Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sharia Law in the UK

"ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases." Thus begins this story from last Sunday's edition of The Sunday Times.

I'll post more in a moment, but when you read it note most especially how Shaira law has come to be implemented in the United Kingdom. Then ask yourself, could this happen in the United States?

Revealed: UK’s first official sharia courts

Abul Taher

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.

Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996.

Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.

Siddiqi said: “We realised that under the Arbitration Act we can make rulings which can be enforced by county and high courts. The act allows disputes to be resolved using alternatives like tribunals. This method is called alternative dispute resolution, which for Muslims is what the sharia courts are.”

The disclosure that Muslim courts have legal powers in Britain comes seven months after Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was pilloried for suggesting that the establishment of sharia in the future “seems unavoidable” in Britain.

In July, the head of the judiciary, the lord chief justice, Lord Phillips, further stoked controversy when he said that sharia could be used to settle marital and financial disputes.

In fact, 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.

Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of “smaller” criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them. “All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases,” said Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.

Jewish Beth Din courts operate under the same provision in the Arbitration Act and resolve civil cases, ranging from divorce to business disputes. They have existed in Britain for more than 100 years, and previously operated under a precursor to the act.

Politicians and church leaders expressed concerns that this could mark the beginnings of a “parallel legal system” based on sharia for some British Muslims.
Read the entire article here.

Here in the United States, arbitration statutes were first adopted in the 1920s and, particularly in New York, bet din decisions will be enforced by civil courts under those laws. Of course, with arbitration, both parties must first agree to arbitration. Furthermore, halakhah (Jewish law) is used only when all parties in the dispute are religious Jews. Others are protected not only by halakhah itself, but by the religious freedom provisions in the Bill of Rights and established law. Nevertheless, since that "parallel legal system" exists here now, is that not precedent for sharia in the United States?

Seems to me the question is when this will come before one of our courts. And we've already learned just how lawless our courts can be.

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