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September 25, 2010

SQ 755 ban raises questions, concerns

OKLAHOMA CITY —  Strained religious tensions and calls to pre-emptively protect the state’s court system characterize one of the more unusual state questions that will be on the ballot this November.

Religious groups and some lawmakers claim xenophobia is at the root of State Question 755, which would amend the state Constitution to forbid courts from considering international or Islamic Sharia law in making decisions.

Sharia law is based on the teaching of the Quran and practiced in different way in several Muslim countries.

Supporters of the measure, however, argue it is needed to prevent Sharia law from potentially gaining power in the state’s juridical system.

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.”

Several groups, including the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, have been vocal in opposing the measure on the grounds that it is unnecessary and only fans the flames of religious intolerance. Saad Mohammed, director of Islamic information for the group, said he finds the measure “very questionable” for singling out the Islamic law instead of any other religion.

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