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Legislating fear?


A report released last week shows that mostly toothless laws bite back in sometimes-unexpected ways.

Tim Farley September 25th, 2013

A majority of Oklahoma lawmakers have put themselves in an unflattering category with apparent prejudice toward Muslims and the Islam religion, according to a national report released last week.

“Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact on the United States” focuses in part on state laws that targeted Muslims and the Islam faith, including State Question 755 and House Bill 1060 out of Oklahoma. The report was prepared by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Voters overwhelmingly approved the state question in 2010, which prohibited the use of Sharia Law, the moral code and religious law of Islam, in Oklahoma courts. Last month, a federal judge struck down the measure, ruling it unconstitutional.

“It is abundantly clear that the primary purpose of the amendment was to specifically target and outlaw Sharia law,” U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-Lagrange wrote in her decision.

There have been no Oklahoma cases involving the use of Sharia Law in state courts, according to critics and proponents of SQ 755.

As the state question wound its way through the federal courts, Oklahoma legislators approved a measure this year that bans all foreign laws from being used in Oklahoma courts. The House of Representatives passed the measure 81-11, and the Senate approval was almost unanimous, 40-3.

Adam Soltani (pictured), executive director of the Oklahoma CAIR chapter, said HB 1060, much like the state question, fails to protect anyone against anything.

“There was no precedent to warrant either the state question or 1060,” he said. “It is a nonexistent problem. You’re providing a solution in search of a problem. What does it achieve when there already are safeguards in place to protect Oklahoma and federal laws?” Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, accused state legislators of fearmongering and trying to score political points.

“We’ve seen evidence of that where a handful of them tried to capitalize on baseless fear of Sharia Law as it worked itself into the state’s judicial system,” he said. “Let’s not pretend the folks who push these measures have given up on discriminating against a complete minority of people in Oklahoma.”

However, HB 1060 author Sally Kern, R-OKC, said the bill was never intended to discriminate against anyone.

“If you’re a true-blooded American, you like it because it protects our constitutional freedoms,” she said. “It doesn’t target any particular faith.”

Report surprises
Kiesel wasn’t surprised that the report’s findings demonstrated a high level of bigotry and prejudice toward Muslims but admits he was troubled by the amount of money raised to fund anti- Muslim efforts in the U.S.

The report identified specific groups, labeling them as “inner core” and “outer core” members. According to the report, more than $119 million was raised to support the work by people who oppose the Muslim way of life and religion.

“That just confirms the enormity of the movement,” Kiesel said.

But Kern defended the groups that support anti-Muslim actions.

“They want to protect the sovereignty of this nation,” she said, while claiming that CAIR has been linked to terrorism and terrorist acts.

The CAIR report also claims 78 bills or amendments “designed to marginalize Muslims and vilify Islamic religious practices” were introduced in 29 states and Congress during 2011 and 2012. The report also shows that 51 recorded anti-mosque incidents occurred during the two-year period.

The full report is online at http://www.cairoklahoma.com/resource/ legislating_fear_report.html.

 
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