Saturday, 10 October 2015

Sharia Law In the UK (Part 1)

It's Not Coming Soon...It's Already Here

According to a 2009 report by Civitas, there are at least 85 independent sharia “arbitration panels” operating in the UK, many of which are issuing rulings that contradict British law. Rulings found on websites connected to these courts include fatwas mandating that a Muslim woman may not under any circumstances marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam, and that such a woman’s children will be separated from her until she marries a Muslim; that a woman may not leave her home without her husband’s consent; and recommendation of severe punishments for homosexuals.

Some Islamic courts are making decisions under sharia law beyond their legal remit. “About two-thirds of Muslim marriages are not being registered under the Marriages Act, which is illegal,” said Neil Addison, a barrister specialising in the law on religion.

Addison rejected the comparison between sharia courts and Jewish Beth Din courts: “These courts are not operating within the same disciplines as the Beth Din. 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.” Addison added: “Imams and mosques are performing marriage ceremonies that are not registered under English law. They are the only religion that are doing it...Hindus and Sikhs have registered their temples under the Marriages Act.”

An insight into the mindset of those running these sharia courts can be found on the website of the Islamic Sharia Council, which runs Britain’s sharia court network. The website previously contained a number of unsavoury rulings for ordinary Muslims who write in for advice, although many of these seem to have been pulled within the last few months (I have saved caches of the relevant pages). In response to the question, “What is the Islamic ruling on statements stating the sharia law is barbaric and what is the ruling on saying Hudood [hadd punishments] are incompatible with contemporary life?”, the website said that any Muslim who criticises sharia is an unbeliever and will burn in hell. Another ruling reiterated the Qur’an’s admonition that the testimony of a woman in a court of law ought to have half the weight of a man’s (2:282), while also affirming in passing that “Cases of serious nature, like that of fornication, adultery and rape attract a very hard punishment in Islam. Flogging a hundred times for unmarried couples and stoning to the married ones.” A 2008 seminar hosted by the ISC (and summarised on their old website) openly championed the “perfection” of sharia, endorsing polygamy and outlining the “future steps to further accommodate within the British Judicial system elements that are fundamental to the way of life for a Muslim”.

Further insight comes from the statements of some of the top sharia court judges in this country. For example, Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, president of the Islamic Sharia Council, sparked controversy in 2010 by saying that men who rape their wives should not be prosecuted because “sex is part of marriage”. He claimed that many married women who alleged rape were lying.

In an earlier interview, Sayeed had made clear that he believes “non-consensual sex is the minor aggression, and calling it rape is the major aggression”. He also stated that to prosecute marital rapists would be “compromising Islamic religion with secular non-Islamic values,” and this should not be done, because “We don’t deviate from Qur'an, deviate from Sunnah.”

The general secretary of the ISC, Dr. Suhaib Hasan, is another proponent of deviant misogynistic attitudes, as evidenced by a BBC documentary in 2013 which showed him telling an undercover female Muslim reporter posing as a victim of spousal abuse that she should avoid going to the police to report it, before suggesting that she find out why her husband was so angry (“Is it because of my cooking? Is it because I see my friends?”) so that she could “correct” herself. The documentary revealed that similarly dangerous advice was being given to Muslim women in sharia courts all over the country.

Hasan is also very open about supporting the brutal punishments meted out under sharia in Muslim countries. “Even though cutting off the hands and feet, or flogging the drunkard and fornicator, seem to be very abhorrent, once they are implemented, they become a deterrent for the whole society. This is why in Saudi Arabia, for example, where these measures are implemented, the crime rate is very, very low,” he told The Sunday Telegraph in 2008.

Despite claiming that the ISC do not want to implement the sharia penal system in Britain (for now), Dr. Hasan effectively advocates it anyway. “If sharia law is implemented, then you can turn this country into a haven of peace because once a thief’s hand is cut off nobody is going to steal,” he says. “Once, just only once, if an adulterer is stoned nobody is going to commit this crime at all. We want to offer it to the British society. If they accept it, it is for their good and if they don’t accept it they’ll need more and more prisons.”

Even this small sampling of evidence proves that sharia law, as applied and advocated in this country, poses a major threat to human rights and freedom in the UK. The question remains: How widespread are these attitudes, and how prevalent is support for this kind of barbarity among Muslim communities in Britain?

It is to this question that I will turn in a future post.

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