The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland, Florida is under fire after upholding the use of Islamic law by Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Richard A. Nielsen. The uproar has reignited the national controversy over the perceived threat of Sharia law to the United States.
I have long been a critic of Sharia law in other countries and I am a staunch believer in the separation of church and state. However, the current movement to ban the reliance on Sharia law in the United States is nothing short of hysteria.
It is true that Judge Nielson applied Islamic law to resolve a dispute over the authority to spend money at a mosque. However, he was not supplanting state law with Sharia law. To the contrary, state contract law required him to enforce the prior agreement of the parties, which stated that they would be bound by Islamic law.
The dispute centered on the Islamic Education Center of Tampa and its move to expel four founding members. There was a disagreement over how to spend $2.5 million that the mosque received from Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise in exchange for 3.4 acres needed to widen a highway.
The use of religious law in such disputes is not unique. For many decades, New York has an extensive network of Jewish courts that would at times lead to legal disputes in the state and federal courts. While applying religious codes, these are cases that turn on primarily contractual and not religious law.
Source: Tampa Tribune