What banning ‘Shariah law’ means for Oklahoma Muslims

By Nihad Awad Today, no constitution of any state places special burdens on a specific religious tradition. That will change … Continued

By Nihad Awad

Today, no constitution of any state places special burdens on a specific religious tradition. That will change on November 9 if Oklahoma amends its constitution in accordance with State Question 755.

State Question 755, which was approved by state voters on Tuesday, will amend Oklahoma’s constitution to forbid state courts from considering “Shariah Law.” According to the amendment, “Shariah Law” is anything “based on the Koran” or the “teaching of Mohammed:”

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 Muslims, the Quran and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad are the basis of our faith. Shariah is a dynamic legal framework derived from the Quran, hadith, the ongoing consensus of Muslim scholars, and analytical reasoning.

To be clear, State Question 755 does not target Shariah, but instead targets Islam and the religious principles Muslims use to guide their spiritual lives.

For generations, American Muslims have had the same civil liberties as all other Americans, and have lived and practiced their faith with the protection of the Constitution. The act of erasing Islam from the cognizance of Oklahoma’s courts has real consequences for Muslims. If it becomes part of the state constitution, State Question 755 would contradict the U.S. Constitution, jeopardizing the personal freedoms of Oklahoma Muslims by affecting their ability to seek reasonable religious accommodations from employers, schools, and other institutions, or to choose to wear a headscarf in a driver’s license photo. It could invalidate the burial instructions a Muslim leaves in his or her will, or prevent couples from choosing an Islamic marriage contract.

Perhaps the worst of impact of State Question 755 is that it will place Oklahoma’s courts in the position of defining the parameters and contents of Islam.

In order for judges to exclude Islam from judicial proceedings, they will have to develop judiciable standards defining “Shariah Law.” It is not the place of Oklahoma’s courts to decide the elements of my faith. That is for me to decide.

Thankfully, the U.S. Constitution is clear on this issue. There is perhaps nothing more unbending in the First Amendment than the absolute prohibition against courts taking positions on matters pertaining to religious doctrine. The Oklahoma amendment violates that basic principle of American law and governance by specifically targeting one faith, Islam, and one religious community, Oklahoma Muslims.

If there is any good to come out of State Question 755, it is to remind us all that the U.S. Constitution exists to protect the interests of all Americans, whether or not their faith happens to be unpopular at a particular time in our nation’s history.

Nihad Awad is national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization.

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  • WmarkW

    There was a case in my home state, Maryland, a couple of years ago in which a Muslim immigrant couple were going through a separation, and the husband claimed he had already divorced his wife while they were visiting their homeland by saying “I divorce thee” three times.The court threw it out for lacking due process.This does NOTHING but make clear that under our Constitution, including it First Amendment, that US laws apply in its courts and that religious laws don’t, even when both parties belong to that religion.It may be redundant, but at least it’s clear.Oklahoma, O Kay!

  • AKafir

    Nihad you do not specify how it contradicts the US constitution. The question simply states that in US the law will be consistent with the laws of the US (i.e. its constitution and the laws that flow from it). Where does it say that it must ignore the US constitution? If the US law says “reasonable religious accommodations” then that does not change. What does change is that there is unambiguously one law and not separate laws for different communities. There are many many examples where it should be clear to any American that Sharia has no place in USA. I hope you (CAIR and ISN and MAS) take it to the supreme court, and I hope they rule on it because that will bring clarity and automatically make the ruling applicable to all the states. You will be doing the American Kafirs a favor.

