Sharia Courts In Britain – Ruling Against British Law?

Eighty-five Sharia Courts are issuing private rulings that contradict British law, claims a new report. Independent think tank Civitas has issued this warning with regard to the Muslim courts that rule on things including child custody, polygamy and marriage.

Given that under Islamic laws, women have few rights, there is rising concern about these Sharia Courts. They meet behind closed doors and apparently don’t maintain any form of records.

Sharia courts have existed in Britain since 2007, primarily in London, Bradford, Birmingham, Coventry and Manchester. The courts’ rulings are legally binding under the 1996 Arbitration Act, on condition that  both parties are happy touse them, and as long as their decisions do not contradict British law.

But the Arbitration Act specifically excludes rulings on divorce and child-care cases.  Now Civitas notes that many  Sharia courts are exceeding the original mandate.

“Some of these courts are advising illegal actions,” said the report’s author, Denis MacEoin, a former lecturer in Arabic and Islamic studies. “And others transgress human rights standards.”


Last year, the House Of Lords ruled in one case that Sharia law ‘is wholly incompatible’ with human rights legislation.

In this case, British law  prevented the deportation of a woman whose child would have been removed and placed with an abusive father under sharia law in Lebanon.

As he could not gain access to the actual Sharia courts,  MacEoin has  had to examine online fatwas ( religious decrees) issued by websites run by British mosques. He says:

Among the rulings … we find some that advise illegal actions and others that transgress human rights standards as they are applied by British courts.

Here are some examples: A Muslim woman may not under any circumstances marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam; such a woman’s children will be separated from her until she marries a Muslim man.


Also, polygamous marriage ( two to four wives) is considered legal … a wife has no property rights in the event of divorce … sharia law must override the judgments of British courts …

…taking out insurance is prohibited, even if required by law … a Muslim lawyer has to act contrary to UK law where it contradicts sharia …

a woman may not leave her home without her husband’s consent (which may constitute false imprisonment); legal adoption is forbidden … a woman may not retain custody of her child after 7 (for a boy) or 9 (for a girl) …

fighting the Americans and British is a religious duty ….”

Neil Addison, an expert on the law as it applies to religion, says:


“About two thirds of Muslim marriages are not being registered under the Marriages Act, which is illegal.  A woman in this type of marriage would have to submit to sharia law for a divorce proceeding. But it’s not the way arbitration is supposed to work.”


Some people argue that Sharia courts are the same as the Jewish Rabbinical courts, the Beth Din.

But Addison begs to differ:

“The beth din acknowledge that ‘the law of the land is the law,’ and a rabbi cannot perform a synagogue marriage ceremony unless a registrar is present to simultaneously register the marriage under English law.”


Several newspapers have carried stories of how, for instance, Sharia courts have arranged for fees of up to ten thousand pounds to go to youths attacked by Muslims, to avoid  any legal action on the part of the victim.


Now, I ask you: can you imagine the reaction if either Jews, or Christians or indeed any other religious group behaved in this manner?

Christians would be lambasted in the media if they ever sought to buy victims’ silence. Similarly, we all can envisage the slurs that would fly if the Jewish Rabbinical courts went around bribing people to avoid the courts!

But when it is the Muslim community doing it, well, that’s just fine, apparently.

It seems to me – and indeed to most sane people, I’m guessing – that the issue is a clear one. If a person – of any faith – wishes to live in Britain, they must abide by British law. It’s not complicated. It really isn’t.

Thus Muslim women have every right to wear the niqab or the burkha – in Muslim countries.

And if Muslim families wish to buy the silence of victims of their relatives’ aggression, then again – fine, in Muslim countries.


But here, in Britain, we already have an albeit flawed legal system and all people should be equal under the law. After all, isn’t this premise at the heart of  democracy…?

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