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Article
Constructing the Other: U.S. Muslims, Proposed Anti-Sharia Law, and the Constitutional Consequences of Volatile Intercultural Rhetoric
S. Cal. Interdisc. L.J. (2012)
  • Carlo A. Pedrioli
Abstract

Recently, legislators have proposed, discussed, and passed various laws that aimed to limit the use of foreign law, international law, and Sharia (a branch of Islamic law) in state court systems. Because it became law, one proposed state constitutional amendment that rhetorically linked Sharia to foreign and international law is of particular note. In the 2010 midterm elections, Oklahoma passed State Question 755 (SQ 755), a constitutional amendment that aimed to place restrictions on the use of foreign law, international law, and Sharia in Oklahoma courts.

Laws like Oklahoma’s State Question 755 are problematic for a variety of reasons. One key reason is that such laws discriminate against U.S. Muslims, out of whose religious tradition Sharia comes, and fail to offer an explanation for such discrimination, instead appealing to public ignorance of Islam and fear of terrorism. The result of such laws is to sacrifice the rights of rank-and-file U.S. Muslims in the middle of political theater. To focus on a law that has been approved by the legislature and then the public, rather than on those laws that simply have been proposed, this article addresses the case of Oklahoma’s SQ 755. Greater understanding of the legal and communication problems associated with SQ 755, particularly as those problems impact U.S. Muslims, a religious minority that makes up less than one percent of the adult U.S. population, will provide both legislators and members of the public an opportunity to become more informed regarding passing future legislation and voting on future state constitutional amendments of this sort.

This article initially contextualizes the matter of SQ 755 by noting how U.S. society in general, and Oklahoma in particular, have constructed U.S. Muslims as Others, or Strangers. Then the article offers some background on SQ 755, which itself is a specific manifestation of the rhetorical construction of Muslims as Others. Next the article analyzes how SQ 755 violates various provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including the Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, the Supremacy Clause, the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Contracts Clause. Finally, the article suggests a dialogic approach, channeled through the Johari Window, which is a vehicle for information exchange, for deconstructing the notion of U.S. Muslims as Others and reconstructing them as Selves, or non-Strangers, within U.S. culture.

Keywords
  • Muslims,
  • anti-Sharia law,
  • constitution,
  • intercultural communication
Publication Date
2012
Citation Information
Carlo A. Pedrioli. "Constructing the Other: U.S. Muslims, Proposed Anti-Sharia Law, and the Constitutional Consequences of Volatile Intercultural Rhetoric" S. Cal. Interdisc. L.J. Vol. 22 (2012)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/carlo_pedrioli/15/