Monday, November 29, 2010

Nihad Awad: Judge Bars Certification of Okla. Anti-Islam Amendment

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/29/2010) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today applauded a strongly-worded ruling by a federal judge in Oklahoma granting an injunction that bars certification of an anti-Islam state ballot measure (SQ 755) passed in the November 2 election.

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.

Today'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).

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.

"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 Awad.

Awad's lawsuit, based on his own faith-based will, says SQ 755 violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause that bars government bodies from making laws “respecting the establishment of religion.”

"Today marks another day in American history in which our courts have defended the Constitution against those who would deny its protections to a minority community," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad (no relation to Muneer Awad). "We agree with Judge Miles-LaGrange and the U.S. Supreme Court that 'fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote.'"

Awad added that he hopes the ongoing legal process will expose the campaign of misinformation about Islam targeting Oklahoma voters that was used to promote SQ 755.

He said CAIR plans an education campaign in Oklahoma to offer state residents accurate and balanced information about Islamic beliefs and practices and about the American Muslim community.


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