  • Jihadist

    Mr. Nihad Awad, American Muslims are from different countries, different school of thoughts and Islamic jurisprudence.You won’t like living in Turkey as much as you won’t like living in Saudi Arabia. There are more freedoms for American Muslims than in both countries – Turkey banning headscarves, Saudi Arabia insisting on full hijabs for Muslim women in specific places etc. Do what Turks do – have a civil marraige preceding or following an Islamic marraige by an imam. And do the will according to Shariah and done by a civil lawyer. If the family are following the Shariah, they would not contest it i courts and accept their inheritance. Do a prenuptials by Shariah Islamic marraige contracts if you must done by civil lawyers. A will done by a civil lawyer is acceptable in American courts even if by Shariah principles and no member of the family contest it. As for drivers’ licence, you do know that all Americans, including American Muslim women, have to show their ears in their passport photos. Methinks better for CAIR to focus on American Muslim men honouring their Islamic marraige contracts, divorce, alimony and child support by Shariah, including the property of the female spouse is hers, and hers alone. American civil laws, upon divorce, gave men and women equal share regardless of 100% of the property is the woman’s. At least in California. Hope CAIR maintains Shariah when it comes to that, whereby in a divorce, what is the woman’s is hers and the man can’t touch and we know men don’t quite faithfully dole out alimony and child support after divorce and needs the courts to chase them to do so. I can see why you are nervous and anxious in these times when Islam and Muslims are regarded as “enemies” in America from atheists to Jews to Hindues to Christians to pagans to Mormons, but look around Muslim majority countries a bit for some examples on civil and Shariah laws and courts, including and especially Islamic Family Law. You will find them closer to American civil/secular law than you know and think.

  • ElwoodCid

    I applaud the Oklahoma voters for their courage and conviction, and look forward to the rest of the union following suit.

  • AKafir

    The muslim Jihadist will not comment on the hatred embedded in Sharia for the non-muslims in her “Family law” in her tolerant and moderate but racist Islamic republic of Malaysia.Playing the victim to arouse guilt in the Kafirs is a diminishing returns tactic now. No one considers Muslims an enemy, but hopefully people do consider Islam as a vile and hateful ideology as they learn more about the Koran and Islam’s prophet muhammad and his life. If Muslims were considered an enemy, the reaction to the killings and murder by the jihadists among us would have been quite different than what it has been and is. However, how the Malaysians have been treating ALL non-muslims in Malaysia, or how the Egyptians have been treating ALL christians among them, or how the Pakistanis have been treating ALL Kafirs among them is far more than shameful. It is downright evil. Hopefully, American muslims associated with CAIR, ISNA and other Muslim organistions will speak up against that evil. Will Nihad take the lead and speak up for the hateful treatment of the Malaysian Kafirs?

  • abrahamhab1

    “State Question 755 would contradict the U.S. Constitution, jeopardizing the personal freedoms of Oklahoma Muslims by affecting their ability to seek reasonable religious accommodations from employers, schools, and other institutions, or to choose to wear a headscarf in a driver’s license photo.”It is this “reasonable religious accommodation from employers, schools and other institutions” that is targeted. This “accommodation” is the process of creeping Islamization of America and if we allow it soon America will look like Somalia or Sudan. Each Muslim here will for example have four wives and could dispose of any or all at will for any or no reason simply by saying “I divorce you”. If a person wishes to know how we would fare under Sharia rule he should review the constitution for the treatment of non-Muslims by Muslims as codified by “Pact of Omar” cited below.

  • TommyTstars

    Mr Nihad Awad does not seem to be well informed on the Constitutional history and jusrisprudence concerning the First Amendment. That amendment also prohibits any law infringing on the freedom of speech, yet the Supreme Court has repeated ruled in favor of laws restricting libel or the archetypal “yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre. The amendment prohibits any law infringing on the freedom of public assembly, yet the Supreme Court has reapeated ruled in favor of reasonable laws require parade permits and upholding bans on public assembly in certain places.Very little indeed in our Constitutional law is an absolute that is not subject to the balancing of other interests to protect individual rights and civil society.If you want to stone to death your daughter because she has eloped with a non-Muslim, you will have to do it in another country.

  • icymount

    Great article! I noticed that most of the comments have been made by people who seem to have made up their minds even before reading this article. The article is in fact quite illuminating in terms of what shariah really is. Most of the times, we Westerners think Shariah a whole bunch of punishment for subjugating women in Muslim society– which it turns out is completely wrong. There is a great discussion of what shariah really is by Dr. Jackson (link:

  • AKafir

    icymount,Since you know Sharia, could you please tell why is it that the non-muslims in Sharia ruled nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mali, Sudan, Yemen, etc. have laws that are against them and reduce them to second class humans. Now please take the time to teach and don’t disappear as most Muslim posters and apologetics do after making such a strong claim as you do. If you do not know the laws for the non-muslims in muslim countries, please call up Nihad Awad and I am sure he will have CAIR resources at your disposal. Really looking forward to reading your post on this important issue.

