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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2013


On 2 November 2010, the voters of Oklahoma passed the so-called “Save Our State Amendment.” This amendment to Oklahoma's constitution prohibited Oklahoma courts from “look[ing] to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically,” it asserted, “the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law.” This legislative moment in middle America passed quickly. Commentators both inside and outside the United States responded to the amendment with bewilderment—and in 2012, a federal appeals court ruled the amendment unconstitutional. “Save Our State” died before it could have any far-reaching effect.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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1 See Summary Results: General Election—November 2, 2010, Oklahoma State Election Board, (accessed 19 September 2011); and H. R. J. Res. 1056, 52d Leg., 2d Sess. (Okla. 2010),, cited in Parry, John T., “Oklahoma's Save Our State Amendment: Two Issues for the Appeal,” Oklahoma Law Review 64 (2012): 161–69.Google Scholar

2 Parry, “Oklahoma's Save Our State Amendment,” 162.

3 Symeonides, Symeon C., “Choice of Law in the American Courts in 2010: Twenty-Fourth Annual Survey,” American Journal of Comparative Law 59 (2011): 320–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar, as cited in Parry, 161, n. 7.

4 Consider also the “the district court's finding of fact,” which “can be restated as a finding that Islamic law is not law.” Parry, “Oklahoma's Save Our State Amendment,” 166–68.

5 I follow Turan Kayaoğlu's lead here in maintaining this usage of the term while recognizing its insufficiency or inaccuracy. As Kayaoğlu reminds his readers, the notion that the 1648 Peace of Westphalia was somehow solely responsible for the sudden creation of an international system of distinct, sovereign, territorial states is historically, politically, and legally suspect. The terms “Westphalian state” or “Westphalian sovereignty,” however, are so deeply embedded in historical, political, and legal discourse that their (careful) usage makes a certain rhetorical sense (Kayaoğlu, 27).

6 See Howland and White, 4–5.

7 For examples of this argument, see Kayaoğlu, 27.

8 See, for instance, Anghie, Antony, “Finding the Peripheries: Sovereignty and Colonialism in Nineteenth-Century International Law,” Harvard International Law Journal 40 (1999): 180.Google Scholar

9 Although, as Mikhail writes, “precedent” rather than “theoretical sharīʿa . . . was the driving logic behind the function of rural courts in 18th-century Ottoman Egypt” when they adjudicated water-related issues (pp. 14–15).

10 Anghie, “Finding the Peripheries,” 27.

11 Books such as Virginia Aksan and Daniel Goffman's edited collection, for instance, describe at length the dynamism of Ottoman space. Aksan, Virginia and Goffman, Daniel, eds., The Early Modern Ottomans: Remapping the Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 17.Google Scholar

12 Parry, “Oklahoma's Save Our State Amendment,” 169.