Published March 23, 2011
A Florida judge is defending his controversial decision to apply Islamic law instead of state or federal statutes in determining whether an arbitration award was correct, the St. Petersburg Times reports.
The case in question involves former trustees of a local Tampa mosque, the Islamic Education Center of Tampa, who are suing because they claim they were unfairly removed as trustees.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen said that the two parties can seek guidance from the Koran to resolve their dispute, according to MyFoxOrlando.com.
Nielsen said that based on testimony, "under ecclesiastical law," and pursuant to the Koran, "Islamic brothers should attempt to resolve a dispute among themselves."
"If Islamic brothers are unable to do so, they can agree to present the dispute to the greater community of Islamic brothers within the mosque or the Muslim community for resolution," he said.
The two parties reportedly agreed ahead of time to use an imam and Islamic Law to resolve any potential differences through arbitration.
Legal observers say there are several cases in which agreements between two parties can supercede general laws in Florida -- like when a couple makes a prenuptial agreement.
"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," Shahzad Ahmed, an attorney with NeJame Law Firm in Orlando, told the station. "This concept of agreeing to a different set of rules outside of state law is not unusual."
In an effort to defend his ruling, Nielsen issued an opinion Tuesday stating: "From the outset of learning of the purported arbitration award, the court's concern has been whether there were ecclesiastical principles for dispute resolution involved that would compel the court to adopt the arbitration decision without considering state law."
"The court has concluded that as to the question of enforceability of the arbitrator's award the case should proceed under ecclesiastical Islamic law," Nielsen said, according to the St. Petersburg Times.