Britain’s Sharia Law Courts
Over the past few years, especially since the wave of terrorist attacks and other high profile incidents, the relationship between the Muslim community and the rest of Britain has been under ever more intense scrutiny. Some people have claimed that some portions of the Muslim community wish to live separate lives from society as a whole. There has been no greater claim made by these people to back this up than the revelations about “Sharia law courts” that are operating in some of the communities across the UK.
Many people have spoke about Sharia Law but what is it? Sharia Law, or Islamic Law is the religious code which is derived from the writings of Islam, most notably the Quran and the Hadith. Sharia, translates to English as “Gods divine law.” Within Islam there are believed by scholars to be four sources of Sharia. The Quran, The Sunnah, qiyas, which means analogical reasoning and ijma, which translated means judicial consensus. The rulings of a Sharia Law court are based on 5 areas: mandatory, recommended, neutral, abhorred, and prohibited. All of these factors are determined by the scripture in the Quran and the Hadiths. The determinations made by a Sharia Law court cover many areas of life, including personal hygiene to marriage and economics. In its most fundamentalist form, if the Sharia conditions are met within a state, corporal and capital punishment can be administered such as the cutting off of the hands for thieves and the stoning of women to death for adultery. Serious offences under Sharia Law are known as “haad” offences.
The true number of these courts in the UK are unknown, some estimates put the number at as many as 80, while a study conducted by the University of Reading a few years ago found evidence of about 30 of these Sharia tribunals operating in the UK. In the UK, these Sharia tribunals and councils rule mainly on religious matters, community disputes and marriages. The law is not legally binding at this point in the UK but some of the rulings can be mixed with legal arbitration. Many marriages and divorces take place in these courts which are not recognized by the state but are seen as sacrosanct in the eyes of the community. There has been many stories of women being denied divorces from abusive and violent husbands by direction of these courts rulings.
The rulings made by this court that can become legally binding are the ones that relate to commercial (economic) matters. It is said that Islamic law can be applied to matters such as these as long as it isn’t in contravention with English law. In these “arbitration” matters a lawyer who is qualified in English law is appointed to the arbitration process along with a scholar who is qualified in Islamic law. The aim is to reach an agreement on whatever the dispute may be using these two arbiters. This is where rulings made by a Sharia Court can be made legally binding. In the UK, Sharia Law is already being legally practised in examples such as this. Mortgages and investments in the UK are required to have a Sharia compliant option or “halal” option for Muslim customers. Another way in which Sharia law has been incorporated into UK law is the selling of halal food in many establishments across the country.
So this raises the issue of integration vs separation. Where does the line go when it comes to the law of this land and allowing other communities to practice their own laws and traditions. Doing some demographical research it is easy to find evidence of separate communities that consist of mainly a Muslim population in UK. In a town such as Luton, 25.6 percent of the town is made up of a Muslim population. Translated into numbers that is equal to 51,992 people. Wards in the area such as High Town, in which 11.5 percent of the population are Muslim and Dallow, in which 67.2 percent are described as “Asian” show the tendency for the Muslim community to live in the same area as one another. There is nothing outwardly insidious about this as it is human nature to want to live closest to the people you associate most with but it does speak to the development of parallel communities here in the UK. Tower Hamlets and Newham in London and areas of Birmingham such as Sparkbrook in which 78 percent of the population is described as “non-white” and consists of a large Somali community are also demographical displays of evidence of this.
When communities are now being drawn along racial and religious lines and Sharia Law courts are operating in these areas, I begin to ask myself how naïve some of our elected officials are when they believe that these courts hold no major influence over the person being judged by such a council. In a community which is essentially a Muslim enclave, if a person is seen to be going against the ruling of the elders who have made a Sharia-compliant ruling against him, how long until he or she is shunned by the community? Or worse?
The truth is because of the “ghettoization” of communities along religious identity, sharia law is far more dominant in the UK than many of the deniers would allow themselves to believe. The integrated and multicultural society our leaders keep telling us we live in appears to be more of a myth the more you do your research. The truth is that there are now communities in the UK that are increasingly not living by the law of the land, but are living by their own laws inside of their own communities.
A telling fact about the attitudes that exist within some of these communities is shown in a 2016 poll that was the basis of a 2016 documentary “What British Muslims Really Think,” presented by Trevor Phillips. The findings in the poll found that 23 percent of British Muslims would like to live in a state that is governed by some form of Sharia Law. When David Cameron said state multiculturalism has failed he was right, but the sad part about it is that nothing seems to have been done about it. We have allowed this environment of separatism to flourish to the point that conceivably we could see communities self governing according to whatever belief it is they hold. The law of the land which has been developed over hundreds of years will become less applicable to certain citizens of the nation. If anybody wants to see a major red flag in this area, just look at the functioning sharia law courts inside of Britain’s communities as a potential template for the future of this country.
Picture from onelawforall.org.uk