In support of the bill on Sharia Law courts


by Sunny
9th June, 2011 at 10:15 am    

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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  1. cim — on 9th June, 2011 at 10:48 am  

    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.

    That would require, as I understand it, removing or narrowing the general right for two individuals to commission a mutually-agreed third party to conduct arbitration between them.

    I’m not at all sure how such a law could be drafted without either criminalising a lot of things that are utterly uncontroversial or leaving a loophole big enough to make the law useless.

    I’m also not sure how, in a situation where a woman is facing social pressure to avoid taking up her legal rights, the fact that the pressure itself and/or the background reason for the pressure is illegal will make any practical difference. Secular communities are quite able to apply the same sort of pressure without even a pretence at a trial “Well, I believe Bob. Now shut up and don’t make a fuss.”

  2. Rumbold — on 9th June, 2011 at 11:23 am  

    Cim summarises the problems well. The bill couldn’t be too narrowly targeted, otherwise the courts could just change their names. If too widely targeted, then it would inpinge on other mutual agreements. I agree with Sunny that some women (and men) are forced into these courts, and they aren’t a good thing, so maybe this bill will send out a good signal. How effective it will be is another matter.

  3. Sunny — on 9th June, 2011 at 11:43 am  

    Yeah, I get the point about how difficult itis. Just saying though!

    The bill should force those courts to say in advance that the judgement may not be legally enforceable, thereby encouraging them to seek proper legal advice

  4. Optimist — on 9th June, 2011 at 11:52 am  

    The government wants to control the leagal aid bill thus the legal aid minister Jonathan Djanogly had recently proposed greater use of mediation/arbitration as a means of making cost savings. So they maybe looking for widening the role of these so-called courts rather than limiting it.

    But hopefully this bill will become law and limit the powers of ‘judges’ who are invariably men and ruling over cases involving mostly women.

    Will it be too much to ask that govt. rather than cutting support to women’s support groups infact increases it so that some of the poor women who come under pressure to go to these courts against their will are empowerd to resist such pressures by other women and the support workers !!

  5. Boyo — on 9th June, 2011 at 2:21 pm  

    “removing or narrowing the general right for two individuals to commission a mutually-agreed third party to conduct arbitration between them.”

    Simply invent one authority for all, like a notary in Europe. Point taken on social pressure, however.

    As I said on a recent thread – the UK has to wake up to the changed world and develop a watertight system (of government, law, education IMHO) that is absolutely the same for all. That would include not just getting rid of all religious courts, but all religious schools, BTW.

    In my dreams!

  6. jamal — on 9th June, 2011 at 6:27 pm  

    oh fantastic lets target muslim community again

  7. Boyo — on 9th June, 2011 at 6:50 pm  

    Yeah, and the Jews and the Christians and the Hindus. Let’s abolish religious distinction and have a society equal for all!

  8. KJB — on 9th June, 2011 at 11:08 pm  

    Wow, I totally agree with Boyo.

    I found the ‘objections’ from Aina Khan and Khurshid Drabu utterly disingenuous. Ugh.

    oh fantastic lets target muslim community again

    I’m sorry, are you saying that people who think that raping one’s wife isn’t rape, and that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s ARE the Muslim community?

  9. Random63 — on 9th June, 2011 at 11:12 pm  

    With regards to entering voluntary jusisdiction, I have heard that the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding, unless you can demonstrate that you were either forced into the arbitration against your will, or were not of sound mind when you agreed to it.

    Is this true? Or, in the example of Sharia courts above, would you be able to get a ruling overturned by a British court regardless of the circumstances of the original arbitration hearing.

    I just thought I would ask as I have heard contradictory views on this, and would like to know what the legal situation actually is.

  10. Don — on 9th June, 2011 at 11:24 pm  

    Random63,
    Good question. My understanding is that it isn’t, any more than the result of a session with Relate or the local vicar or wisewoman.

    If I’m wrong then this bill is urgently needed.

    Thinking about boyo’s idea of a sort of notary thing, why not have a licensing arrangement whereby you need to demonstrate a level of knowledge and responsibility before you could set up as an arbitrator? With regular checks.

    Set the level high. Of course you would need people of good faith to be setting the standards and I don’t know where you would find those.

  11. persephone — on 9th June, 2011 at 11:40 pm  

    ” 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.”

    Does this also apply as regards Canon Law. If not it should.

  12. persephone — on 10th June, 2011 at 12:13 am  

    Looking at the sharia council in London (www.islamic-sharia.org) the approach looks more commercial rather than religious. Men can download talak forms for £200 whereas women can download equivalent for £400.

