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Author of Oklahoma's ban on Islamic law slams judge

by SEAN MURPHY, Associated Press | December 1, 2010 at 4:46 a.m. | Updated December 1, 2010 at 4:46 a.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma state lawmaker who wrote the proposed ban on the use of Islamic law and other international tenets in state courtrooms lashed out Tuesday against the federal judge who blocked it, calling her the exact kind of "liberal, activist judge" the plan hopes to stop.

Former state Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, criticized U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange's ruling this week to grant a preliminary injunction that prevents the state from certifying the results of the Nov. 2 election. More than 70 percent of voters approved State Question 755, which would place the ban into the state constitution.

Duncan, who attended the federal hearing in Oklahoma City, said Miles-LaGrange appears to be sympathetic to the plaintiff, Muneer Awad, a Muslim living in Oklahoma who claims the proposed ban is unconstitutional.

"She was well known to be a liberal, activist state senator, and I don't know that her ruling is far from what one would have expected," Duncan told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "One would surmise that her sympathies were with the plaintiff. But hers won't be the final order on the matter."

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma State Election Board voted Tuesday to ask the attorney general to appeal the court's decision to grant a preliminary injunction. Charlie Price, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, told The Associated Press that such an appeal is "likely."

Duncan, who stepped down from his House post to run for district attorney in Pawnee and Osage counties, said he sponsored the measure because he thinks Muslim rights groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations want to hijack the country's legal system.

"CAIR and other groups ... have been working deliberately to get Sharia statutes, Sharia-compliant banking, and to expand those toe-holds further into a greater presence in American courts," Duncan said.

Awad, the plaintiff in the suit, is the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR.

Duncan said he's also heard from lawmakers in as many as a dozen states who are interested in introducing similar bills, although he declined to say which states.

"It's my understanding that some of these efforts probably won't include Sharia by name, but will be intended to prevent foreign law, international law, from being used in those respective state courts," Duncan said.

Gov.-elect Mary Fallin, a Republican, said Tuesday she supports the intent of preventing the use of Sharia law in Oklahoma courts. But she said she's also heard concerns from some businesses that the measure could adversely affect international contracts.

"We're going to work with incoming Attorney General Scott Pruitt to look at how we can maintain the intent of the law, but also deal with any of the unintended consequences that may come out of its passage," Fallin said.

University of Oklahoma constitutional law professor Joseph Thai described the proposed amendment as "a case study in bad drafting" that could take years to wind through the court system.

Thai accused Duncan of pandering to voter fear for political profit at the expense of religious minorities, the business community and Oklahoma taxpayers.

"Oklahoma voters may not have the legal background to understand that neither international law nor Sharia law presents a credible threat to the state, but our lawmakers should know better," Thai said. "Politicians play on fears while statesmen rise above them. It's pretty clear that politicians won the day with the passage of the amendment."


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