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Masjid An-Nasr, Oklahoma City
The crescent-topped dome of Masjid An-Nasr peeks through trees of a residential neighborhood in Oklahoma City. (photo: Andrew Shockley/Flickr)

Hailing from Canada, where referendums are few and far between, I’m fascinated by some of the questions on the U.S. ballots. This year I was particularly interested in Oklahoma ballot measure 755 [bold emphasis mine]:

“This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.

The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.

Shall the proposal be approved?

For the proposal

Yes: __________

Against the proposal

No: __________ “

The amendment passed, with 70 percent in favor. Haroon Moghul of Religion Dispatches wrote an amused and hopeful piece from a Muslim perspective. For starters, he addresses some of the misunderstandings about Shari’ah law by explaining what it isn’t, and what it is:

“What most Americans don’t realize is that we already have interpretations of Shari’ah law in our country; or, at least, interpretations of the personal, moral, and ethical components of the law, operating off of individual choice and will. When Muslims pray, they are following interpretations of Shari’ah. Fasting in Ramadan. Giving in charity. Even a smile, the Prophet Muhammad said, is charity. So what this means in real terms is entirely beyond me…”

At a time where civility may be harder to find, I was heartened by his surprisingly optimistic note for the future. A view, however, which is probably out of reach for Muneer Awad, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who filed a lawsuit (PDF of petition) challenging the constitutionality of the measure. A preliminary hearing before U.S. district court judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange is scheduled for today.


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6 Comments

The Legal system here in the states has threads of relegious based "laws" in it obviously. Mr. Moghul points out the application of Shari'ah at its most compassionate and charitable. Unfortunately There are those who interpert Shari' ah in the harshest terms. This is what the people of Oklahoma no doubt fear. Educating people on the importance of fair and compassionate interpertations will help . Also one must considered that our laws are supposed to be as secular and moral as possible.So it would be questionable for a court to rule using Shari'ah as if it were a secular law applicable to all citizens , muslim or not. Nor should Shari'ah ( or any other relegious law) be used to avoid the concesquenses meted out by the state/federal courts where the transgressions are severe. People I am sure are worried about so called honnor killings, the stoning of women ,things that are often associated with Shari'ah in the press.
It isn't fair but it is the reality that the first wave of of any new immagernt group bares the burden of proof. Proof that the traditions and releigions it brings with it are not a threat to the status quo . That yes they are people just like"us" who are here now because they to believe in the most basic principles of the american society. The things the make one an american regardless of where you were born. The principles that the people of Oklahoma hold dear but... in their fear of the unknown are not exercising fully.
It always impresses me how the people I know and meet who are muslim extend themselves in everyway to anyone who wishes to learn more about their relegion and the different traditions of their faith. It also makes me smile to see my childern and their friends of every faith talking,laughing , arguing studying and playing together without a thought of the differences between them but simply accepting and incorporating them into their relationships. So there as cliched as it sounds is where our hope must rest.

It was reported today that the law has already been enjoined from taking effect and that it isn't expected to pass legal muster. Ballot issues like this one are understood to be useful to bring certain people out to the polls.

We or me, really don't understand Muslim Laws from what I see it is horrible for women especially having to wear the face veil. But then how is it any different from what nuns have to wear it is all so depressing to be a woman

I think the laws in this country are just fine the way they are. If any changes need to be made, we already have provisions to do so. We really don't need input from another country or religion, because our laws have been working for over 300 years, and they address the needs and expectations of a multicultural, multi-religious, multinational commonwealth. So, I believe that Sharia should be left to the Muslim nations where it is practiced (very questionably so, at least from the human rights watch's perspective) and amend US law according to the provisions we already have. Muslims in this country have as many stipulations in the law that already exists in order to be able to practice the 5 pillars and the Quran's teachings. Muslim scholars can't even agree on which of the hadith are valid, let alone practice Prophet Muhammad's teachings of compassion and respect among Muslims themselves, so I say live and let live. Our Constitution is built on the concept of mutual respect. Whatever challenges the Muslim community is facing because of terrorism actually have nothing to do with the way that US law is practiced, rather these are challenges that need to be addressed within the Muslim community. And when a united voice can be attained, then this voice should be used to support the diversity of the American population, not add what is unnecessary, what would cause even more tensions in the current political atmosphere.

How is it respecting diversity to only forbid considering Sharia, but not religious law like the Ten Commandments and other Jewish and Christian law? This new law is probably going to be struck down as unconstitutional, and for good reason.

apples