    I saw a programme a few weeks ago called Divorce Iranian Style and it was farcical. In theory, the women are meant to have a dowry returned as part of the proceedings but this did not happen in the cases shown – in one case not paying the dowry was held as a bargaining tool by the husband ie agreement to a divorce on the basis of not repaying the dowry. The judge/court did not appear to enforce such aspects.

  13. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 8:56 am  

    Sunny,

    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) [OMG how can we trust this backtracker?] because there is a grave chance that some people’s rights are abused.

    Whose rights have been abused by the UK’s Beth Din?

    The bill should force those courts to say in advance that the judgement may not be legally enforceable, thereby encouraging them to seek proper legal advice.

    The point of arbitration is that the judgement is enforceable!

  14. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 9:23 am  

    Random63,

    With regards to entering voluntary jusisdiction, I have heard that the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding, unless you can demonstrate that you were either forced into the arbitration against your will, or were not of sound mind when you agreed to it.

    Is this true? Or, in the example of Sharia courts above, would you be able to get a ruling overturned by a British court regardless of the circumstances of the original arbitration hearing.

    You are correct to say that the decision is usually legally binding – and after all, that is the point of it. But the arbitration must meet certain standards / requirements – if one believes it didn’t, one can challenge the decision based on that.

  15. platinum786 — on 10th June, 2011 at 9:46 am  

    I didn’t think these show courts were legally enforceable in the first place.

    Why make a mockery of law altogether? Abolish them full stop.

    In the current system neither British law or Shariah law is respected. Britain is not a Muslim country, we cannot expect Britain to recognise our holy law above it’s own.

    If Muslims want to live within a Muslim legal system, then they should go and reside in a Muslim country where the Muslim legal framework known as Shariah is supreme.

  16. platinum786 — on 10th June, 2011 at 9:49 am  

    Having read what I have said above, can you see how for Muslim who want to fully implement their faith in Britain, there is a clash between being Muslim and being British? You can’t 100% adopt an identity whilst waiting for a better opportunity elsewhere because you don’t feel 100% accepted where you are.

  17. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 10:15 am  

    platinum786 @15 and @16,

    If people genuinely believe that they would be better off in a legal system that involves explicitly unfair processes and does not rely on informed, competent and neutral decision-makers then they ought to consider leaving the UK. I must say it does seem odd they would want to live under such a legal system, although I suppose this shouldn’t surprise if such people are of a group that would likely benefit from the unfairness.

  18. Shamit — on 10th June, 2011 at 11:12 am  

    I am completely against Sharia courts.

    There should be one law for everyone. I do think and believe public and voluntary support services should be tailored to meet individual needs and that includes religious convictions.

    But religious institutions must not even give the impression of being any court of justice or centres for moral condemnation and I fear that is what Shariah Courts could become.

    The creation of Shariah Courts and the existence of Jewish Courts do undermine the rule of law and the concept of equal law for everyone. And as Sunny says a recipe to ensure some very vulnerable people could have their rights abused.

    Platinum 786 – Does Sharia Law exist in its true form anywhere in the world? I doubt it but I do get the points you made in your comments.

    I also doubt if not having Sharia Law bothers many British Muslims who have been consistently shown to be as integrated as any other religious community in Britain.

  19. platinum786 — on 10th June, 2011 at 11:14 am  

    Firstly which legal system you are better off under is debatable. People like to slate Shariah when it suits them and use examples of it’s implementation by Barbarians in Somalia, Afghanistan Iran etc, but ignore that it’s implemented in countries like Malaysia without much of a fuss. Ignoring that all together though, I think what many people forget is that with religion, people aren’t always concerned about being “better off”.

    I’m no physically “better off” by praying 5 times a day, or by fasting, or by not drinking alcohol (within safe healthy limits). It’s all spiritual, which is not really tangible.

  20. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 11:59 am  

    platinum786 @19, I know next to nothing about Sharia law, which is why I didn’t refer to it @17. But if legal system A says evidence from a female witness should be given less weight than the same evidence from a male witness, while legal system B says both should be given equal weight, I think I would prefer to live under legal system B all else being equal.

    In relation to the rest of your comment allow me to rephrase:

    If people genuinely believe that it is better to live under a legal system that involves explicitly unfair processes and does not rely on informed, competent and neutral decision-makers then they ought to consider leaving the UK. I must say it does seem odd they would want to live under such a legal system, although I suppose this shouldn’t surprise if such people are of a group that would likely benefit from the unfairness.

