British Top Judge: Muslims in Britain should have Sharia.

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  1. Muslims in Britain should be able to live according to Sharia, the country's most senior judge has said.

    Muslims attend a mosque: Muslims in Britain should be able to live under Sharia law, says top judge. Suggestions that Sharia law can be used to help govern issues like family disputes and the sale of financial products have drawn criticism.

    Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, strongly backed Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, over his suggestion earlier this year that aspects of Sharia law should be adopted in Britain.

    The archbishop's remarks sparked a national debate and led to calls for his resignation.

    Risking inflaming that controversy again, Lord Phillips has said that Muslims in Britain should be able to use Sharia to decide financial and marital disputes.

    The judge did add that only the criminal courts should have the power to decide when a crime has been committed and when to impose punishment.

    But his suggestion that different religious groups should run their affairs according to different rules sparked warnings that community cohesion could be undermined.

    In a speech at the East London Muslim Centre in east London, Lord Phillips said it was "not very radical" for Dr Williams to argue that Sharia law can be used to help govern issues like family disputes and the sale of financial products.

    Lord Phillips said: "It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by law other than English law."

    Therefore, he said, he could see no reason why Sharia law should not be used to settle disputes in this country.

    He said: "There is no reason why principles of Sharia law, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution."

    He added: "It must be recognized however that any sanctions for a failure to comply with the agreed terms of the mediation would be drawn from the laws of England and Wales."

    Sharia law suffered from "widespread misunderstanding" in Britain, Lord Phillips said.

    "Part of the misconception about Sharia law is the belief that Sharia is only about mandating sanctions such as flogging, stoning, the cutting off of hands or death for those fail to comply with the law," he said.

    "In some countries the courts interpret Sharia law as calling for severe physical punishment. There can be no question of such courts sitting in this country, or such sanctions being applied here."

    The judge said Dr Williams had been misunderstood when it was reported in February that he said British Muslims could be governed by Sharia law.

    Lord Phillips said that the archbishop was saying only that "it was possible for individuals voluntarily to conduct their lives in accordance with Sharia principles without this being in conflict with the rights guaranteed by our law".

    There is already scope in English law for some communities to use their own religious codes to resolve disputes. Orthodox Jews can use the Beth Din rabbinical courts to decide on matters including divorce.

    However some critics say that women marrying under Sharia law do not have the same rights as in English law, and could lead to them being treated as second class citizens as far as divorce settlements, custody of children and inheritance go.

    Muslim and Christian politicians expressed fears that at a time of heightened tensions, encouraging Muslims to live by their own distinct rules could make it harder for different communities to integrate.

    Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar and a practising Muslim, said that allowing Sharia law in parts of the UK would be divisive.

    He said: "This would create a two-tier society. It is highly retrograde. It will segregate and alienate the Muslim community from the rest of British society.

    "The majority of British Muslims want to live only under British law and they would reject anything that means they are treated differently.

    "What Lord Phillips and the archbishop are discussing is something that is completely outside their area of understanding."

    Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, said Lord Phillips' suggestion was "totally unacceptable."

    He said: "It is very unhelpful for community cohesion. This is the sort of thing that builds up tensions in areas like mine, in places like Bradford. Sharia law has got no place in any shape or form in British law."

    Andrew Selous, a Tory MP and chairman of the all-party Christians in Parliament group, said calls like those made by Lord Phillips and the archbishop were "worrying."

    He said: "As far as people of all faiths are concerned, it is important that we are all equal under one United Kingdom law. It will lead to more community tensions rather than less."

    Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer and practicing Muslim, said there was a "big debate" among British Muslims about whether and how Sharia should apply in the UK.

    He said: "There is a risk that this would make it harder for communities to integrate -- we all need to do more to integrate, and mainstream society has to do more as well."

    "We should have one law for everyone in the UK, but there may be very rare occasions when exceptions have to be made, like for marriage, divorce and food."

    A Muslim lawyer said that raising the prospect of allowing people to live under Sharia law in Britain would "alarm" people.

