Islamism,  UK Politics

Sharia sanctioned by UK government?

The Telegraph reports on a government policy change that I don’t remember being consulted about, well apart from when that bloke with a beard went on about it on the radio:

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.”

Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, added: “I think it’s appalling. I don’t think arbitration that is done by sharia should ever be endorsed or enforced by the British state.”

Muslim tribunal courts started passing sharia judgments in August 2007. They have dealt with more than 100 cases that range from Muslim divorce and inheritance to nuisance neighbours.

It has also emerged that tribunal courts have settled six cases of domestic violence between married couples, working in tandem with the police investigations.

Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said that sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals under a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996.

We previously noted Siddiqi’s past form on this blog, and his links with the Muslim Action Committee and the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

If you wish to see what some of the early effects of this new policy are, read on. Mr Siddiqui is rather pleased since he has obtained a little bit of power over his community:

“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. There was no further punishment.

In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations.

This is a Labour government committed to gender equality? There are those who critique Islamism who overstep the mark, speaking of demographic time bombs, Eurabia and other such nonsense. It’s nonsense because this is a pluralistic society which should give all citizens an equal footing in law. I have no time for such arguments. I have faith that society will prevent such ghettoization of groups and any restrictions on individuals’ rights by the imposition of “community values” through law.

However, that a Labour government supposedly progressive and seeking gender equality should give any credibility to a Islamist’s dream of Sharia justice for his “community” is an utter disgrace. What can you say?