Oklahoma SQ 755: The unintended consequences of anti-sharia legislation

That’s not halal

Oklahoma’s State Question 755, which prohibits state judges from resorting to International Law or the Shariah Law while passing judgmentswas passed last week by an overwhelming margin (76% yes, 24% no.) But in trying to ban Islamic law from encroaching into Oklahoma, the voters have in effect banned an important provision of the US Constitution itself.

The proposition to amend the Oklahoma constitution was authored by State Representative Rex Duncan, a Republican, who has a history of religious bigotry. He tried to ban the headscarf from driver’s licenses and refuses to take the Quran as a gift. His motivation to ban Shariah law, according to him a pre-emptive strike, stems from the fear that some judges are allowing out of court settlements and arbitration that allows Muslims (usually in divorce cases) to come to an understanding based on their religious beliefs.

Critics of Shariah in Oklahoma argue that they also oppose the Shariah law because it is against freedom of religion. In this age, when ignorance and bigotry are being celebrated in America, I am sure that most people in Oklahoma must have missed the irony in the situation.

The key sentence in the State question 755 is: It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Shariah Law. The proposition also bans international law. To consider how ignorant both the authors and the voters of the proposition are, please take a look at Article Six, Section I, Clause II of the US constitution. It is called the supremacy clause.

According to this clause, international treaties to which the US government is a signatory become “the supreme law of the land”. Treaties, along with custom and UN declarations are the main sources of international law (the proposition 755 actually mentions it). Thus by rejecting international law the proposition designed to institutionalize Islamophobia in Oklahoma, has effectually said “thanks, but no thanks” to the US Constitution. Here is the relevant text of the constitution (the emphasis are mine):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

As you notice, the proposition’s injunction to judges to abstain from using international law explicitly violates the constitutions’ injunctions to state judges to consider it as the supreme law of the land.

As far as the Shariah is concerned, most of it is enshrined in US laws. The five main goals of the Islamic Shariah – freedom of religion (Quran 2:256), protection of life, protection of property, protection of affiliations and protection of reason – are well protected in US constitution, and Federal and state laws. That is why Muslims, who understand Islam and understand America, intuitively love the American system.

Many aspects of Islamic values are well embedded in American life. For example only a day before the banning of Shariah law, the Dow Jones Islamic Index that identifies shariah-based investments has been recognized as the best in the world. It has been operational since 1999. Would the Republicans now like to ban Dow Jones Index or perhaps Wall Street itself?

Many of the Republican candidates, who oppose the Shariah, argue that the US Constitution and its laws are based on Judeo-Christian values. But if that is a fact then the Shariah is also enshrined in the Constitution since the Shariah is based on Judeo-Christian values like the Ten Commandments.

Muslims have no desire to impose their values on anyone else. American Muslims wish to enjoy the freedoms that are available to them in America, like all other citizens. Four years ago, I explicitly articulated this this in a widely published article. Muslims cannot impose Shariah on others; the Quran opposes compulsion in religion. Imposition of Shariah is a violation of Shariah.

The Oklahoma initiative is a political gimmick designed to cash in on the rise of Islamophobia in America. Politicians without substance and vision have latched onto hate as a campaign strategy. I am confident that hate-propositions like this will be struck down in courts.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is a contributing writer to altmuslim.com, Associate Professor at the University of Delaware, and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. His website is http://www.ijtihad.org. This piece originally appeared at OnFaith.


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