In a midterm election cycle “saturated with absurd racial fear mongering” and rampant Islamophobia, Oklahoma voters managed to take home the gold last Tuesday by passing the “Save Our State” constitutional amendment. With a 70 percent majority voting yes, Oklahoma became first U.S. state banning a non-existent threat of Sharia law. Fearing that local judges would be “legislating from the bench or using international law or Sharia law,” Republican state senators believed a “preemptive strike” against Islam was necessary, even at the expense of the Ten Commandments.
The law, which would go into effect tomorrow, “amends the State Constitution” by “forbid[ding] courts from considering or using international law” and “Sharia Law.” But one Oklahoman, Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Oklahoma chapter executive director Muneer Awad, challenged the provision on grounds that it is stigmatizing Islam. Awad filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Board of Elections in federal court last Thursday, alleging “the law both violates the First Amendment and harms his family’s ability to carry out his will after he dies”:
Awad said in the suit that in his will he directs that his possessions be divided “in accordance with the guidance contained in the prophetic teachings” of Islam.
After the law is enacted, “no state court in Oklahoma will incorporate in the will the documents to which [Awad] referred. This is because those documents are ‘Shariah law.’ To incorporate into a will verses from a compendium of the teachings of Mohammed would surely require a judge to ‘consider…Shariah law’ which will soon be forbidden,” he said.
“The apprehension of this uncertainty is an injury itself,” he said.
As for the First Amendment, Awad contends that he will “suffer official disapproval of his faith communicated to him by Oklahoma through the document that organizes the state’s existence: the constitution. The Shariah Ban, because the text only mentions and restricts the religious traditions upon which [Awad] draws his faith, will imply to Oklahomans that there is something especially nefarious about the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed that justified its exclusion from the state courts.”
Federal District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange heard the argument today and — finding that Awad would “suffer irreparable harm” if the state went ahead with the law — issued a temporary restraining order to block the amendment. The order will remain in effect until another hearing on November 22.
“Today’s ruling is a reminder of the strength of our nation’s legal system and the protections it grants to religious minorities,” said Awad. “We are humbled by this opportunity to show our fellow Oklahomans that Muslims are their neighbors and that we are committed to upholding the U.S. Constitution and promoting the benefits of a pluralistic society.” Even one Christian leader believes that such a “blanket ban on all forms of Sharia law” is “simply a slap in the face of Muslims.”
At a press conference following today’s ruling, CAIR officials revealed that Islamic institutions in Oklahoma were receiving “hate messages” since the passage of the amendment and called on the measure’s sponsors to “repudiate” them. But given that the state sponsors are convinced that “we” are “at war” with Muslims and Islam, Oklahoma Muslims should not hold their breath.
Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event today, Gov. Rick Perry (R) — from the neighboring state of Texas — warned that “those who exploit religion for violence are enemies to us all.” Muslims in Texas are “helping to build the state” he said.