Sharia in America

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 5 2011 9:22 AM

Sharia in America

When I was in Oklahoma last week, I talked to legislators and activists about the state's fight to ban sharia law, as they understand it. The piece is up here . The key figure is Sally Kern, a smart social conservative who's working a rewritten ban through the legislature.

That brings Kern to the topic of sharia law. In 2010, Oklahoma voters passed a ballot measure —the first of its kind—prohibiting any judge or court from making decisions based on the teachings of the Koran. It won in a 70-30 landslide, then was immediately bogged down in court on First Amendment grounds.

So it was left up to Kern, who represents the western part of Oklahoma City in the House of Representatives, to introduce new legislation which can ban sharia without tripping on the First Amendment. Last week her bill, HR 1552, made its way to the Senate. It bans on "any law, rule, legal code or system" not rooted in the Constitution of Oklahoma or the United States. Kern, a former history teacher, says she has no problem whatsoever with Muslims moving to Oklahoma and that the bill that would protect them, too.

"When I see things that are happening that I think will weaken our American way of life, I don't like that," she says. "I don't have a problem with people coming over here—why wouldn't people want to come to America, the greatest nation in the world where you have the most opportunities and freedoms? Why wouldn't they want to come over here? But if they're going to come over here, let them become Americans. If they want to hold on to their own cultures, then why—and I hope I don't get in trouble here—why not live in their own countries?"

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Read on. It's an issue that's become a bigger part of the GOP presidential race than anyone expected it to.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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