Fla. appeals court allows judge to use Islamic law

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The St. Petersburg Times reports that a Florida appeals court has apparently given the go-ahead for a judge to use Islamic law to decide one issue in a case involving a Tampa mosque.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal on Oct. 21 “denied without comment a petition to prevent Judge Richard Nielsen from invoking Islamic law,” the Times reported. The petition was filed by the Islamic Education Center of Tampa to contest a March ruling by Nielsen. “This case will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law,” the judge wrote then.

Nielsen said in March he would decide whether the parties in the disagreement properly followed Quranic teachings in obtaining an Islamic scholar’s arbitration decision. But the mosque itself appealed Nielsen’s ruling, with its attorney saying:

“The mosque believes wholeheartedly in the Koran and its teachings. They certainly follow Islamic law in connection with their spiritual endeavors. But with respect to secular endeavors, they believe Florida law should apply in Florida courts.”

After the Oct. 21 decision by the appeals court, mosque attorney Paul Thanasides said the lack of a written opinion from the court meant it had failed to address the merits of the case. He said the U.S. Constitution and Florida law prevent Nielsen from following Islamic law. On Oct. 24, Thanasides filed a motion asking Nielsen to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.