Judge Orders Use of Sharia Law in Fla. Lawsuit

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A judge in Florida has announced he will use Islamic law to decide a case.

The case is between a Tampa Bay mosque and several men who say they were wrongfully fired as trustees of the mosque.

The St. Petersburg Times reported the men got an Islamic scholar to rule in their favor, and they want Florida's courts to uphold that ruling. The case could decide who controls $2.2 million the mosque received from the state after some of its land was used in a road project.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen has agreed to see if leaders of the Islamic Education Center of Tampa correctly followed the teachings of the Koran in their decision.

"This case will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law," Nielsen wrote in a decision handed down March 3.

But attorney Paul Thanasides, who represents the mosque, appealed Nielson's decision with the 2nd District Court of Appeal last week, saying religion has no place in a secular court.

"The mosque believes wholeheartedly in the Koran and its teachings," Thanasides told the newspaper 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."

Several state lawmakers have introduced legislation to keep Islamic law or sharia law from being used in Florida's courts. A number of other states also introduced measures in their legislatures similar to Florida's after the November elections.

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