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Judge bars certification of Oklahoma anti-Islam constitutional amendment

By       Message Abdus Sattar Ghazali     Permalink
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In a strongly-worded ruling a federal judge in Oklahoma Monday granted an injunction that bars certification of an anti-Islam state ballot measure (SQ 755) passed in the November 2 election.

Oklahomans on Nov. 2 approved the amendment -- in State Question 755 -- with more than 70 percent of the vote. The amendment forbids state courts from using or considering international law or Islamic Sharia law in making decisions.

Islam-bashing for political gain was a chilling feature of this year's election campaign and demagogues misled Oklahomans to pass this anti-American measure.

Muneer Awad, 27, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, quickly challenged the amendment, saying it demonizes his faith.

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The judge on Nov. 8 agreed to a temporary restraining order barring the state Election Board from certifying the SQ 755 results. Her order today means the Election Board is barred indefinitely from certifying the results.

If it had been certified, SQ 755 would have amended that state's constitution to forbid judges from considering Islamic principles or international law when deciding a case.

Monday's ruling by Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ordered a preliminary injunction to block the certification of the amendment by the Oklahoma State Board of Elections until a final determination is made based on the merits of a lawsuit against SQ 755 filed by Muneer Awad, executive director of CAIR's Oklahoma chapter (CAIR-OK).

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In her ruling in support of Awad's legal arguments, Judge Miles-LaGrange wrote:

"This order addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our (U.S.) Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights. Throughout the course of our country's history, the will of the 'majority' has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals, an occurrence which our founders foresaw and provided for through the Bill of Rights. . .

"Having carefully reviewed the briefs on this issue, and having heard the evidence and arguments presented at the hearing, the Court finds plaintiff has made a strong showing of a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his claim asserting a violation of the Free Exercise Clause.

"As set forth above, plaintiff has shown that the actual language of the amendment reasonably, and perhaps more reasonably, may be viewed as specifically singling out Sharia Law (plaintiff's faith) and, thus, is not facially neutral.

"Additionally, as set forth above, the Court finds that plaintiff has shown that there is a reasonable probability that the amendment would prevent plaintiff's will from being fully probated by a state court in Oklahoma because it incorporates by reference specific elements of the Islamic prophetic traditions.

"Further, plaintiff has presented evidence that there is a reasonable probability that Muslims, including plaintiff, will be unable to bring actions in Oklahoma state courts for violations of the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act and for violations of their rights under the United States Constitution if those violations are based upon their religion.

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"Finally, the Court finds that defendants have presented no evidence which would show that the amendment is justified by any compelling interest or is narrowly tailored."

"We applaud today's ruling and welcome the opportunity it offers to demonstrate that Oklahoma's Muslim community simply seeks to enjoy the civil and religious rights guaranteed to all Americans by our Constitution," said Muneer Awad.

The New York Times Editorial

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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