Oklahoma Muslims Wary after Shari'a Referendum

By Sacirbey, Omar | The Christian Century, November 30, 2010 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma Muslims Wary after Shari'a Referendum


Sacirbey, Omar, The Christian Century


Born and raised in Oklahoma, Sarah Albahadily will wear her headscarf to a Brad Paisley concert and her cowboy boots to a mosque. There are two things she says she never misses: Friday prayers or a University of Oklahoma football game.

But after seven in ten Oklahoma voters on November 2 approved State Question 755, a constitutional amendment that prohibits courts from using Islamic law known as Shari'a, Albahadily suddenly feels a little less at home in the Sooner State.

"It's disheartening. Even though it was expected, you still feel the blow," said Albahadily, 27, as she drove to the Mercy School, a K-12 Islamic school in Oklahoma City where she teaches science.

In many ways, State Question 755 will likely have little impact either in Oklahoma or elsewhere. Muslims quickly point out they never lobbied for Shari'a law, and many wouldn't support its use anyway.

What really worries Muslims is the anti-Muslim fervor that fueled it. It's the same sentiment behind the aborted Qur'an bonfire in Florida and the opposition to an Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The bottom line: Muslims increasingly feel unwelcome, unwanted and viewed by their neighbors as un-American.

And if that sentiment can be legislated in one state, they say, it could be legislated in another.

Yet rather that retreating from public life, Oklahoma Muslims like Albahadily are vowing to increase their involvement in 'community affairs and raise their visibility, confident that when fellow citizens get to know them, their prejudices will dissolve.

Albahadily said she would put on a brave face for her teenage students, "If they see me upset, they're not going to want to participate in civics or community life. But if I can be upbeat, and say, 'OK, we're going to stand firm,' they'll respond."

Less than 24 hours after the polls closed, Albahadily's mother was organizing local Muslims to meet newly elected lawmakers; local Muslim groups and the ACLU announced a bid to have the referendum declared unconstitutional.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[The measure was challenged as unconstitutional in court by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. …

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