Muslim college in Midlands is running sharia law court
From the Sunday Mercury of Birmingham
A MUSLIM college in the Midlands is running the UK’s first official sharia law court.
The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal has already used sharia law to decide the outcome of more than 100 civil disputes between Muslims across the UK since it opened its doors last December.
The tribunal, which operates alongside the British legal system, was set up by scholars and lawyers at Hijaz College Islamic University in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
The Archbishop of Canterbury prompted controversy when he said use of certain aspects of sharia law seemed “unavoidable”.
And recently, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, said there was no reason why it could not be used for contractual agreements and marital disputes.
But in some Muslim countries punishments handed out under the legal system have included beheadings, public floggings and thieves’ hands being chopped off.
Faisal Aqtab Siddiqi, a commercial law barrister and head of Hijaz College, who has sat in judgment at a number of the tribunals, said British society was not ready for such punishments. And we never will be either!
But he added that if society became more ‘civilised’ then those who broke the law should expect to receive the highest degree of punishment.
Last night, the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan and has both a Christian and Muslim family background, said he was concerned that people might feel coerced into accepting sharia-based arbitration.
Cases already heard in Nuneaton include an inheritance dispute between three sisters and their two brothers, a divorce and a neighbour dispute.
In the inheritance case the men were given double their sisters’ inheritance. Which is exactly what Sharia law decrees of course.
The divorce hearing ruled that a Somalian woman should be granted an Islamic khula (annulment) despite her husband’s strong objections.
The college opened as an Islamic school for boys in 1994 and has since grown into an internationally renowned campus. It teaches Islamic studies and Islamic law alongside a secular education of GCSEs and A Levels.
Between 10 and 15 tribunals are held each month in an informal office at the college, which occupies the former stately home, Higham Hall.
The court conducts its ground-breaking business just a stone’s throw from a Muslim equivalent of a mausoleum, containing the ‘grave’ of the college’s founder – the only building of its kind in Europe.
Islamic scholars and lawyers sitting on the tribunal use only sharia law, derived from several sources including the Koran, to decide a wide range of civil disputes involving issues such as divorce, inheritance, and tenancy.
But unlike unofficial sharia courts, which have operated on an ad-hoc basis from UK mosques for some time, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal does have binding legal status.
Its proceedings are operating in tandem with the British legal system, and decisions challenged by the losing party will be upheld by a county court bailiff or high court sheriff.
The Nuneaton-based tribunal cannot force anyone to come within its jurisdication. But once someone agrees to settle a dispute at the tribunal, he or she is bound in English law to abide by the court’s decision.
That still does not make it “Official”? I have only been retired from the Ministry of Justice for 4 months – I have heard of no Act of Parliament incorporating any Sharia Court under a new Administration of Justice Act. I think the Nuneaton “Court” is using a little touch of kitman (Islamicly mandated lies to the infidel) on the reporter here.
The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal may sound “official” but it is NOT, I repeat NOT part of the Ministry of Justice’s, Tribunal Service.
What this does show is how unwise the Lord Chief Justice was in his comments in Whitechapel this summer.
The head of the college spoke at length to the reporter as to why the decisions were made. Anyone reading them will be able to make up their own mind how undesirable Sharia law is.
Posted on 09/07/2008 9:33 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
8 Sep 2008
Under English civil law it is allowed for two parties, if they both agree, to have civil arbitration (which seems to include inheritance and divorce) settled by a third party - obviously no contravention of human rights or other legislation must take place. As an independent body the third party would not be part of the Tribunal Service.
Various Beth Din operate under this provision, arbitrating sometimes between fairly large companies as well as individuals, though the companied must be privately owned. The Beth Din only hear disputes between jewish parties.
The Shariah court mentioned here seems to 'offical' in the same sense as Beth Din.
9 Sep 2008
That is true JR except that the Beth Din don't lie to the men and women who come before them. My experiences with the beth Din were very positive. I cannot imagine a member of the Beth Din teling a Jewish woman who wanted a get from her husband what the Somali woman was told by this commercial law barrister
"Although she was also married to him under British law, there was no need for her to get a British divorce. She was able to get an islamic one much quicker"
That would leave the woman unable to remarry under British Civil law and thus get the protection of current matrimonial legislation. That's reprehensible advice.