It’s enough to haunt the nightmares of any neoconservative worth his salt — a judge in America is applying Islamic law in the courtroom!! However, this summary, which is all that most opposors of the judge’s actions say on the subject, is crucially inaccurate. The St. Petersburg Times reports:
…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.
If you haven’t yet heard people frantically yelling about how this is an example of Muslims taking over our culture, you soon will. For example, two Republicans in Florida are already on the move. So, for when you encounter such people, let me explain a few things.
The judge is not applying Islamic law to the case as a whole. Rather, he is properly applying it to an arbitration agreement between these two specific parties. The defendant is a mosque and the plaintiffs are men who formerly were trustees of the mosque and feel they were improperly ousted. The parties previously engaged in an arbitration agreement with an Islamic scholar under Sharia law. Now, one of the tasks of Judge Nielsen is to decide if that arbitration was properly acquired and conducted. To decide if an arbitration was properly acquired and conducted under Sharia law, the judge logically must use Sharia law. The trial as a whole will be conducted under Florida law, as is every state court trial in Florida.
This is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion, nor is it an attempt by Muslims to impress their laws upon our culture. Rather, this is a court doing exactly what courts are supposed to do — settling disputes between parties. At dispute is an arbitration conducted under Sharia law. So, Sharia law must be considered. It would be no different if the parties had engaged in an arbitration agreement under the laws of the Realm of Gondor. However, it looks like this fuel for anti-Muslim panic is too good for some to pass up, so prepare to hear misinformation about this case for some time to come.