Oct 7 2011
Denver's 10th Circuit Court in spotlight as it considers Oklahoma's Shariah-law case [Excerpts]
An Oklahoma initiative that bars state judges there from considering Islamic law in court decisions came in for a barrage of questioning at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday, in a case that could have national implications.
The controversy focuses on a measure voters in Oklahoma overwhelmingly approved last year. The measure prevents judges from basing rulings in any way on international law and then mentions Islamic law — known as Shariah — specifically.
A three-judge panel of federal 10th Circuit judges on Monday repeatedly asked Patrick Wyrick, Oklahoma's solicitor general, why Shariah law was singled out and whether that amounts to discrimination against Muslims.
"Doesn't it disfavor Islam as a religion?" Judge Scott Matheson Jr. asked.
Wyrick responded that it doesn't because the initiative is intended only to apply to aspects of Shariah that would claim legal precedence.
But opponents of the initiative — who filed suit last year to block its certification — say the law denies Muslims rights that would be afforded to people of other religions.
For instance, Muneer Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma and the suit's plaintiff, said the law would invalidate certain civil documents, such as wills.
A federal district court judge in Oklahoma has already temporarily blocked the initiative's certification, a ruling Oklahoma's election board appealed to the 10th Circuit.
The 10th Circuit is expected to issue its ruling later this year.
(John Ingold, "Denver's 10th Circuit Court in spotlight as it considers Oklahoma's Shariah-law case," The Denver Post, 9/13/11).