Muneer Awad, the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), filed a lawsuit earlier this month to halt the certification of election results that would ban consideration of Sharia law in Oklahoma Courts. Judge Miles-Lagrange granted Awad’s request to stop Oklahoma from adding a constitutional amendment that would forbid the use of Islamic or Sharia law within the courts. Awad argued that the Amendment would negatively affect every aspect of his life such as his last will and testament. The federal judge agreed stating that the Amendment would send a message of “official government disapproval towards [Awad’s] religious beliefs.”
What is interesting about this entire debate is Awad’s point that in order to ban Sharia law from Oklahoma courts, an Oklahoma judge would have to consider what Sharia law is first to make sure it was not being considered. This is assuming we have one coherent, undisputed definition of Sharia law, which of course does not exist as Islamic law can vary depending on the country in which a Muslim lives.
Additionally, does the word consider mean a judge cannot incorporate Sharia law into the basis or his or her decision, or does consider mean a judge cannot even think about Sharia law and put certain acts/documents into context to infer a particular mindset? The fact that the proposed amendment does not clearly define “consider” means the law did not allocate to judges a clear standard by which to operate. Furthermore, and perhaps even more dangerous is that the law, being vague, would produce confusion and inconsistency. It would greatly diminish predictability, something we strive for in the American court system with the use of Stare Decisis.