Ignorance Is the Enemy
By Razi Hashmi

When Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, heard about a Muslim woman re-taking her driver's license photo at the Department of Public Safety after her civil rights were violated, he proposed an amendment that would take all Oklahomans' civil rights away. This attack against Americans' civil rights would affect others besides the Muslim community, and is not without unintended consequences.

The sponsors have tagged this legislation to another bill that is irrelevant to the case at hand, and if passed, it would prohibit religious minorities from wearing religiously-mandated head covering when taking photos for their driver's licenses and other IDs.

Those affected would be Jewish men who wear yarmulkes, Catholic nuns who wear the habit, Indian Sikhs who wear turbans, Muslim women who wear the hijab (Islamic head scarf), and other religious groups who wear head coverings. If Mother Teresa were alive today and this proposed law were passed, she would not be able to get a driver's license in the state of Oklahoma!

America has a long-standing history of religious pluralism and freedom. It goes against the founding principles of our country to prohibit one's free practice of religion, protected by the US Constitution.

The Oklahoma State Legislature needs to stop wasting time mixing religion and politics with pet projects such as placing the Ten Commandments on state property, and prohibiting religious head wear on driver's licenses. Being in the buckle of the Bible belt, Oklahomans have a responsibility to uphold the separation of Church and State just like the rest of this country.

Locally, we cannot forget that we do have bigger issues to focus on, namely the economy. In these tough economic times, it is disconcerting to see our state legislators wasting precious taxpayer dollars by attempting to pass a law that violates our First Amendment rights. If the legislators believe that Oklahoma is recession-proof, then we clearly have not felt the effects of the state Capitol, which has and will continue to drive people out of the state and send labor to other states that will accept a diverse workforce with open arms. (More)

-Tulsa World

[ Razi Hashmi is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, a grassroots civil rights advocacy group whose mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.]



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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