We have spent considerable time on this blog discussing the dangers of Sharia system in various Muslim countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, particularly in the treatment of women and girls. However, in any free nation, citizens should be allowed to resolve their own disputes through private mediation or religious adjudications. This is what is happening increasingly in England where Muslims are circumventing the court system in favor of Islamic courts and Sharia law. The growing influence of Sharia courts has raised concerns among women’s groups and such reliance should come with added vigilance to ensure that all of the parties are truly consenting to such faith-based adjudications.
The article below describes these proceedings before a sheikh who warns witnesses “You must speak the truth, sister. Because Allah is listening to your every word, you can lie to us but not to Him.”
There are an estimated 85 Sharia councils in Britain. What is fascinating is that the English Muslim lawyers are now actively seeking clients to represent in the burgeoning legal system.
While I support the right to these people in seeking justice from Sharia courts as a private matter, I will not hide my concern. It represents a further separation from society for Muslim families and a further compartmentation of parts of society into insular communities. Civil courts should represent part of our collective covenant to live in a unified legal system. Another concern is that it can reinforce those who oppose separation of church or mosque and state. With quasi-courts meting out faith-based justice, many are likely to seek other expression of religious doctrine in laws and policies.
These concerns should not trump the right of citizens to resolve their disputes in such private disputes. For that reason, there are times when Sharia law may become relevant to contractual and other disputes. Indeed, in New York there were dozens of Jewish courts used by immigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some such courts continue to operate in this country as do informal Sharia courts.