Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sharia in the UK

According to a Times article yesterday:

ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.

On the one hand, I'm all for alternative dispute resolution - I guess. On the other hand, this really creeps me out. As a woman, I have to say, sharia pretty much sucks for us.

The courts have been established through rules on arbitration, so it's basically binding arbitration, but all parties must agree to it before entering the court. Then the ruling becomes enforceable. This keeps people from venue shopping and dragging things out indefinitely. If you go to a sharia court over a contested will, the male sibling will receive twice as much as the female sibling. I know that and so would any Muslim litigant. I wouldn't go to a sharia court to settle an inheritance dispute (sorry Vol Bro), but I do know a Muslim woman who probably would have and all she wanted was what sharia "entitled" her to when her brother wanted to take a lot more than his already larger share. In most senses, I really don't have a problem with this.

But these courts are deciding all kinds of matters including charges of domestic violence. Ummm, yeah - the victim and the perpetrator are on equal footing there, aren't they? It turns out that in the domestic violence cases the men have been ordered to undergo anger management courses. How enlightened. And the women have dropped the charges. Fancy that.


Noble Savage said...

I used to think that these sharia courts weren't really that threatening since they had to be entered into voluntarily but you make a very good point in that the two parties in any given case are not always going to be equal and that it runs the very real risk of putting the vulnerable (particularly women in abusive relationships) into situations in which they are ruled against and left unprotected by British law.

As an atheist, I am extremely dubious of religious-based law and its place in a largely secular society but I do respect the right of the faithful to subject themselves to such laws willingly. The problem being 'willingly' of course.

Anonymous said...

Welcoming the Chinese overlords? I fail to the this as an advance for any woman. Any law that puts a person in a less favorable position in law is a step backward for the whole society. What is the thinking on this??? Is this a backdoor way to put some members of society "in their place"?

Where is the UK going? VolMom

Sam said...


Your Mom sounds awesome! I don't know her but I like her.