  21. douglas clark — on 10th June, 2011 at 12:23 pm  

    ukliberty @ 20,

    I am not at all clear what you are advocating here. You make the point @ 13/14 that arbitration can be seen as legally binding, you make the point @17/20 that there is a conflict between the two legal systems – weight of evidence – and say that you’d rather live under a system where weight of evidence is equal, i.e. the english legal system.

    It seems to me to be wrong to accept any form of arbitration that does not recognise the primacy of our own law, which includes the votes of muslims, jews and other minorities in a democratic decision about what our law actually is. Without that recognition, the arbitration is completely flawed….

  22. Random63 — on 10th June, 2011 at 1:31 pm  

    Thanks for the clarification, UKLiberty,

    So what Khurshid Drabu said was misleading then. He doesn’t mention that with voluntary jurusdiction, any Sharia court decision is legally binding, and that the British courts may not be able to overturn the original ruling at all.

    This really is quite worrying.

  23. douglas clark — on 10th June, 2011 at 2:45 pm  

    In increasingly uninteresting news, earwicgas’ site is now open for comment….

    Though moderated. Apparently.

  24. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 2:45 pm  

    Random63, you are welcome.

    Indeed, English courts will strive to uphold the result of an arbitration – a dissatisfied party would have to go some way to achieve a more satisfactory result, she would have to persuade the court there was “substantial injustice”, say. It is therefore rather more difficult to overturn an unsatisfactory decision than Khurshid Drabu appears to suggest – you can’t just pop along to your local court and have the decision annulled if you don’t like it.

    But an unfair hearing is something the court would be interested in, provided that it isn’t merely a technical but substantial issue.

    This seems academic to me, though, if we are talking about a culture where woman is seen as inferior to man and women of that culture tend to accept this (as cim said @1). In other words she is hardly likely to seek or be able to seek justice from an English court if she has been pressured or forced to go through an unfair arbitration.

  25. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 2:48 pm  

    douglas, I’m not advocating anything in particular – except more education about rights and promotion of ‘fairness’, perhaps.

    You’re right that the primacy of English (or Scots) law should be recognised but it seems to me this is largely academic / cosmetic, for the reason given by cim@1 (and butchered by me in my previous comment to this one).

  26. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 2:50 pm  

    Incidentally, the United Synagogue website says the UK’s local Batei Din (Beth din) are in decline, so this may be an issue that resolves itself with time.

  27. douglas clark — on 10th June, 2011 at 2:58 pm  

    ukliberty @ 24, @ 2:45pm, etc,

    Try replying.

    english courts should not be upholding a different system of justice. It is perfectly clear that sharia does not meet the standards of UK justice. It is therefore bound to fail at any judicial review.

    You pretend that an exploitative and different system of justice should be allowed to exist under english law, yet be able to supervene it.

    That is what you have said.

    In other words she is hardly likely to seek or be able to seek justice from an English court if she has been pressured or forced to go through an unfair arbitration.

    What, then, is the point of english justice?

  28. jamal — on 10th June, 2011 at 5:48 pm  

    ukliberty

    regardless if beth din courts are in decline it seems demand for shariah is not.

    If people agree to use shariah courts on family matters and both parties involved agree with it i see no problem.

    It shows english law is not satisfying demand of some people so they seek an alternative.

  29. ukliberty — on 10th June, 2011 at 6:10 pm  

    douglas, I know next to nothing about Sharia law, as I said to platinum786, which is why I haven’t commented on it. But surely it logically follows from my comments here that if it is in fact an unfair system then I do not support it? And if on the other hand it is a fair system then I’m not bothered about it? I can’t see anything in my comments that would lead you to think otherwise.

    I’ve no idea why you say I “pretend that an exploitative and different system of justice should be allowed to exist under english law, yet be able to supervene it” – I thought I was quite explicit in reply to you that English law should have primacy.

    In other words she is hardly likely to seek or be able to seek justice from an English court if she has been pressured or forced to go through an unfair arbitration.

    What, then, is the point of english justice?

    Well, it might be of some use to the rest of the population, no? Some 50m people?

    My point was that there is only so much a legal system can do by itself. In an individual case of a woman being pressured by her family and community to participate in an unfair arbitration process there is nothing we can do until we hear about it i.e. someone makes a complaint. And who is going to make the complaint? The woman?

    What ‘we’ should be doing and I hope we are doing is educating people about equality and promoting at least the fundamental principles of a just legal system such as fair hearings before neutral and competent decision-makers. There is no easy fix here.

