CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Former Oklahoma congressman and Newt Gingrich-endorser J.C. Watts conceded late last week that despite his state’s push to ban Sharia law, it has never actually existed in the Sooner State.
Gingrich has a long history of Islamophobic statements, from calling supporters of a mosque in New York City “hostile to our civilization” to saying that he would only support Muslim presidential candidates if “they would commit in public to give up Sharia.” This last statement earned approval from notable anti-Muslim pseudoexpert Frank Gaffney, who declared on his radio show that “Newt Gingrich has, in my judgment, rendered a real public service.” (You can read more about Gaffney and other Islamophobes behind the Sharia hysteria in the Center for American Progress’ recent report: Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.)
Yet for all the furor over the “creep of Sharia law” into the American legal system, it’s incredibly difficult to find people who have actually encountered it.
This was plainly evident when speaking with Watts late last week, whose home state of Oklahoma passed a Sharia law ban in 2010. (It has since been ruled unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.) ThinkProgress spoke with Watts, who served as a congressman from Oklahoma for four terms, about the ban as he campaigned for Newt Gingrich in South Carolina on Thursday. When we asked if Watts had ever encountered Sharia law in Oklahoma, the former congressman drew a blank:
KEYES: Personally, have you ever encountered Sharia law in Oklahoma?
WATTS: Well, we’ve not encountered Sharia law because Sharia law has never factored into our law.
Of course, Watts is correct that Sharia law has “never factored into” Oklahoma’s legal system. Even those charged with defending Oklahoma’s Sharia law ban in court were unable to cite a single example of it being used by a state court, “let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma.”
States like Virginia and Pennsylvania are currently considering taking up versions of sharia-banning legislation. To learn more about what Sharia law actually is and isn’t, read this short report from the Center for American Progress.