Oklahoma voters will be asked to approve or reject a state constitutional amendment that would ban Islamic Sharia law from serving as a basis in the state's courts.
Question 755 of State Referendum 355 will ask Oklahoma residents to amend Article 7 of the state’s constitution to forbid the state’s courts from using or even consider Sharia law when ruling in a legal proceeding. Republican State Rep. Rex Duncan sponsored the proposed “Save our State” amendment in the state House of Representative and later won approval in the state Senate by a 41 to 2 margin.
Duncan believes, while there has been no example of Sharia law being practiced in Oklahoma state law, it is an issue that may become a problem in the state’s future.
“Why wait until it’s in the courts?” he asks.
In some Muslim countries, Sharia law is used to forcefully endorse the wearing of headdresses and restricted rights for women, contract marriages and even harm to non-believers.
While such a system may seem far removed from a nation such as the United States, Duncan insists that Islamic law has been influencing the U.S. legal system more and more in recent years.
“Judges in other states and on the federal bench have increasingly turned to citing international law in their court decisions,” Duncan claims in a statement announcing the proposed amendment.
In a 2003 judgment, for example, the Texas Second District Court of Appeals allowed for a Muslim couple to observe the Texas Islamic Court’s arbitration ruling in divorce and custody hearings.
In another case, a New Jersey judge ruled in favor of a Moroccan husband disputing rape charges against his wife, saying he acted in accordance to his religion. The ruling, notably, was later overturned.
According to Duncan, judicial reliance on Sharia law is “grossly inappropriate in a sovereign state such as our own.”
He asserts that court decisions should be decided based on the state and national constitutions.
Sarah Thompson, communications coordinator of the Islamic Society of North America, in response, has criticized the efforts of Duncan and the supporters of the proposed amendment.
“It’s all a bunch of rhetoric that is used to scare people,” she says.
Thompson, who converted to Islam from Catholicism, says Sharia law is practiced as the central law in some Muslim countries but suggests its practice in the United States would fall in line with federal and local laws.
“It does say in the Qu’ran that if you live in a country that does not [impose] Sharia law then you have to abide the laws of your country,” she argues.
Still, critics of Sharia law insist otherwise, saying that Sharia is totally incompatible with democracy and human rights.
According to Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian who has lived under Sharia law for 30 years, even the majority of Muslims in the world would not want to live under Sharia.
“To live under Islamic Sharia law is to live in the world’s largest maximum-security prison,” she writes in her book Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law.
“The West must never allow even limited Sharia marriage and family laws to be practiced in any Western democracy, simply because it is against basic principles of human rights and equality between the sexes,” says the former Muslim turned Christian.
Paul Estabrooks, senior communication specialist of Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors, agrees that Sharia law, once introduced, will eventually lead to human right challenges.
“It’s kind of the old adage that once the camel gets his head in the tent, it won’t be long before he’s all in there. A lot of people fear that,” he told The Christian Post.
He acknowledged that many Christians are persecuted because of Sharia law.
“One of the implications of Sharia law is that when someone leaves the faith of Islam, they become apostate and that’s punishable by death under Sharia law," he explained. But, he added, that only happens in countries where the majority population is Muslim.
While the public should be concerned, he maintained, "I don’t think we should be vocally negative.”
He believes that secular governments in such countries as the United States and Canada, where he resides, will likely never fully enact Sharia law or court systems.
“If there’s not been any indication that [Sharia] would actually be applied, I think it’s very rash at this point,” he noted.
“[Christians’] Islamaphobia is well known around the world and I don’t think we should have any more of it because of this,” he said. He cautions that Christians and the public should become more educated and aware of Sharia law.