Commentary: Federal court keeps Oklahoma from discriminating against Muslims

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramJanuary 12, 2012 

Thank goodness for Oklahoma.

Every time Texas begins to feel like some remote backwater -- say, during a presidential campaign -- Oklahoma is right there to make Texans feel downright civilized.

In the latest example of Oklahomans Gone Wild, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Sooner State can't ban courts from considering Islamic law.

An Oklahoma City lawyer, Muneer Awad, argued successfully that an "anti-Shariah" constitutional amendment discriminates against Muslim residents. He said it prevents courts from even probating a will if it mentions Islam.

State lawyers argued that the amendment was never meant to single out Islam or deprive Muslims of religious freedom.


That must be why the ballot proposal -- spelled Oklahoma-style -- forbids "using Sharia Law" and even added, "Sharia Law is Islamic Law ... the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed."

Voters approved the so-called Oklahoma International Law Amendment in 2010 by 70 percent to 30 percent. A federal court halted enforcement until a decision from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Awad, director of the state Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the decision a "reminder to politicians wishing to score political points through fear-mongering and bigotry."

Former state Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, the author of the law, had called Muslims' use of Islamic law a "cancer."

(Newspapers and business groups opposed the amendment, saying it would hinder international business contracts based on treaties.)

Shariah has come up in a few Texas civil cases, including a 2003 divorce in Tarrant County.

The Denver court's decision did not calm Texas' resident anti-Shariah agitator, former Arlington Mayor Pro Tem and now-state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler.

"That is absolutely amazing," Berman said Tuesday.

He said that if he's re-elected, he will refile his 2009 bill to ban courts from any consideration of "cultural" principles or international treaties. (Berman's bill didn't name Islam.)

"If people don't like living under U.S. and Texas laws, they should go somewhere else."

I think those laws still include freedom of religion.

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