  • aussiebarry

    @AKAFIR

  • AKafir

    aussiebarry writes: “Why on earth should she have to justify laws that are in place in another country?”Excellent Question. And everyone should ask it and make sure that they understand the answer. The laws of ALL the muslim countries incorporate laws and ideals from one form or another of Sharia. And in ALL of these laws the non-muslims are treated as second class humans. Don’t you think that Americans are entitled to find out whether Sharia really represents a set of ideals as Mr. Jackson (whose article is linked by icymount) asserts or Mr. Awad implies? Should the Kafirs in America not look at the example of where Sharia has been implemented and is implemented to see exactly how ideal it is for them? Don’t you think these practical issues how Kafirs have been treated under Sharia should come up when considering whether it is constitutional or not? Don’t you think it is appropriate to see how the implementation of Sharia, and the ideals of Sharia in any one of the foreign Countries has been for the non-muslims or Kafirs? Mr. Awad does not have to justify foreign laws but he should explain, in my judgment, why the ideals of Sharia that he thinks should be considered by the courts of USA have all ended up treating the non-muslims as second class citizens all over the world. If you disagree, I really would like to know your reasons.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    This is a horrible crisis.Moving on, I’m a little more concerned about Muslims attempting to blow up Chicago synagogues.Hello? Awad?

  • aussiebarry

    @AKAFIR

  • ThomasBaum

    Nihad Awad Part IIIYou wrote, “It is not the place of Oklahoma’s courts to decide the elements of my faith.”And it is not your place to impose your faith or your sharia law on others.You then wrote, “Thankfully, the U.S. Constitution is clear on this issue. There is perhaps nothing more unbending in the First Amendment than the absolute prohibition against courts taking positions on matters pertaining to religious doctrine.”This is not about “religious doctrine” that is unless that “religious doctrine” is to impose itself on others which the Constitution is, as you say, clear that this is not allowed.You then wrote, “The Oklahoma amendment violates that basic principle of American law and governance by specifically targeting one faith, Islam, and one religious community, Oklahoma Muslims.”Pretty sad isn’t it, that islam is the “one faith” that needed to be “targeted” since it seems to be a “basicYou then wrote, “If there is any good to come out of State Question 755, it is to remind us all that the U.S. Constitution exists to protect the interests of all Americans, whether or not their faith happens to be unpopular at a particular time in our nation’s history.”Do you really think that those that wish to impose sharia law on the rest of Americans will realize that it is against the very founding documents of this country to do so?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    Nihad Awad Part IIYou then wrote, “Shariah is a dynamic legal framework derived from the Quran, hadith, the ongoing consensus of Muslim scholars, and analytical reasoning.”And does this mean that you have the right to impose this on others?America is not a theocratic nation but is a nation with “freedom of conscience” written into its founding documents and as you have written “Sharia is Islamic”, therefore sharia law has absolutely no place in American jurisprudence.You then wrote, “To be clear, State Question 755 does not target Shariah, but instead targets Islam and the religious principles Muslims use to guide their spiritual lives.”This is absolutely untrue, however you or any other Muslim wishes to live your spiritual life, unless it is to impose it on others, is up to you, the “law of the land” is about the “laws” that apply to everyone.You then wrote, “For generations, American Muslims have had the same civil liberties as all other Americans, and have lived and practiced their faith with the protection of the Constitution. The act of erasing Islam from the cognizance of Oklahoma’s courts has real consequences for Muslims.”And they still do have the “same civil liberties as all other Americans”, seems as if the “real consequences for Muslims” is that All will continue to have the same civil liberties and that sharia will not be allowed to take these “civil liberties” away from others.You then wrote, ” If it becomes part of the state constitution, State Question 755 would contradict the U.S. Constitution, jeopardizing the personal freedoms of Oklahoma Muslims by affecting their ability to seek reasonable religious accommodations from employers, schools, and other institutions,”I suppose some people’s “reasonable” just might be compromised but if one wishes to live in a theocratic state maybe they should choose to live in one rather than to remake the place they choose to live in into a theocratic state and by the way the US Constitution was written to specifically not be a theocratic government and since “sharia is islamic law”, as you have written, then sharia law is incompatible with US law.You added, “or to choose to wear a headscarf in a driver’s license photo. It could invalidate the burial instructions a Muslim leaves in his or her will, or prevent couples from choosing an Islamic marriage contract.”Seems to me that you do not wish to live in America, why pretend that you do?You then wrote, “Perhaps the worst of impact of State Question 755 is that it will place Oklahoma’s courts in the position of defining the parameters and contents of Islam.”You may have a point here and the “parameters and contents of Islam” being the “political aspects” of islam, concerning “world domination”, but more specifically in this case the “islamization of America”, most definitely should be looked at for the benefits of All of the citizens of America.

