GREENSBORO “” North Carolina judges should broaden their interpretation of state law to allow widespread use of the Quran for courtroom oaths, a group of Muslim leaders said Thursday.
Muslims in other parts of the state have been allowed this right, members of the N.C. Consultative Body of Imams said.
They gathered at the Al-Ummil Ummat Islamic Center in Greensboro to give a joint statement after a local decision to deny the use of the Quran for oaths.
Guilford County”s top judges have said they won’t allow the practice because it violates state law. The Muslim group, which included imams from Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, said the law refers to laying one’s hand on the “Holy Scriptures.” They say that should include the Quran, not just the Bible.
“We”d like (the judges) to broadly interpret it rather than narrowly interpret it,” said Adam Beyah, a Fayetteville Muslim and the group’s treasurer. “This has been interpreted broadly in other areas of North Carolina.”
Awad Ayesh, who serves as a Raleigh-based court interpreter, said he’s been sworn in on his own copy of the Quran numerous times while carrying out his duties in Wake County courts.
“That’s only up to the discretion of the judge,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.
He’s never seen a defendant sworn on the Quran, however.
Janet Pueschel, the Wake County clerk of Superior Court, recalled a juror who was allowed to be sworn in on the Quran about a year ago. The clerk’s office had to scramble to get a copy of the Muslim holy book after the man asked to take an oath on it, she said. He refused to affirm to tell the truth, which is a legal option for anyone who objects to swearing an oath on the Bible.
How can we be sure he will be telling the truth if he swears on the Qur’an? The Qur’an tells Muslims that they may utter unbelief if “under compulsion”:
“Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief – except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.” (16:106)