  30. Don — on 10th June, 2011 at 8:05 pm  

    I had not realised the extent to which it was, in practice, legally enforceable.

    If people agree to use shariah courts on family matters and both parties involved agree with it i see no problem.

    Jamal, on the face of it that seems reasonable, if it were a well regulated arbitration process to which both parties freely and with full knowledge agreed.

    I can quite see how, for example, dividing an asset between family members might involve complexities with which English law was unfamiliar and so everyone agreed to let a qualified and respected scholar sort it out. I can see how that would avoid costly legal fees. If matters became contentious the bulk of an estate could be eaten up in legal fees and matters drag on for years. I think that is reasonable.
    But it would still need to be ratified by a competent legal authority to ensure that the agreement did not breach any financial laws. By all means avoid paying lawyers more than you need to, but the taxman may want his cut.

    Outside of that aspect it becomes even more important that any legally binding decision passed by a private court of any nature be ratified by the over-riding authority of the law of the land. Once a sharia judgement has been made it should be carefully examined by proper legal authorities to make sure it was consistent with the law and that there was no implication that any party had suffered an evident injustice. Not on appeal, but before an outcome is considered binding.

    If sharia is to be taken seriously in this country standards need to be established. IMO, if someone wants to present as a ‘judge’ of any sort they must have a legal qualification. How can they say that English law does not cover such or such a point if they are ignorant of English law? How would they know if their decision was permissible under English law? So I’d say they would need to be a qualified solicitor at the least.

    We need to establish exactly what areas may or may not be covered. Obviously criminal law is totally out of bounds.

    As an atheist obviously I hate the idea of a theocratic legal system based on a sacred text. And I oppose most strongly the idea that believing in something entitles you anything extra or special. But if people want a third party to settle a dispute then it is not up to me to say who that third party should be.

    But if it is a serious, legally binding judgement then the person making it should be professionally qualified, registered, subject to proper standards and the decision must be examined and ratified by an informed and qualified legal authority.

    That might take time, but most things do.

  31. KJB — on 10th June, 2011 at 10:58 pm  

    jamal @ 28 writes:

    If people agree to use shariah courts on family matters and both parties involved agree with it i see no problem.

    Yes, but that is not the issue at hand, is it? Are the peers trying to get rid of shariah courts? No, they are not – they are simply trying to get them to accept the primacy of English law in situations where they have evidence of unfair treatment of women and a lack of their full, free and informed consent.

    If I had come to this country knowing nothing about it and not speaking the language, like the women that Lady Cox refers to, of course I would go to a shariah court. Language difficulties alone would restrict me to shariah; thus my choice would not be fully informed and free (since I would be unlikely to know that I could go to an English court, let alone capable of communicating the particulars of my case or paying my legal fees). Nor would there be any guarantee of justice, since as has been observed above, a woman’s testimony is apparently worth less than a man’s, and men can apparently divorce women, but not vice-versa.

    What is patently clear is that women are using these courts because that is what they know to be available to them, and we always tend to go with what is known to us.

    You still haven’t answered my question above. Stop trying to engage in sleight of hand, and deal with the issue at hand.

  32. douglas clark — on 11th June, 2011 at 1:10 am  

    ukliberty @ 29,

    Thanks for the reply.

  33. joe90 — on 11th June, 2011 at 1:21 am  

    post #31

    where did you get the notion man can divorce a woman but not vice versa in these shariah “lite” courts which you find around britain?

    as for women testimony being worth half of man where does it state it is worth half? some evidences indicate it is 1 and 1.

    this is typical of what we expect from the media red tops and the level of debate from uneducated commentators, whenever an issue like this is highlighted it is never fair and balanced that is the point.

  34. AbuF — on 11th June, 2011 at 5:05 am  

    joe90 manages to miss the point with glaring regularity.

    If, Joe, a woman’s evidence is not worth the same as a man’s *on even a single issue* then there is a glaring disparity that is both unjust and frankly unacceptable.

    You are either not very well acquainted with Islamic legal practices, or you are simply making things up (again) to suit your own purposes.

  35. Chris — on 11th June, 2011 at 9:41 am  

    Isn’t this “initiative” basically just another Muslim bashing exercise? By supporting it, you’re just helping the anti-Muslim brigade that’s sprung up since 2001. It’s not something progressive people should get behind.

  36. Random63 — on 11th June, 2011 at 2:34 pm  

    Chris,

    Two questions for you.

    How can trying to ensure that everybody is governed equally under the same law be an example of “muslim bashing”? Surely it is instead trying to promote equality before the law?

