There are an estimated 85 Islamic sharia courts in Britain. There is no objection to their providing mediation in religious matters, but there have been concerns that they should not deal with matters of family and criminal law, thus providing an alternative to the British legal system.
A UK Ministry of Justice inquiry into the operation of sharia courts in Britain was scrapped - because the Muslim courts refused to co-operate.
Jihad Watch says: "As has been the case in Britain, Sharia's proponents [in Germany] got their foot in the door with pleas for just a little Sharia, just for a few community matters. Then, the reality hits that Sharia is a package deal; as even Imam Rauf has noted, 'it is not possible in principle to limit the Shari'ah to some aspects of human life and leave out others.'
"And so commences a process of 'jurisdiction creeping.' There is no such thing as 'just a little' Sharia."
With regard to the situation in Germany, Jihad Watch quotes from an article in Der Spiegel:
In mosques or tearooms, Muslim elders dispense verdicts that keep their communities in line. They mediate between aggrieved immigrants, sometimes at the expense of German justice. Some say the arbitrations ease caseloads in court, but others see the creeping advance of Sharia law.
The men ambushed Fuat S. on the street, then locked him in a basement and tortured him. Fuat was later admitted to the hospital in Berlin's Neukolln district with gaping wounds, contusions and broken bones.
Police took his statement concerning the attack the same night. Fuat S., a gambler and a recipient of "Hartz IV" - Germany's social welfare benefits for the long-term unemployed - gave a detailed statement. He'd conned an acquaintance, Mustafa O., out of €150,000 ($217,000) and the man was taking his revenge, Fuat said, along with his three brothers. They hit his hands, arms and knees with a hammer and threatened to shoot him.
The public prosecutor's office in Berlin initiated proceedings against Mustafa O., a Palestinian man who had come to their attention repeatedly for violent acts. Police had investigated him in a number of cases, and now prosecutors saw an opportunity to convict a dangerous repeat offender. But when the case began, Fuat S., the principle [sic] witness, unexpectedly withdrew his testimony. It was not Mustafa who had tortured him, he said, but an Albanian man he didn't know. Mustafa, he said, wasn't even in the basement at the time. This was clearly a lie, as police analysis of telephone data showed, but the judge was forced to acquit the defendant due to lack of evidence.
The decision, in fact, was reached by a different judge. According to police, the victim's and the perpetrator's families had met at a restaurant in the presence of an Islamic "justice of the peace," an arbitrator who mediates conflicts between Muslims. The two families had reached a compromise: Fuat would drop the charges, and in exchange be relieved of part of his debt.
According to Bernhard Mix, the public prosecutor in charge of the case, Fuat's false testimony was part of a deal between the families. "It's difficult to establish the truth using legal means, when the perpetrator and the victim reach an agreement," he says.
Politicians and social workers tend to focus on forced marriages and honor killings, but the baleful influence of these Islamic arbitrators has gone largely unnoticed by the public. Joachim Wagner, an author and television journalist of many years, has taken a closer look at the phenomenon in his book "Richter ohne Gesetz" ("Judges without Laws"). Reconstructing Mustafa O.'s case, he reaches the conclusion that "the Islamic parallel justice system is becoming a threat to the constitutional legal system."
These justices of the peace don't wear robes. Their courtrooms are mosques or teahouses. They draw their authority not from the law, but from their standing within the community. Most of them are senior members of their families, or imams, and some even fly in from Turkey or Lebanon to resolve disputes. Muslims seek them out when families argue, when daughters take up with unbelievers or when clans clash. They often trust these arbitrators more than they trust the state.
The late juvenile court judge Kirsten Heisig drew attention the the problem a year ago: "The law is slipping out of our hands. It's moving to the streets, or into a parallel system where an imam or another representative of the Koran determines what must be done."
The question is: are similar things happening in Britain? It's a question that deserves serious investigation.