Salt Shakers – E- News 18th July 2013

In the UK, Islamic ‘Sharia Councils’ or courts have been established – under legislation which provided for the establishment of Arbitration Tribunals. There are now 85 such sharia courts around the UK which make rulings according to Islamic law.

A BBC documentary, presented by reporter Jane Corbin, recently exposed what happens in some of these Sharia Councils.
Link to the video is below.

Many people have expressed concern about the use of these Sharia Courts – they deal with a range of issues such as marital disputes, domestic violence, divorce and othermatters.
Since the Sharia Councils operate in accordance with Islamic law, the rulings are sometimes not in accordance with British law and they often disadvantage women. They sometimes deal with areas, such as child custody, which are supposed to be dealt with by the regular court system. Those subjected to the rulings often feel they have to obey them, even though they are not legally binding.

There should be ONE law for ALL – not a separatesystem operating on Islamic law. We need to learn from the British experience – and reject any introduction of ‘sharia law’ courts or rulings in Australia.

Baroness Cox, a member of the House of Lords, introduced the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill legislation into the House of Lords in October 2012. The Bill is aimed at curbing the growth of parallel legal systems in the UK. The Bill would limit the power of the Sharia Courts and ensure they operate in accordance with British law, especially in areas such as polygamy, divorce and discrimination against women (source).

A recent BBC documentary (30 min) has used hidden – and open – cameras to expose what really happens in some of these Sharia Courts. The film was broadcast in April 2013.

Soeren Kern, of the Gatestone Institute writes,

“A new documentary secretly filmed inside several of the 85 Islamic Sharia Law courts operating in Britain has exposed the systematic discrimination that many women are suffering at the hands of Muslim jurists.

The documentary, Secrets of Britain’s Sharia Councils, was filmed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and was first aired on BBC Panorama, a long-running current affairs program, on April 8.

The undercover investigation proves what has long been suspected: namely, that Sharia courts, which operate in mosques and houses across Britain, routinely issue rulings on domestic and marital issues according to Islamic Sharia law that are at odds with British law. Although Sharia rulings are not legally binding, those subject to the rulings often feel obliged to obey them as a matter of religious belief, or because of pressure from family and community members to do so. . .”

Act 4 America, who posted the video online last week, say, “A BBC Panorama Documentary goes undercover in one of the 85 sharia courts operating as a parallel legal system in the UK, uncovering the extensive abuse of women, refusal to grant divorces, charging of the woman but not the man for divorce proceedings, and even the taking away of the woman’s children, and rulings contrary to British law.”

When one of the Sharia Councils complained about the film, the BBC stood by their documentary. A BBC spokesperson said: “Panorama fully stands behind its investigation into the workings of some of Britain’s Sharia Councils.” (source)

One US academic contended that they really aren’t so bad – and that they are ‘changing’.

(See his article).

The Secrets Of Britain’s Sharia Councils: Hidden Camera Report (on You Tube, posted by Act4America).

Britain’s Sharia Courts: “You Cannot Go Against What Islam Says”, Soeren Kern, 23/4/2013.

However, the real problem is the principle of recognising Islamic law in Britain – or in Australia – and having these courts discriminate against women.

Review of the BBC Documentary

Panorama: Inside Britain’s Sharia Courts, BBC One, review

Chris Harvey, The Telegraph, 23/4/2013

Jenny Stokes
Research Director
Salt Shakers

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