Sharia courts in Britain

One in a series of quick posts compiled from the plane, in other words, a quick run through the ‘to review / comment’ pile… 

From across the Pond:

Five sharia courts have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester and Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

The government has quietly sanctioned that their rulings are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, the rulings were not binding and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

Lawyers have issued grave warnings about the dangers of a dual legal system and the disclosure drew criticism from Opposition leaders.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so."

In July, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice agreed that Muslims in Britain should be able to live according to Islamic law to decide financial and marital disputes.

Mr Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of "smaller" criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them.

Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. "All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases," said Mr Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.

There are concerns for women suffering under the Islamic laws, which favours men. Mr Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.

The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia.

Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts. In the six cases of domestic violence, Mr Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders.


3 thoughts on “Sharia courts in Britain

  1. Not a fan myself, from a purely practical perspective. I fail to see how a dual legal system is workable. If the idea is to free up courts from dealing with ‘smaller’ criminal cases (wtf?) then I imagine that the opposite might happen, especially as disputed judgements are referred to higher and appellate courts.If there are criminal cases to be tried, presumably it is initially British law that decides on criminality? Why then refer a case to a sharia court? I just don’t get this, and am uncharacteristically pessimistic about this development. At the moment, anything that actively encourages divorcing community practice from state legislation is a recipe for real trouble in the long run. Some would argue that this type of policy is to blame for the community problems we face now.
    I’m with the lawyers on this issue, not the government. The idea has been around for a while, and it remains to be seen how it pans out, but at the first viewing it’s an awful policy. In a strange way, it’s a bit like out-sourcing the judiciary – who would recommend that?

  2. I just thought of one dual legal system from the past. During the Middle Ages, there were two separate legal systems. The temporal law, whatever it was in the different countries, and the ecclesiastical law, for priests and monks and the like. The Church, as a rule, refused to hand ordained people and the like to the temporal authorities, and tried them only in ecclesiastical courts, which usually handed down lesser punishments, even if the crime was a bad one. Of course, the temporal authorities didn’t like it, and it contributed to such problems as the dispute between Henry II and Thomas Becket. It wasn’t a very popular system.I’m not sure about this either. If the Muslims get their own courts, why not the Jews? Why not the Christians? Oh, I get it. The Muslims shouted the most. Isn’t that the way that it works? “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

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