Oklahoma sure doesn't seem like the kind of place where the Islamic law code known as Sharia
might take over. With just 30,000 Muslims out a population of nearly 3.7 million, and a whole wheat, corn-fed reputation that inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical
, Oklahoma is about as far from Saudi Arabia -- one Muslim country that follows a strict version of Sharia -- as you can get.
But legislators in the Sooner State figure you can never be too careful. Hence their push to put a question on November's ballot that would ask voters to make state courts rely on federal and state laws when deciding cases and forbid the courts from using international law or Sharia law when making rulings.
"Sharia law coming to the U.S. is a scary concept," state Sen. Anthony Sykes, a Republican who co-authored one proposal, dubbed the "Save Our State" amendment, told The Edmond Sun
. "Hopefully the passage of this constitutional amendment will prevent it in Oklahoma."
The prospect seems pretty remote, but state lawmakers cited some countries, such as Great Britain
, where courts are recognizing Islamic laws to settle disputes among Muslims, though the jurisdiction and scope of such laws is limited.
"It is a cancer upon the survivability of the U[nited] K[ingdom]," state Rep. Rex Duncan, primary author of State Question 755, the ballot initiative, told The Sun. "SQ 755 will constitute a pre-emptive strike against Sharia law coming to Oklahoma."
Other lawmakers spoke of a coming "onslaught" of Sharia cases, and suggested other states would follow Oklahoma's first-in-the-nation example.
But Islamic advocacy groups were decidedly less enthusiastic about the prospect of the ballot initiative, which is undergoing some editing by the state attorney general to make it comply with Oklahoma laws (the secular ones).
"This is just the flip side of the anti-Semitic coin," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations
. Anti-Islam rhetoric is approaching "Nazi-like" levels, Hooper said.
Sharia law defines a Muslim's duties to God and to others, including social transactions and business, penal and family relationships. It is derived from numerous sources, but is not a single code of laws and is open to interpretation, though it is generally associated in the West with a draconian strictness.