    Why is it progressive to support courts which excuse marital rape?

  37. Boyo — on 11th June, 2011 at 5:50 pm  

    Chris, what does “progressive” mean to you? Are you able to define it, I wonder?

  38. Arif — on 11th June, 2011 at 11:28 pm  

    I don’t have much of a problem with the law proposed, but I also have no problem with people having the option of a sharia court. And I think that the debate about what sharia courts mean for women in the UK should be empirically discussed. And that discussion in turn, could have dynamic effects in terms of improving sharia courts if genuinely respectful.

    Anecdotally, there is conflicting evidence. While anti-sharia court groups appear extremely vocal, some women’s rights activists, particularly working on divorce issues, find sharia courts are the only practical option for some women, not just a preference for reasons of ease or culture.

    Perhaps secular courts need to be improved to help such women, but so can sharia courts. And more important, cultural change. I think that Muslim feminists should promote Islamic marriage contracts which set out stronger sets of responsibilities on men and rights for women in the marriage, relevant to modern conditions and current dispositions and concepts of respect. Before even looking for a partner, everyone should have some concept of the kind of marriage they want and it should be natural for them to expect their marriage contract to reflect it. Goodness knows how many other preparations and rituals we go through when getting married, why not go to town on this as well?

    Politically, it is radical salafi groups who are most opposed to having sharia courts working alongside secular laws, including in the UK. And I think they have helped stoke a fear-based shouting match with their anti-Muslim co-dependents about the consequences of replacing secular law with sharia law which has confused the issue in non-specialist debates.

    I think the debate is a real one. Human rights and religious (as well as secular) injunctions do come into conflict, but my preference is to seek solutions in respectful dialogue, rather than simply siding with the arrogant, self-righteous or more powerful among any of the parties.

    Personally, I think a lot of “real existing” sharia institutions are weighed down with a lot of cultural baggage and medieval scholarship which would benefit from being questioned from both qur’anic and human-rights perspectives. Like many human institutions, they don’t seem to improve (nor to wither) from being decried and treated with disdain.

  39. Verity — on 12th June, 2011 at 4:17 am  

    Joe #33

    Umdat al -Salik (The Reliance of the Traveller, A classic manual of Islamic Scared Law).Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri is the author of the basic text and assures us that not a single ommission has been made from it, though rulings about matters now rare or non-existant have been left untranslated. It covers the four schools of Sunni law, Hanafi, Maliki, Shai’i which are identical in approx. 75% of their legal conclusions.

    The book had been warranted and certified by various sheiks and the Islamic Research Academy at al-Azhar

    Witnessing and Testifying :o 24.0

    o24.7:-

    The testimony of the following is legally acceptable when it concerns property, or transactions dealing with property such as sales

    1. Two men
    2. Two women and a man
    3. Or a male witness together with the oath of the plaintiff.

    o24.8:-

    If testimony does not concern property, such as marriage or prescribed legal penalties, then only two male witnesses can testify (A: though the Hanafi school holds that two women and a man can testify for marriage).

    024.9:-

    If testimony concerns fornication or sodomy, then it requires four male witnesses (O: who testify in the case of fornication, that they have seen the offender insert the head of the penis into her vagina).

    Also legal testimony is only acceptable from a witness who is free, fully legally responsible, is able to speak, is mentally awake, is religious and muslim, reliable and outwardly respectable. Not acceptable are absent minded people, those who are without respectability such as a street sweeper, bath house attendant and the like, a person testifying for his son, a person who may benefit by his own testimony, a person who stands to lose through his testimony, a person testifying against his own act, or a sinner.

    o24.10:-

    If testimony concern things which men do not typically see (O: but women do), such as childbirth, then it is sufficient to have two male witnesses, a man and two women, or four women.

    These seem to be the only paragraphs in the Justice section o24 (witnessing and testifying) where women are mentioned as witnesses, altho’ as far as I can remember the Prophet did mention that there must be two women to testify in court as one is sure to forget and needs the other to remind her.

    Hope this helps.

  40. Verity — on 12th June, 2011 at 4:19 am  

    P.S. I did not put that smiley there it only popped up when i posted my response. I do not use smileys for anything, ever!

  41. Boyo — on 12th June, 2011 at 8:31 am  

    I think the point about Sharia Law is thus: when it was developed it was a comparatively progressive system, providing women with a legal identity in law when in most societies (eg Christian) they had no/ little identity or rights.

    The trouble is, that this was then. Attitudes to women in the West have moved on.

