Muslim groups claimed a win in Oklahoma on Tuesday after a federal appeals court upheld a block on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban Sharia law in the state’s courtrooms.
In November, 70 percent of Oklahoma voters approved an amendment that would ban state judges from considering Sharia law in their decisions, the Associated Press reports.
But the appeals court said the ban discriminates against Islam, as Sharia law is the only law mentioned in the proposed amendment.
The appeals court also noted that no example could be found in which Sharia law was used or cited in a U.S. court case.
“It's just fear-mongering; it's nothing,” Saleem Quraishi, president of the American Muslim Association of Oklahoma City, told CNN. “What's Sharia law have to do with Oklahoma?”
Turns out, it has a lot more to do with the whole country. The debate over whether to consider Sharia law in U.S. courts has been ongoing for years and is growing louder.
On one side, the neoconservative Center for Security Policy argues that Sharia law is in conflict with American state law. In a report published last June, the center examined 50 cases that it said involved Muslim Americans and conflicts between Islamic and state laws.
“These families came to America for freedom from the discriminatory and cruel laws of Sharia,” the report’s summary reads. “When our courts then apply Sharia law... and deny them equal protection, they are betraying the principles on which America was founded.”
In February, several Tennessee lawmakers sought to take the fight a step further, introducing a bill would make it a felony to follow Sharia law, punishable by 15 years in jail.
On the other side of the debate, there are those who say that international law like Sharia can have an assisting role in U.S. courts.
During her 2010 confirmation hearings, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said she would be willing to consider international law when hearing cases before the court.
Several Islamic law experts who have started a blog, Sharia Index, similarly believe Islamic law should have place a place in U.S. court.
In its mission statement, Sharia Index argues that because we live in a “global village,” in which marriages and commercial transactions are crossing borders, so too must U.S. courts interpret and apply international law — including Islamic law.
“Sharia can be relevant in various circumstances,” Sharia Index writes, “everything from the recognition of foreign divorces and custody decrees to the validity of marriages, [or] the terms of an Islamic finance deal.”
The Oklahoma case goes back to federal court in Oklahoma City to determine the amendment’s constitutionality, where Tuesday’s judgment could be reversed.