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An amendment that would ban Oklahoma courts from considering Sharia law is discriminatory and unnecessary, a federal court ruled Tuesday in a decision that allows a Muslim community leader to push forward with his attempt to challenge the ban's constitutionality.
The Associated Press reports that the ruling from the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a previous federal ruling that blocked implementation of the so-called Save Our State Amendment shortly after it was approved by a whopping 70 percent of Oklahoma voters in November 2010.
The amendment seeks to prevent courts from looking "to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures" and specifically singles out Sharia law.
Sharia law is a term for the laws of Islam as laid out by the Quran and by Muhammed's example. In some Muslim countries, Islamist groups have imposed strict versions of it as the primary governing code. A small group of Americans -- but apparently quite a few Oklahomans -- believe that the U.S. is also at risk for such a scenario.
The amendment was met with a lot of controversy, both for its widespread support across the state and because many felt it was discriminatory towards Muslims, who make up about 1 percent of the total U.S. population.
The ACLU represented Muneer Awad, a U.S. citizen and the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations' Oklahoma chapter, in the case. Awad filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the amendment soon after its passage, saying it violated his constitutional right to religious liberty. Tuesday's ruling means the injunction blocking the amendment from taking effect will remain in place while Awad's case goes forward.
In its ruling, the 10th Circut explained its decision against the amendment:
"Appellants do not identify any actual problem the challenged amendment seeks to solve. Indeed, they admitted . . . that they did not know of even a single instance where an Oklahoma court had applied Sharia law or used the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, let alone that such applications or uses had resulted in concrete problems in Oklahoma."
As Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches notes, current presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are supporters of banning Sharia law in the U.S.