"ISLAMIC law has been ushered into Britain by the back door.
Ministers have quietly given Sharia courts power to rule on Muslim civil cases.
These range from divorce and financial disputes to domestic violence. But furious Tories said the step “pandered to Islamic extremists”. MP Philip Davies said: “There can be only one legal system — British law. This will lead to a segregated society.”"
Ministers have done no such thing - as anyone with a longer memory than 5 seconds will note once the Sun gets onto detailing how this has apparently happened:
Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, used a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996. It allows Sharia hearings to be classed as ‘arbitration tribunals’.
Uh, so it's nothing whatsoever to do with this government at all then? I'm fairly sure that we were still under the yoke of a certain John Major in 1996. This government hasn't given Sharia courts the power to do anything.
As you might have expected, this article appears to be based on one in yesterday's Sunset Times, which also includes another crucial fact:
"Jewish Beth Din courts operate under the same provision in the Arbitration Act and resolve civil cases, ranging from divorce to business disputes. They have existed in Britain for more than 100 years, and previously operated under a precursor to the act."
Now some, such as Melanie Phillips, who is unsurprisingly sympathetic towards Beth Din courts, claim that they are nothing like Sharia courts, and also that they aren't recognised under English law. Someone's wrong, but who it is I'm not sure. The United Synagogue website, which encompasses the London Beth Din, isn't terribly clear, but the closest it gets to suggesting that the Times is right is this passage regarding litigation:
"In Jewish Law, Jewish parties are forbidden to take their civil disputes to a secular court and are required to have those disputes adjudicated by a Beth Din. The London Beth Din sits as an arbitral tribunal in respect of civil disputes and the parties to any such dispute are required to sign an Arbitration Agreement prior to a hearing taking place. The effect of this is that the award given by the Beth Din has the full force of an Arbitration Award and may be enforced (with prior permission of the Beth Din) by the civil courts. At a hearing before the Dayanim, the parties do not require legal representation although they are allowed to have legal or other representation."
The reason why this is important is because of the Sun's leader:
"BRITAIN can have only one legal system. We thought the Government understood that.
In February, Gordon Brown said: “Religious law should be subservient to British criminal and civil law.”
Yet seven months later we learn that Islamic sharia law has been sneakily adopted into British law."
Err, but again, this is nothing to do with this government, and it hasn't been sneakily adopted into British law, unless it was without debate 12 years ago. If we're going to blame anyone, let's blame the Conservatives.
"A clause in the 1996 Arbitration Act allows Muslim tribunals to make rulings in civil cases using sharia law, enforceable by British courts, if both sides agree.
It means prejudice against women and leniency for violent husbands.
We must not allow this parallel justice system.
It is a major step down the dangerous path which sees Muslim communities living in isolation from the rest of Britain.
Just the kind of segregation under which extremism thrives."
Fair enough as it goes; no one is suggesting that Sharia law isn't completely unacceptable, not least that court which the Sun loathes so much, the European Court of Human Rights, which has ruled Sharia law is incompatible with democracy.
If we're not going to allow civil Sharia courts to rule on divorce etc though, when both parties are agreed, are we also going to allow the Beth Din to continue, considering that's also a parallel justice system, and which must also therefore encourage segregation and isolation? True, it might not be Jews that are strapping explosives to themselves and blowing other people up, or plotting to explode bottles of sugary liquid on airplanes, but it's religious law also. Isn't it that at the moment almost anything goes when it comes to criticising Muslims because of what they supposedly want (which the Sun also has a role in promoting considering the coverage it continues to give to completely unrepresentative morons like Anjem Choudary) while if similar comment was made on Jews and their similar legal system, the accusations of anti-semitism would be flying?
"The Government must plug this loophole."
Perhaps it might be more inclined to do so if the Sun and other individuals weren't blaming it for introducing the problem in the first place.