Florida judge orders use of Islamic Law

by Tom Gallagher

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Last month I blogged about an effort in South Carolina to ban the use of Sharia law, the internal law of the Muslim faith.

Yet, I pointed out that it has been common practice in the U.S. for decades to allow Roman Catholic corporations (e.g., dioceses and parishes) to use the church's own internal law, the Code of Canon law. In Connecticut, for example, specific religions are identified in the state's religious corporation act.

Now a Florida judge is permitting the use of Islamic law (a more moderate interpretation of the Koran than Sharia law, according to the story) in his courtroom, as the trustees of a mosque are suing the mosque.

According to WOFL Fox 35:

A Florida judge says, "I will follow Islamic Law," in a controversial case.
That has some wondering where the Florida Constitution comes into play. Critics are offended that a judge would even consider Islamic Law in a Florida courtroom, but some analysts say this is not as strange as it sounds. The case in question is out of Tampa, where some former trustees of a mosque are suing the mosque. Judge Richard Nielsen ruled that the two parties can seek guidance from the Koran to resolve their dispute.

"What the judge has said is that he will apply the Islamic Law, because that is what the two parties agreed to in their arbitration clause," said Shahzad Ahmed, with the NeJame Law Firm in Orlando.

Nonetheless, the Fox report goes on to describe fear by state lawmakers of "foreign law" (e.g., Sharia or Islamic law):

Still, there are new legislative efforts in over a dozen states where Islamic law is under scrutiny and lawmakers have proposed legislation that would protect against what some call the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines into the American legal system. Similar legislation has been proposed in Florida to make sure laws from other nations do not supercede Florida or Federal law. The sponsors claim Sharia Law is neither the target, nor the motivating factor behind the measure.

The Roman Catholic church's Code of Canon Law is in fact "foreign law," as it is created outside the United States, yet it is allowed full respect, adoption and implementation inside, and through, federal and state civil laws.

Therefore, state legislative initiatives need to carefully consider whether its proposals will have the unintended consequence of undoing decades of acceptance of the foreign law of the Roman Catholic Church.

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