    From a Western perspective, “the problem with islam” is that the spiritual is yoked to the temporal – this makes change hard to achieve and indeed has hobbled Islam (as a cultural power) for hundreds of years. It was even said Lepanto was lost because the Ottoman navy refused to use technology they considered “un-Islamic”. But as Iran demonstrates, it is Man that chooses to interpret what is and what is not Islamic, not God: the real reason Sharia persists in its current form is not because God willed it, but because it preserves male power.

  42. Arif — on 12th June, 2011 at 5:20 pm  

    Verity’s quotations raise an interesting point – why is it that a text considered by so many in so many times to be so authoritative is not followed in UK sharia courts?

    For example, on issues related to childbirth and rearing, I believe the word of a single woman is considered sufficient for sharia rulings.

    It appears that things can change – and different hadiths are dredged up or reinterpreted, or consensuses change over time in Islam as in all religions. It is a messy and uneven process, and maybe one which many outsiders feel it is their right and duty to intervene in. Reactions to interventions are also messy and uneven, and I wonder if we are willing to learn from these processes to find a way to do so in ways which create greater understanding and closeness rather than hostility and fear?

    In this context, I think the challenge is for secular courts to make themselves more relevant and accessible to women than sharia courts are. If they can only do this by making sharia courts less accessible (which is not what this law does anyway) then the result maybe even less access to any kind of justice for women than before. And if sharia courts respond by trying themselves to be more acessible and reliable, then all to the good. It sharia courts and their supporters respond by trying to make it harder to access secular alternatives, then they should be stopped from doing so too. And this is why I would support this law. Not as a stepping stone to removing an avenue of justice from others just because we ourselves aren’t attracted to it.

  43. Refresh — on 12th June, 2011 at 7:20 pm  

    ‘I do not use smileys for anything, ever!’

    Finally a sane voice in this debate.

  44. Eurasian Sensation — on 13th June, 2011 at 8:03 am  

    platinum786 @19,

    “People like to slate Shariah when it suits them and use examples of it’s implementation by Barbarians in Somalia, Afghanistan Iran etc, but ignore that it’s implemented in countries like Malaysia without much of a fuss.”

    Actually you should talk to some progressive Malaysians about that.
    A woman was recently sentenced to caning because she drank a beer, and Malaysia’s religious police routinely harass women because they can, and bust into hotel rooms to arrest people for the crime of having consensual sex.
    If Malaysia is the best example of Sharia law at work, I’ll take the alternative, thanks.

  45. Ravi Naik — on 13th June, 2011 at 10:22 am  

    In this context, I think the challenge is for secular courts to make themselves more relevant and accessible to women than sharia courts are

    Don’s comment (#30) sounds more reasonable to me. Rather than (a) have two competing systems, or (b) have a bill the shuts down one of them – it seems better for everyone to have Sharia Law or parts of it properly framed with the Law of the Land, which would require not only a competent legal authority to oversee Sharia courts, but also require those that make decisions to have proper legal qualifications.

    Having said that, what makes this particularly difficult is that for Muslims, Sharia Law is divine law, and therefore there would be considerable resistance to be regulated by a secular entity. But I would imagine that the alternative – banning Sharia courts altogether, to be worse.

  46. jamal — on 13th June, 2011 at 10:49 am  

    eurasian

    malaysia is a secular country so if they trying to implement shariah law bit of confused situation for people.

    they should either abandon secularism completely and establish islamic law or vice versa.

  47. ukliberty — on 13th June, 2011 at 11:21 am  

    Arif,

    In this context, I think the challenge is for secular courts to make themselves more relevant and accessible to women than sharia courts are.

    The point of allowing arbitration is to ease the pressure on the courts / allow issues to be resolved more quickly and cheaply:

    the object of arbitration is to obtain the fair resolution of disputes by an impartial tribunal without unnecessary delay or expense

    and ostensibly to improve liberty:

    the parties should be free to agree how their disputes are resolved, subject only to such safeguards as are necessary in the public interest

    Arbitration Act 1996
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/23/section/1

    Therefore I don’t understand why you think there is a “challenge for secular courts”.

  48. Boyo — on 13th June, 2011 at 2:49 pm  

    I think it’s interesting that the debate about Sharia courts in the UK focuses on the convenience of those that wish to have them (ie, some Muslims, Bob Pitt, the Archbishop of Canterbury) rather than what Britain means and what it means to be British. This, presumably, is the multi-cultural route (taken to its logical conclusion), however it seems to me that this kind of multi-confessional approach is bound to cause further problems as it does from India to Lebanon.

