On November 2, Oklahoma residents will vote on State Question 755, the “Save Our State” constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from considering Islamic Sharia law in making rulings. Passed by the legislature in May, Oklahoma voters are expected to approve the measure and make Oklahoma “the first state in the nation” to impose such a ban.
While the measure passed with an overwhelming majority, religious groups and dissenting lawmakers insist that “xenophobia is at the root” of the amendment. One Oklahoma resident said “supporters of the issue are using scare tactics” to “make Islam objectionable.” Rep. Cory Williams (D-OK), who was one of the 12 lawmakers to oppose the measure, said, “If I was a Muslim Oklahoman, I would be offended by my religion being singled out.” Ironically, to defend against such claims, Republican lawmakers insist that the bill protects the courts from being “hijacked” by the people we are “at war” with:
Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, said he authored the legislation that spurred the ballot measure because he argues Sharia law provisions that are practiced in some countries — such as the unequal treatment of women — run in contrast with American principles. Although he is not aware of any Oklahoma courts making decisions based on Sharia law, he said actions by other countries and isolated events in the United States show this is a growing threat and action needs to be taken before it reaches Oklahoma.
“This effort is all about protecting our court system from being hijacked by an ideology that does not have America’s long-term future in mind,” he said. “Our courts ought to follow American federal and state law, and there is no logical reason why a court would look to the law of France or Saudi Arabia.”[…]
Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, said he views the criticism against the state questions as unfounded. He said Sharia law is a threat to the country that needs to be addressed.
“Are we not at war with this ideology?” he asked. “Are we not at war with them? Then why would we give in to this?”
Duncan claims that if you’re not for his amendment, then you must be for Sharia law. “The only entities that could oppose this measure are those that admittedly support applying international law and sharia law in American courts,” he said. “If that’s what they think they need to be bold enough to say so.”
Reps. Duncan and Moore’s “us vs. them” mentality exemplifies the mainstreaming of extreme right-wing Islamophobia. Once hawked by fringe figures, the “creeping Sharia” delusion is finding champions among staunch conservative leaders like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose crusade against all-things–Islamic culminated in his call for “a federal law that says sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States” at the Value Voters Summit this month.
Many Republican candidates have also adopted anti-Sharia fear-mongering as a campaign tool, including Tennessee’s Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R), Tennessee House candidate Vijay Kumar (R), and Minnesota House candidate Lynne Torgerson (I).