have “unintended consequences”.
Oklahoma is, again, a laughingstock, which faces national media ridicule, and we have a new governor who will have to defend her position on the amendment in the weeks and months to come.
The Oklahoman editorial page today (“Oklahoma’s Shariah measure getting negative reviews,” Nov. 17, 2010) pointed out “the negative residual effects” of the amendment and even went this far in its condemnation:
Gov.-elect Mary Fallin during her campaign publicly endorsed this idea, one that only makes Oklahomans appear close-minded. That’s an image we can live without, one that certainly won’t help Fallin fulfill her campaign pledge to make Oklahoma more attractive to businesses.
But why didn’t the newspaper say this about Fallin before the election and endorse Askins? The point here is the newspaper’s criticisms of the amendment didn’t and still don’t go far enough, and one of the main historical reasons people think Oklahomans “appear closed-minded” is the influence of the ultra-conservative and contradictory views of The Oklahoman. The idea the newspaper is somehow above the fray on this issue is ludicrous. The Oklahoman championed Fallin, who championed the Sharia law amendment. The newspaper is just as culpable as Fallin.