    Why instead, as progressives, not have the confidence to develop a Britain that means the same for all? It’s not impossible – France and the US managed it 200 years ago…

  49. Boyo — on 13th June, 2011 at 2:52 pm  

    I suppose I’m also saying, why, as progressives, capitulate to superstition and the cultural ghetto – be it Muslim, Christian or Jew?

  50. Eurasian Sensation — on 13th June, 2011 at 4:07 pm  

    Jamal @ 46:

    Malaysia’s application of Sharia is very problematic. In a country in which almost half are non-Muslim (mostly Chinese and Indians), there is no question of getting rid of secular law and bringing in only Sharia – it would lead to rioting in the streets from minorities.

    So Sharia law in Malaysia only applies to Muslims (ie. ethnic Malays). Which is fine, perhaps, if that is what you are signing up for as a Muslim. But Malays have no choice but to be Muslim, as apostasy is illegal. Malays who drink, dress “immodestly” or eat during Ramadan can be arrested by religious police, yet non-Malays can do the same things next to them and be left alone. It creates a weird society where a completely different set of laws applies to one ethnic group. It also serves as a barrier to social integration between Muslims and non-Muslims; an example is when imams recently decreed that Muslims in Malaysia should not enter any house or building in which non-Muslim religious iconography was prominently displayed.
    In other words, it’s a recipe for enormous social problems.

  51. Boyo — on 13th June, 2011 at 8:49 pm  

    “In other words, it’s a recipe for enormous social problems.”

    Pissing in the wind, I’m afraid.

  52. joe90 — on 13th June, 2011 at 11:55 pm  

    post #50

    If malaysia became an islamic state, shariah law is applied on all citizens of the state not just the muslims. Just as in britian you apply the secular law on all citizens not just the athiests or communists or muslims doesn’t matter what belief of the person is you still execute the law.

    Malaysia is majority muslims it is no surprise the people demanding shariah law, also no surprise there is clash because you will have some who want current status quo and other who want complete shariah law.

  53. Don — on 14th June, 2011 at 12:22 am  

    If malaysia became an islamic state, shariah law is applied on all citizens of the state not just the muslims

    Yes, that is my understanding too. Do you have an opinion on that?

    Malaysia is majority muslims it is no surprise the people demanding shariah law

    Only if you take it as axiomatic that muslim = demanding sharia law. Otherwise you might want to look into who is doing the demanding and what they hope to gain. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

    I wish Mirax were still around.

    @Boyo #49

    ‘Why capitulate’ is rather a loaded question, isn’t it?

  54. Boyo — on 14th June, 2011 at 6:46 am  

    @53 yes, but there’s a point to it – it’s not a case of being neutral and “fair” – there seems to be an inherent assumption that Islamists are the only people with an ideology. The current state of the Left resembles an open crisp bag submerged in a dirty puddle – soggy, bitter and useless. It has no confidence in itself, largely because since the fall of the wall it has had no counter-hegemony. This need not be the case.

  55. AbuF — on 14th June, 2011 at 9:23 am  

    joe90 either does not understand the meaning of the term “shari’a” or is wilfully distorting it.

  56. Arif — on 14th June, 2011 at 12:26 pm  

    Ravi Naik #45 and ukliberty #47, you both picked up on a phrase about how I think secular courts should respond to sharia courts by trying to be more relevant to people seeking justice than the sharia courts. I am not sure why you both seem to oppose that – perhaps the word “challenge” has some connotations which I haven’t picked up on. I cannot see any point at which I disagree with ukliberty #47.

    I think it might be that I am taken as saying they are competing in terms of the outcomes of the decisions, when I was thinking more about competing in terms of accessibility – cost, ease of understanding procedures, transparency, believing you will get a fair hearing, speed of judgment. However I guess it is plausible that the courts would also have different final decisions because they have different principles, which in turn may be part of the appeal of those courts.

    My simple point is that arbitration courts are a good thing if it makes justice more accessible for more people. And the corollary is that they show that mainstream courts have a way to go to be relevant and easily accessible enough.

  57. joe90 — on 15th June, 2011 at 12:36 am  

    post #53

    My opinion is if muslims and non muslims wants shariah law in their lands such as in malaysia or egypt etc no problem for me their choice who are we to deny them their choice.

  58. Eurasian Sensation — on 16th June, 2011 at 3:16 pm  

    joe90 @57:

    What about those Muslims in a place like Malaysia who would like to do some of the things most of us take for granted… like drink alcohol, eat pork, eat during Ramadan, or have sex with someone they are not married to?

