The Edmond Sun

June 4, 2010

Sharia law, courts likely on 2010 ballot

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — State lawmakers say it’s a pre-emptive strike against Sharia law, needed to prevent here what has happened in the United Kingdom.

An Islamic leader says it’s another example of a rising tide of anti-Islamic bigotry in America.

State Question 755, which likely will be on the ballot in November, would make in-state courts rely on federal and state laws when deciding cases and forbid courts from using international law or Sharia law when making rulings.

The proposal, which has an Edmond connection, would amend Article 7, Section 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution, and stems from House Joint Resolution 1056, dubbed the “Save Our State” amendment, passed during the just-finished legislative session.

State Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Edmond, a co-author of HJR 1056, said he wanted to express his support very early for the legislation, which is needed because of the “onslaught” coming Oklahoma’s way.

“I don’t think we should accept or encourage Sharia law in any way, shape or form,” Moore said.

State Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, primary author of HJR 1056, said Oklahoma is the first state to pass such legislation and he hopes other states will follow.

Duncan, an attorney who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said the amendment is needed because judges in other states and on the federal bench have increasingly cited international law in their decisions. He said he feels that action is inappropriate in a sovereign state.

Duncan said Sharia law is entrenched in the United Kingdom.

“It is a cancer upon the survivability of the UK,” Duncan said. “SQ 755 will constitute a pre-emptive strike against Sharia law coming to Oklahoma.”

State Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, a co-author of HJR 1056, said American courts are being more frequently challenged that international law should trump U.S. law.

“Sharia law coming to the U.S. is a scary concept,” Sykes said. “Hopefully the passage of this constitutional amendment will prevent it in Oklahoma.”

Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said he has been working on Muslim civil rights issues for several decades and anti-Islam rhetoric is approaching “Nazi-like” levels.

“This is just the flip side of the anti-Semitic coin,” Hooper said.

Hooper said Duncan is voicing a misconception of Sharia, which is based on the Quran, the traditions of Muhammad and interpretation of scripture, that it is comparable to laws related to other religions.

Regarding unintended consequences, Hooper wondered aloud what the amendment would mean for Muslims who want to wear a scarf in a driver’s license photo, for Muslims who want to pray in the workplace, if Muslims attending Oklahoma’s public schools will be forced to eat pork.

Saad Mohammed, director of Islamic information for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said 80 percent of the U.S. Constitution is compatible with Sharia, which leads to justice and equality for all. Mohammed said extremists have distorted Sharia.

“Sharia is more of a protection than something used to oppress,” Mohammed said.

Razi Hashmi, of Edmond, executive director of CAIR-Oklahoma, said the Sharia law proposal is a distraction from more urgent issues facing the state such as the economy, job creation and immigration.

Hashmi said the proposal is a way of promoting division and bigotry instead of promoting unity and understanding of other faiths and cultures.

The wording in SQ 755 is being altered. In a letter dated June 2, addressed to the secretary of state and legislative leaders, the Attorney General’s Office concluded the present wording does not comply with applicable laws because it does no adequately define either Sharia law or international law.

The AG’s office stated that it will within 10 business days prepare a preliminary ballot title that complies with the law.

Paul Ziriax, secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, said once the AG’s office is done with the proposal, the governor will issue a proclamation formally setting the election date. An issue such as this must be on the ballot in November unless it is disqualified for some reason, Ziriax said.



SHARIA LAW 101

Hooper said just as the Mosaic books offer guidance in life, Sharia, or Islamic law, offers guidance for Muslims.

Sharia, which means a way or path, refers to the divine guidance and laws primarily derived from the Quran and the Sunnah, Muhammad’s sayings, deeds and approvals, according to Mashreq Al Islami, the Islamic banking division of the Mashreq, responsible for the development of Islamic banking products for distribution to customers who require Islamic banking products or services.

Fatwas related to Sharia should not be confused with Islamic-based death warrants, Hooper said. A fatwa is an authoritative legal opinion based on Islamic law, issued by a qualified person or body with authoritative knowledge.

An example of how Sharia works is Islamic banking, which prohibits interest, ambiguity and unfairness in conducting business transactions, according to Mashreq Al Islami. Islamic banking must comply with Sharia principles and avoid prohibited unethical business activities such as gambling and alcohol.



OKLAHOMANS WILL DECIDE ISSUE

The legislation behind SQ 755 was inspired by the realization, through media observation, that Islam is spreading into America at an alarming rate, and that activist judges are beginning to give credence to “international law,” Duncan said.

Duncan said reaction to the proposal has been entirely positive, and he believes as Oklahomans become aware of the measure they will support it overwhelmingly.

Hooper said he hopes Oklahomans will educate themselves and use common sense when making a decision about how they will vote on the proposal. Mohammed urged Oklahomans to visit mainstream Islamic sites like sitesun.cair.com (CAIR) or isgoc.com (Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City).

Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States and in the world, according to CAIR. About seven million Muslims residing in America attend about 2,000 mosques, Islamic schools and Islamic centers.



marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108