The United States has recently seen a whole raft of bills aimed at ‘stopping shariah law’, introduced by lawmakers in individual states that have hardly any Muslims. Most of the inititiatives are led by tinfoil-hat-wearing kooks who shouldn’t even be allowed near a microphone let alone introducing bills.
The Guardian today reports on an initiative here too:
Islamic courts would be forced to acknowledge the primacy of English law under a bill being introduced in the House of Lords.
The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill will introduce an offence carrying a five-year jail sentence for anyone falsely claiming or implying that sharia courts or councils have legal jurisdiction over family or criminal law. The bill, which will apply to all arbitration tribunals if passed, aims to tackle discrimination, which its supporters say is inherent in the courts, by banning the sharia practice of giving woman’s testimony only half the weight of men’s.
This makes sense to me. I would go as far as saying these Shariah law and Beth Din (Jewish) courts should not even be allowed in this country (a reversal from an earlier position, I accept) because there is a grave chance that some people’s rights are abused.
For example, we recently reported the case of a top Sharia judge saying that husbands raping wives isn’t really rape. I don’t think those sorts of orthodox and misogynist views are rare.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s Khurshid Drabu objects:
Yet again, it appears to be a total misunderstanding of the concept that underpins these arbitration councils. Sharia councils operate under consent. If there is a woman who suffers as a result of a decision by one of these councils a woman is free to go to the British courts.
She is indeed, but that doesn’t mean she will always be free to do so. She might face a lot of pressure from locals not to do so.
In fact the above bill makes Sharia courts more likely to become entrenched because it removes the key objection that the courts are seen as above English law. I would rather they did not become entrenched. Nevertheless, if they are to stay then this should be a minimum requirement.
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