Awad v. Ziriax Case Analysis

Awad v. Ziriax Case Analysis

Case Summary

     In 2010, the voters of the state of Oklahoma confirmed an amendment to the State’s constitution, which was aimed at preventing state courts from employing or regarding Sharia law in their practice. Oklahoma election board requested the Tenth Circuit to evaluate if the federal district court erred in its decision of providing a preliminary injunction, which effectively prevented the Board from confirming the results of the vote on the amendment. The decision aimed to prevent Oklahoma State Courts from taking into account or applying Sharia Law in making judicial decisions, and hence the matter was analyzed with great scrutiny by the court. Muneer Awad (Plantiffin this case), who was also an executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, brought a case against the Oklahoma Election Board aimed at preventing the approval of the voting results. On November 29, 2010, a preliminary injunction was provided by the court. On appeal to the, the Oklahoma Election Board field an appeal to the Tenth Circuit, claiming that Awad (the Plaintiff) failed to be justiciable in his arguments; furthermore, the Board argued that even if Awad’s Establishment or Free Exercise arguments could be regarded as justiciable (having the grounds to be decided by court), his claims were not meeting preliminary injunction clause. Tenth Circuit reviewed the reasoning of the district court and the validity of the claims presented, concluding that Awad’s arguments were justiciable; furthermore, Tenth Circuit ruled that that the district court did not err when it granted the preliminary injunction based on the presented arguments (Awad v. Ziriax, et al., 2012).

Parties Involved

     The Defendants-Appellants in this case are members of the Oklahoma Elections Board, while Muneer Awad acts as the Plaintiff-Appellee. The Appellants’ position is that Mr. Awad’s allegations were not justiciable, and the district court overstepped its authority by awarding him a temporary injunction. On the other hand, Mr. Awad, a Muslim American citizen living in Oklahoma, claims that the alteration to the State constitution goes against his right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He claims that if the alteration were to be implemented, then he and other Muslims residing in the State of Oklahoma would suffer numerous negative consequences such as restricting the relief they can acquire from state courts, curtailing the practices of Islam faith, stigmatizing those practicing the Muslim faith, disabling the courts from probating his last will and testament, and upholding a disproportionate involvement of the government in his religion (Awad v. Ziriax, et al., 2012).

Case History

     This case was first brought before the Oklahoma District Court on November 4, 2010, by Muneer Awad, a US citizen who is also serving as the executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The Plaintiff requested the court for a preliminary injunction against the Oklahoma State Elections Board to prevent them from ratifying the “Save our State” constitutional amendment. On November 9, 2010, the court awarded him a temporary restraining order, the same day that the Board was set to make the certification. On November 22, 2010, it administered a hearing to take in the evidence of the parties and one week later, issued Mr. Awad an interim injunction. The appellant entered a notice of appeal on December 1, 2010.

Legal Issue

     In this case, the legal issue is whether the district court erred in exercising its authority by awarding the respondent a preliminary injunction; another issue is whether the Plaintiff’s calims were justiciable and met the requirement necessary for a preliminary injunction.

Court Ruling

     The court of appeal asserted the district court’s decision. It held that the latter did not misuse its authority by conferring the respondent a temporary injunction. The court affirmed that Mr. Awad did have a justifiable claim under the Establishment Clause and his case met the qualifications necessary for a preliminary injunction to be awarded.

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Important Facts

     The court first reviewed the question of whether Mr. Awad’s claims were justiciable by expounding on three factors which a plaintiff must establish; 1) that they have endured harm in fact, 2) the harm can be traced to the defendant’s contested actions, and 3) a positive decision is inclined to rectify the harm (Ariz. Christian Sch. Tuition Org. v. Winn, 2011). The court considered the claims brought forth by Mr. Awad that the modification explicitly concerned his religion and prevented him from using the legal precepts of his religion in Oklahoma courts. On the contrary, the modification to the constitution did not bar people who subscribed to other faiths from relying on their legal doctrines. Because of this, the court found his injury to be personal and concrete as it surpassed the test of suffering a mere psychological effect from dissention with perceived government conduct (Valley Forge, 1982).

     The court then considered whether Mr. Awad’s claims met the peculiar standard of a preliminary injunction. First, the Plaintiff had to show that his case had a significant chance of succeeding based on its substance. The court found that the “Save our State” amendment discriminated against the Muslim faith. On the other hand, the appellants failed to show that they had a compelling interest to pass the amendment because there was no actual problem that it attempted to solve. Second, the court found that Mr. Awad would suffer irreparable injury if it denied the injunction. It referenced the decisions of most courts regarding the violation of constitutional rights, which does not necessitate a further show of irreparable harm (Kikumura v. Hurley, 2001)

     Third, Mr. Awad also satisfied the court that his anticipated injury outweighed the harm that the appellants would endure from granting the injunction. Even though the appellants argued that the balance weighed to their benefit because of the voters’ overwhelming support of the amendment, the court maintained that the unconstitutionality of the amendment did not outweigh the protection of Mr. Awad’s constitutional right. Lastly, the court held that the injunction would not be detrimental to the interest of the public because as much as the people are invested in their will being upheld, they should have a more abysmal interest in protecting the constitutional rights of an individual (G & V Lounge, Inc. v. Mich. Liquor Control Comm’n, 1994).

Enforcing a Clause in a Contract Applying Sharia Law

     One of the underlying principles in American Law is the freedom of contract (Volokh, 2014). The principle of freedom of contract gives parties the liberty to accommodate the beliefs or obligations prescribed by their religious doctrines in agreements between them and other people. In this regard, a U.S. court can enforce the application of Sharia Law to a contract, so long as the contract does not contravene principles of public policy. Agreements that are deemed to be improper cannot be validated by religious motivation. For instance, a U.S. court would not enforce a contractual clause motivated by Sharia Law, which is discriminatory based on sex or race. In the same way, it would not enforce a clause that provides for improper remedies like chopping off one’s hand for a crime committed.


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Considering Other Nation’s Practices

     Nations have entered into many bilateral and multinational treaties, creating bureaucratic structures which promulgate rules, administer the provisions of treaties, and solve disputes. Many of the decisions from these structures are binding not only to individual citizens but also businesses from different member nations (Breyer, 2018). Moreover, many countries have embedded human rights principles in their constitutions, similar to those in the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, when faced with cases similar to those decided by judges in other countries, the U.S. national courts should refer to those decisions unless they conflict with the U.S. Constitution’s provisions or other federal statutes, rules, and regulations.

Personal Statement on the Court’s Decision

     I agree with the court’s decision in this matter because the “Save our State” amendment could be considered as a discrimination against Muslims and would have significantly hampered their rights to obtain justice in Oklahoma courts. The discrimination amounts to an infringement of the rights of Muslims in Oklahoma, which are protected by the U.S Constitution’s First Amendment.


Ariz. Christian Sch. Tuition Org. v. Winn. (2011). 131 S. Ct. 1436, 1442.

Awad v. Ziriax, et al. (2012).

No. 10-6273, 10th Cir. Justia.

Breyer, S. (2018, October). America’s courts can’t ignore the world. The Atlantic. world/568360/

G & V Lounge, Inc. v. Mich. Liquor Control Comm’n. (1994). 23 F.3d 1071, 1079, 6th Cir.

Kikumura v. Hurley. (2001). 242 F.3d 950, 963, 10th Cir.

Valley Forge Coll. v. Americans United. (1982). 454 U.S. 464. Justia.

Volokh, E. (2014, February 18) Enforcing contracts and wills that are motivated by Islamic law.

Washington Post.

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