CAIR Oklahoma is committed to the fight against Government measures that would effectively outcast Muslims from mainstream society by targeting their way of life and religion. As a part of this initiative, CAIR Oklahoma works endlessly to monitor legislation at Oklahoma’s state capitol in our attempts to protect and preserve the rights of the Oklahoma Muslim community.
In November 2010, the passage of State Question 755 prompted Muneer Awad, Executive Director of CAIR Oklahoma, to file suit alleging violations of his rights under the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The anti-Sharia ban did a number of things including:
- Labeling Islam as an inherent threat to the state of Oklahoma and sending a message that Muslims are religious and political outsiders in their own State
- Enshrining Islam, the Quran, and Muhammad (saw) in our state constitution as being a violent influence on the lives of all Oklahomans
- Making all religious documents of Oklahoma Muslims, including marriage contracts, wills, and financing agreements, invalid and illegal in the state of Oklahoma
- Denying Muslims the same protections of the laws as people of other faiths—especially laws against discrimination based on religion
- Constraining the ability of Muslims to assert religious liberty claims under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act
- And ultimately denying Muslims equal access to the state judicial system
In response to a lawsuit filed by Awad, the US District Court of the Western District of Oklahoma ruled the anti-sharia amendment was unconstitutional because it “conveys an official government message of disapproval and hostility toward [Islam]…forcing [Muslims] to curtail their political and religious activities.”
In September 2011, the case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the 10th Circuit where Attorneys Michael Salem, Gadeir Abbas, Daniel Mach, Heather Weaver, and Joseph Thai argued on behalf of the plaintiff, Muneer Awad, and the 30,000 Muslim citizens of Oklahoma. Arguing for implementing the anti-Sharia law in Oklahoma’s State Constitution was the office of Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
On January 10, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit released a decision upholding a lower court decision to block implementation of an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from considering “Sharia law” and “international law.”
The decision read, in part, “Federal courts should be wary of interfering with the voting process, but we agree with the district court that ‘it is always in the public interest to prevent the violation of a party’s constitutional rights.'”
“This is an important reminder that the Constitution is the last line of defense against a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry in our society, and we are pleased that the appeals court recognized that fact,” said Awad. “We are also hopeful that this decision serves as a reminder to politicians wishing to score political points through fear-mongering and bigotry.”
Oklahoma’s anti-sharia law was the first of many attempts across the US to label Islam as a threat to state courts. Similar attempts have been made in over 20 states, all spearheaded by legislators with the support of Anti-Muslim groups such as ACT for America. ACT for America poured $50,000 into Oklahoma to promote the anti-sharia law, and have worked closely with attorney David Yerushalmi, who has drafted anti-Sharia bills for lawmakers across the US.
In January 2013, Oklahoma House Representative John Bennett began circulating official documents with false information and claims, attempting to link Muslim organizations in Oklahoma with the Muslim Brotherhood. In a letter dated January 24, 2013, Bennett states, “What you may not know, however, is that the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] has a large, well-funded organization active here in the United States and has a number of front organizations operating here in Oklahoma.” Bennett continues, “In the past several years, there has been a growing grassroots movement here in Oklahoma that has been working to educate people both inside and out about the growing MB threat.”
As a part of this “grassroots” campaign, Bennett and other state representative began forming legislative caucus on Counterterrorism, aimed at combatting a non-existent Muslim Brotherhood threat and infringing on the rights and civil liberties of peaceful, Oklahoma Muslims.
February 4, 2013, Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern introduces House Bill 1060, a continuing effort of SQ 755 to discriminate against Oklahoma Muslims and restrict their first amendment rights to practice their faith freely. HB 1060 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives 81-11 in March 2013 and the State Senate 40-3 on April 8, 2013.
On April 11, 2013 CAIR Oklahoma issued a press release imploring Governor Mary Fallin not to sign HB 1060. In the statement, the organization said in part, “We urge Governor Fallin to reject the minority-bashing of Rep. Sally Kern and to also reject Kern’s thinly-veiled efforts to vilify Islam with bills like HB 1060.”
Adam Soltani, CAIR Oklahoma Executive Director also stated, “If Sally Kern wishes to protect America, her first duty is to uphold the Constitution. Her current efforts to chip away at its protections serve only to undermine our nation’s values.”
On Saturday, April 27, 2013, vandals targeted and defiled an Oklahoma City mosque with profanities and other graphic obscenities. This was the second attack, with the first occurring in August 2012. CAIR Oklahoma asked the FBI to investigate the incident as a possible hate crime.
April 28, 2013 FBI spokesperson Rick Rains confirms the bureau is investigating the attack as a potential hate crime.
May 6, 2013 Representative John Bennett issues an official press release full of non-credible sources, false allegations, and misrepresented statements attempting to link CAIR Oklahoma with “terrorist-supporting imam.” Bennett also cited his non-information in an interview with local media and implied he would consider meeting with CAIR Oklahoma Executive Director, Adam Soltani.