Sharia courts in Britain

One in a series of quick posts compiled from the plane, in other words, a quick run through the ‘to review / comment’ pile... 

From across the Pond:

Five sharia courts have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester and Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

The government has quietly sanctioned that their rulings are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, the rulings were not binding and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

Lawyers have issued grave warnings about the dangers of a dual legal system and the disclosure drew criticism from Opposition leaders.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so."

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In July, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice agreed that Muslims in Britain should be able to live according to Islamic law to decide financial and marital disputes.

Mr Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of "smaller" criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them.

Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. "All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases," said Mr Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.

There are concerns for women suffering under the Islamic laws, which favours men. Mr Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.

The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia.

Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts. In the six cases of domestic violence, Mr Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders.

Thoughts?