OKLAHOMA – A US federal court has upheld an injection on a proposed ban on Islamic Shari`ah in the state of Oklahoma, saying the drive was unconstitutional and discriminates against religion.
"While the public has an interest in the will of the voters being carried out ... the public has a more profound and long-term interest in upholding an individual's constitutional rights," the federal appeals court said in a ruling cited by Reuters on Tuesday, January 10.
A measure has been proposed to ban courts in Oklahoma from considering or using Shari`ah in its rulings.
The measure was approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters in 2010.
|What Is Shari`ah and Why Does It Matter?|
But the ban was challenged by Muneer Awad, a Muslim living in Oklahoma City, who argued that his constitutional rights will be violated if the ban is enforced.
"We conclude that Mr. Awad's allegation -- that the proposed state amendment expressly condemns his religion and exposes him and other Muslims in Oklahoma to disfavored treatment -- suffices to establish the kind of direct injury-in-fact necessary to create Establishment Clause standing,” the court said.
A federal judge in Oklahoma City issued a court order in November 2010 barring the measure from taking effect while the case is under review.
Opponents of the ban have argued that it stigmatizes Islam and Muslims and violates the US Constitution's First Amendment prohibition against the government favoring one religion over another.
But proponents have said that the move aims to bring judges to only apply US laws in Oklahoma.
“Shari`ah merges religion and the law. Our constitution is totally different," Republican Senator Anthony Sykes, who sponsored the ban in the state Senate, said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"I think it is something that competes with our constitution — it just doesn't mesh."
But the appeals court rejected the argument.
"That argument conflicts with the amendment's plain language, which mentions Shari`ah law in two places," the court opinion read.
The court ruling has won praise from US Muslims.
"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,” said plaintiff Awad, who is also the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Oklahoma.
“And we are pleased that the appeals court recognized that fact.
"This serves as a reminder that these anti-Shari`ah laws are unconstitutional and that if politicians use fear-mongering and bigotry, the courts won't allow it to last for long."
The Washington-based CAIR called the ruling “a victory for the Constitution and for the right of all Americans to freely practice their faith."
“Today's ruling is a victory for the Constitution and for the right of all Americans to freely practice their faith," said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas.
Lawmakers in at least 15 states have introduced proposals forbidding local judges from considering Shari`ah when rendering verdicts on issues of divorces and marital disputes.
In Islam, Shari`ah govern issues in Muslims’ lives from daily prayers to fasting and from to inheritance and marital cases to financial disputes.The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
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