  • ThomasBaum

    Nihad Awad Part IYou wrote, “Today, no constitution of any state places special burdens on a specific religious tradition. That will change on November 9 if Oklahoma amends its constitution in accordance with State Question 755.”Is the “special burdens” that you speak of being that the seperation of church and state remains as part of United States law and that a “religion”, any religion, does not have preferential treatment just because they demand it?You then wrote, “State Question 755, which was approved by state voters on Tuesday, will amend Oklahoma’s constitution to forbid state courts from considering “Shariah Law.”"As it should, this country was not set up to be a theocracy and just because islam wants to impose its will on others does not give it that right.You then wrote, “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.”As it should, this is the United States of America not the United States of the World and this country has its own laws and these are the law of the land.Don’t you think that it is rather telling that until islam tried to impose itself on others in this country that this country or in this case, a state, did not deem it necessary to actually put it into writing?You then wrote, “It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.”Thank God.You then wrote, “Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.”As you said, “Sharia Law is Islamic law” and it has absolutely no place in American law since this country is not a theocracy.You then wrote, “For Muslims, the Quran and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad are the basis of our faith.”That’s fine but to impose your “faith” on others is not only wrong but according to some Muslims is against islamic teachings, is it or is it not?

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Farnaz, what has this article got to do with the recent bomb crisis?Posted by: aussiebarry

  • areyousaying

    Gee, now if the good Christians of Oklahoma would pass a law requiring Catholics to turn over their pervert priests to civil authorities for prosecution.What’s that?There is already a law requiring reporting child molestation?Oh, really?Never mind.

  • mandinka2

    After the disaster in NJ where the judge let a guy off after beating his wife since it was “OK” under sharia, this should be on all 50 states ballots

  • AKafir

    Asizk: “A Muslim feels much more comfortable and tranquil living under US laws than in most ‘Muslim’ states because of the fundamental freedoms and liberties availed-which are truly reminiscent of the early egalitarian days of Islam during and immediately after the Prophet.”Totally nauseating rubbish. That is the time when the Arab pagans were not even accorded the choice that other Kafirs were getting to pay jiziya with humiliation and not submit to Islam. Arab non-muslims were to convert or die. This was the time when literally millions were enslaved and sold into slavery by the marauding Arab army. This notion of an egalitarian time is an Islamic myth that attempts to hide the absolute evil of war and destruction that was let loose by the expanding Arab Empire. If it was such a great time, why were there so many wars, and why were three of the first four Khalifas assassinated?

  • FarnazMansouri2

    There are three million Jews living in exile from their native lands in the Middle East. Some of them come from families that date back to the Middle Ages. They were murdered, deported, treated as second and third class citizens. Their property and land were stolen from them by the muslims.These muslim gang states treat the remaining Jews and Christians, not to mention Hindus, and B’hai, like fourth class citizens. They are arrested and held without trial. They are limited in the schools they can attend, the jobs they can hold. The B’hai in Iraq and Iran are in mortal danger.The muslims in Asia have a caste system in which the Christians serve as “sweepers,” sweeping the streets with wisk brooms, cleaning sewers with their hands. They are kept impoverished from generation to generation, raped, beaten, killed with impunity.Palestinian muslims are treated as “unclean” in Saudi Arabia, polluted. In Egypt Palestinian Egyptian children cannot attend state schools.Ismaeli Muslims and Ahmadis have rights in one country: Israel.

  • joe_allen_doty

    Does the author even live in the State of Oklahoma? I live in Oklahoma and I don’t approve of using the Laws given to Moses in Oklahoma courts either. I am a follower of Jesus; I don’t follow Moses.

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