Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Inquiry into sharia courts scrapped

A UK Ministry of Justice inquiry into the operation of Islamic sharia courts in Britain has been scrapped - because the Muslim courts refused to co-operate.

There are an estimated 85 sharia courts in Britain. The exact number is unknown. There is no objection to their providing mediation on religious matters, but there are concerns that they should not provide an alternative to British law.

Before last year's General Election the Ministry of Justice commissioned "an exploratory study of sharia councils in England with respect to family law." The Daily Mail reports that ministers have now abandoned the inquiry because the Muslim courts refused to help.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said the study "identified a number of challenges to undertaking robust research in this area. The study was therefore limited and adds little to the evidence base.

"The findings cannot be regarded as a representative assessment of the operation of sharia councils. Following expert peer review of the draft report, the Ministry of Justice decided not to publish the findings."

The Ministry of Justice said "The challenges to undertaking more robust research were that the councils are generally run on a volunteer basis, were short staffed and very busy, so there were practical difficulties in speaking with respondents.

"There was also reluctance to discuss the private work of the councils and respondents were wary of the stereotypical ways in which their organisations were represented in the media."

Jihad Watch writes: "Baroness Cox. . . noted the practice of rating a woman's testimony as half that of a man (from Qur'an 2:282, confirmed in Sahih Bukhari 1.6.301), and the gradual, unauthorised expansion of jurisdiction that saw Sharia courts ruling on 'family and criminal cases, including child custody and domestic violence.'

"To fail to follow through in this case is to concede that there are areas of Britain where British law is no longer supreme. And it will invite more stonewalling, more jurisdictional 'creeping,' and of course, more sharia courts doing all of the above, unless authorities throw down the gauntlet: If you cannot be investigated to authorities' satisfaction, you cannot operate.

"Most communities demand that much of their restaurants in some form - no inspection, no permit. That is also the least that should be expected of anything styling itself as a court, tribunal, arbitration board, and so forth."

Notices proclaiming "You are entering a Shariah controlled zone. Islamic rules enforced" have been posted on bus stops and street lamps in the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Newham, and a group of Islamists marched on Saturday from Leyton to Walthamstow calling for democracy to be replaced by sharia. This is considered to be the work of an extremist minority - but a poll of Muslim families showed that 40 per cent supported the introduction of sharia in Britain.

Baroness Cox has introduced a bill in the House of Lords which would make it a criminal offence for anyone to take over the rights of the state's criminal or family courts. What progress the bill will make remains to be seen.