I would kindly like to point your memory back to last year’s elections in Oklahoma and the issue of State Question 755. There was much discussion about the question at the time and many comments were made on the posts I published on the issue. In a nutshell, SQ 755 would prevent Oklahoma courts from considering Islamic or Sharia Law when making their decisions. Those of us who supported and voted the measure into law felt it was a proper response to prevent this from happening in our state, just as it happened in New Jersey. Those who disagreed with SQ 755 said it was much ado about nothing, that the New Jersey case had been reversed and this was nothing but an attempt to single out Muslims and prevent them from practicing their religion. The ink was barely dry on the election results when a lawsuit was filed, claiming just that, and U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange agreed, putting an injunction into place and preventing the law from taking affect.
Again, I want to make sure you remember exactly what the detractors of SQ 755 said, that it was an unnecessary provision to prevent something that was not and could not happen. As it turns out, that is not so much the case, as is evidenced by the latest news coming from Florida. Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen has issued a ruling that outright invokes Sharia law, which is something that we were told would never happen. From Tampa Bay Online:
The question of what law applies in any Florida courtroom usually comes down to two choices: federal or state.
But Hillsborough Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen is being attacked by conservative bloggers after he ruled in a lawsuit March 3 that, to resolve one crucial issue in the case, he will consult a different source.
“This case,” the judge wrote, “will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law.”
Nielsen said he will decide in a lawsuit against a local mosque, the Islamic Education Center of Tampa, whether the parties in the litigation properly followed the teachings of the Koran in obtaining an arbitration decision from an Islamic scholar.
The suit was filed by several men who say they were improperly ousted as trustees in 2002. The dispute may decide who controls $2.2 million the center received from the state after some of its land was used in a road project.
But attorney Paul Thanasides last week appealed Nielson’s decision with the 2nd District Court of Appeal, saying religion has no place in a secular court.
His client: the mosque.
“The mosque believes wholeheartedly in the Koran and its teachings,” Thanasides said Monday. “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.”
Here is what Judge Nielsen said, according to transcripts of the hearing.
“It appears that the Koran provides that where two or more brothers have a dispute, they are first required to try to resolve the dispute among themselves. If that does not occur, they can agree to present the dispute to the greater community of brothers within the mosque or the Muslim community. And if that is not done, or does not result in a resolution of the dispute, then it is to be presented to an Islamic judge … The next question is whether the proper procedures have occurred. … Did they properly invoke the use of … an Islamic judge or an Islamic A’lim?”
Let me be very clear, I have no problem with a Muslim practicing their religion. It is their right and freedom to do so, but this has nothing to do with freedom of religion. Those us who stood up for SQ 755 tried to point that out, but we were shouted down by those who would accuse us of singling out Islam for discrimination. I think the case in Florida is a prime example of exactly why we need measures such as SQ 755, to keep Sharia Law out of our courts. It has no place in our judicial system and Judge Nielsen had no justifiable reason to use it as the basis of his ruling. It sounds to me that the parties involved in the arbitration and the subsequent lawsuit tried to resolve the issue among themselves, using Sharia Law, which is fine by me. However, because it didn’t turn out how one of the parties wanted, they resorted to filing a lawsuit in the Florida courts. That move should have taken this issue out of the realm of Sharia Law and placed it directly into the realm of American judicial system, thereby removing any justification for relying on Sharia Law for the ruling.
Unequivocally, Judge Nielsen has made a bad decision and it should be reversed. The question is raised again, what should be done about the willingness of America judges to apply Sharia Law in the American judicial system? Where are the detractors of SQ 755 now?
For a related post, please visit rjjrdq’s America II.