    Under Malaysian secular law, those things are all legal. Under Malaysian sharia law, they are illegal. Ethnic Malays do not get a choice which legal system they wish to be subjected to, and they don’t get a choice to be a Muslim or not.

    So even if a majority of Malays decide they want sharia courts, it is still an unjust imposition on any Muslim who doesn’t tow the line.

  59. joe90 — on 18th June, 2011 at 1:03 am  

    post#58

    It is not possible to implement COMPLETE shariah law in conjunction with another set of laws(secular) its one or the other. No way it will work when you have 2 competing sets of law, I agree as you stated leads to confused situation and chaos.

    your last point is funny if malaysians call to adopt islamic laws fully its unfair on the minority of people who want drink alchol and eat pig meat?? come on you serious :)

    that’s like me as part of a very small minority in europe saying I want alternative and different laws in france it’s unfair i have to deal with this majority secular system of laws.

  60. BenSix — on 18th June, 2011 at 12:45 pm  

    My opinion is if muslims and non muslims wants shariah law in their lands such as in malaysia or egypt etc no problem for me their choice who are we to deny them their choice.

    We can’t “deny” them. We can judge their system. And, considering that it’s a tyranny of the majority, I sure as hell will.

  61. nobodieshero — on 19th June, 2011 at 2:15 am  

    this site is a joke the delete any thing the do not agree with

  62. joe90 — on 19th June, 2011 at 7:39 pm  

    post #60

    it’s their choice dude get over it!

  63. Don — on 19th June, 2011 at 7:45 pm  

    it’s their choice dude get over it!

    Spectacularly missing the point.

  64. douglas clark — on 19th June, 2011 at 9:35 pm  

    joe90 @ 52,

    You know there has to be a ‘yes but’ comment to this:

    Just as in britian you apply the secular law on all citizens not just the athiests or communists or muslims doesn’t matter what belief of the person is you still execute the law.

    Yes but, the right to freedom of religious expression is allowed in the secular law of the UK. There is no compulsion. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia, are there? There is a genuine crack down on anyone that proselytises Christianity. That is not law even on the same page as UK law.

    Yes but, the right of freedom of speech is held up as a self evident truth throughout most of the Western World. The mere concept of free speech has caused deaths throughout muslim lands. Again, no room for a minority viewpoint. What was it Steven Fry had to say about the insulted?

    “So you’re offended. So fucking what?”

  65. Refresh — on 19th June, 2011 at 9:55 pm  

    It was Stephen Fry, and when he’s offended he turns to twitter.

  66. Don — on 19th June, 2011 at 10:21 pm  

    Wouldn’t it be great if all cases of offence were dealt with by twitter?

    Who trends wins.

    And it only matters to followers.

  67. Refresh — on 19th June, 2011 at 11:19 pm  

    ‘And it only matters to followers.’

    It was always thus.

  68. ukliberty — on 20th June, 2011 at 9:47 am  

    your last point is funny if malaysians call to adopt islamic laws fully its unfair on the minority of people who want drink alchol and eat pig meat?? come on you serious

    Why shouldn’t that minority be free to drink alcohol and eat pig meat?

  69. ukliberty — on 20th June, 2011 at 10:07 am  

    Arif,

    Ravi Naik #45 and ukliberty #47, you both picked up on a phrase about how I think secular courts should respond to sharia courts by trying to be more relevant to people seeking justice than the sharia courts. I am not sure why you both seem to oppose that – perhaps the word “challenge” has some connotations which I haven’t picked up on. I cannot see any point at which I disagree with ukliberty #47.

    The connotation to me is this notion of competition: that courts within the UK are in some sense that I don’t understand “competing” for ‘customers’, that secular courts “should respond” to sharia courts. Again, the idea behind the most recent Arbitration Act is to reduce the burden on the secular courts.

    If you are uncomfortable with sharia courts then I can understand why you think secular courts should become more accessible, but I do not understand how they could.

    (It may be of interest that a reason for having Arbitration Acts of the past century is because we were competing with other states for business. See for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbitration_Act_1979)

  70. BenSix — on 20th June, 2011 at 12:18 pm  

    …it’s their choice dude get over it!…

    Right, Joe. “It’s their choice.” So, if we all voted on a referendum to Have Joe 90 Expelled To Pluto you’d be cool with that?

  71. ukliberty — on 20th June, 2011 at 1:27 pm  

    “if we all voted on a referendum to Have Joe 90 Expelled To Pluto you’d be cool with that?”

    Literally.

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