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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.
I want Tunisia to be a place where a woman can wear a veil or not, where we can pray or not. They are trying to break the mystical balance between tradition and religion in Tunisia. They are trying to burn our identity to replace it with something we don’t know.
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Overcoming Islamophobia in U.S. Presidential Elections

by Muqtedar Khan, guest contributor

What Is Islam?A Muslim man holds a protest sign on Pennsylvania Ave NW in front of the White House. (photo: M.V. Jantsen/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)

Islam has become an important part of American discourse leading up to the 2012 federal elections and candidates everywhere appear eager to take a position on Islam for political gain. Across the country, rising Islamophobia has made it difficult for some Muslims to build mosques and practice their faith, although their right to do so is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In the current race for the presidential nomination, some presidential candidates are invoking Islam and Muslims in a negative fashion in an attempt to bolster their popularity with populations they perceive to be suspicious of Muslims or Islam. For example, if elected, former presidential candidate Herman Cain promised not to appoint Muslims to his cabinet.

This is representative of recent trends. In 2010, some Republican Congressional candidates used the proposed Park 51 Muslim community centre, famously branded as the “ground-zero mosque”, and fear of sharia, the principles from which Islamic law is derived, to rally voters to their cause. And elected Congressional leaders, such as Peter King (R-NY), have used their committee appointments to argue that American Muslims are deeply radicalized, a fact repeatedly debunked by several surveys and reports.

However, there are others within the Republican Party who eschew this rhetoric, such as presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, as well as others like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who appointed American Muslim Sohail Mohammed as a state judge despite much opposition.

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Oklahoma, Elections, and Shari’ah Law

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

Masjid An-Nasr, Oklahoma City
The crescent-topped dome of Masjid An-Nasr peeks through trees of a residential neighborhood in Oklahoma City. (photo: Andrew Shockley/Flickr)

Hailing from Canada, where referendums are few and far between, I’m fascinated by some of the questions on the U.S. ballots. This year I was particularly interested in Oklahoma ballot measure 755 [bold emphasis mine]:

"This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.

The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.

Shall the proposal be approved?

For the proposal

Yes: __________

Against the proposal

No: __________ “

The amendment passed, with 70 percent in favor. Haroon Moghul of Religion Dispatches wrote an amused and hopeful piece from a Muslim perspective. For starters, he addresses some of the misunderstandings about Shari’ah law by explaining what it isn’t, and what it is:

"What most Americans don’t realize is that we already have interpretations of Shari’ah law in our country; or, at least, interpretations of the personal, moral, and ethical components of the law, operating off of individual choice and will. When Muslims pray, they are following interpretations of Shari’ah. Fasting in Ramadan. Giving in charity. Even a smile, the Prophet Muhammad said, is charity. So what this means in real terms is entirely beyond me…"

At a time where civility may be harder to find, I was heartened by his surprisingly optimistic note for the future. A view, however, which is probably out of reach for Muneer Awad, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who filed a lawsuit (PDF of petition) challenging the constitutionality of the measure. A preliminary hearing before U.S. district court judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange is scheduled for today.

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