    Mahmud Al Rashid, spokesman from the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said: "There is massive misunderstanding about what Sharia is. It is not a single law."

    A spokesman for Dr Williams said: "We welcome the speech given by the Lord Chief Justice as a positive and constructive contribution to this important and ongoing debate."

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Britain's Catholics, said that people should live under the laws of the UK.

    His spokesman said: "As the Cardinal has consistently said and indeed said earlier this year, was that Britons should abide by and be subject to the law of the land."

    Downing Street said the Government's position on the issue of Sharia law had been made clear at the time of the controversy over the Archbishop's speech.

    "We think that British law should be based on British values and determined by the British Parliament," the Prime Minister's spokesman said.

    Baroness Warsi, the Conservative shadow minister for community cohesion, backed the judge.

    She said: “The Lord Chief Justice's speech is a very clear and unifying speech for our communities in Britain.

    ”I specifically endorse the points made by Lord Phillips that with equality of rights come responsibilities. It is absolutely essential that everyone in this country is treated equally by the law but it is important that everyone is equally subject to it, and that the same laws apply equally to everyone.”

    Start building your trenches around your houses now...before the sharia get you!
  2. I don’t have a problem with this. They are not talking about law per say, they are talking about being able to use it as a meditation tool.

    We do that and more for Jews already.
  3. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    Great news indeed. Let's have different laws that apply to adherents of EVERY religion out there then. I'd like VAT to be removed from all sales of Spaghetti-based products and sauces as this is in fact, not merely a meal, but the essence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I'd also like a law, just like the C of E and Catholics used to have, whereby EVERYBODY has to eat not fish, but Spaghetti 3 days per week, as this is what FSM wrote down on his China plate and passed down to the people as a Law.

    Truth be known - let's have the opposite to what this cretinous law-lord is saying: Let's further drive home the message in our laws that this country is SECULAR, and that trappings and rules of religion come second fiddle to democracy, our laws and our social lives.
  4. Maybe the magistrate's court is subject to Gubmint cutbacks as well and this is a way of reducing the pressure on those courts?

    Ref your post biped, good call - I like spaghetti hoops :D
  5. In addition to the Jewish Beth Din, the Somalis in UK also have a similar set up but they have been known to exclude the UK justice system and sort criminal matters within their own community. In some ways, Islamic courts already practice within the UK, for example in divorce matters.

  6. If you read the interview that is not what is being proposed.

    He is simply stating that, in some isolated cases, a different code can already be used to help solve certain issues (i.e. financial, matrimonial) while remaining with Common Law and there is no reason why this shoudn't be extended to Sharia.

    As to wether it would prove devisive, that is a different argument altogether....
  7. Although I welcome this move on the religious grounds: Secular country or not one should be able to practices one's way of life. Weather it is 'pushing back' or eating halal. On the other hand, it does highlight a certain naivety of the government. Lately, by giving 'rights' to all and sundry it is acting more of a dividing force than a uniting one.

    I believe it should be as follows: If your not different, you don't have different laws telling everyone you not different. If you do then you are!
  8. There are too many interpretations, not all muslims agree on what sharia law is, so for this to work you'd have to find someone who agreed with your version. It still won't protect the youg girl being forced into marriage or the young gay man who deserve the full might of secular law to apply.
  9. No, he didn't. He said that there was a place for Shariah in the settling of civil disputes. That's a matter of legal fact, same as there's a place for any other form of arbitration.

    For my pennyworth, the rest of society could do with a similar community-based mechanism to stop people reaching for the lawyers each and every time their feelings are slightly hurt. We might not end up with so much pish on the statute books that way.
    • Like Like x 1

  10. Muslims in Britain should be able to live under Sharia, says top judge
    By Christopher Hope and James Kirkup
    Last Updated: 10:29AM BST 04/07/2008

    a bit pointless you arguing with headlines now isn't it..

    Edited to add
    "In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination "- Mark Twain
  11. Why is it pointless Pile, the headline is misleading at best , deliberately provocative at worst. In fact both the headline and sub-headline are deliberately misleading.

    Just another example of a once fine paper heading to the toilet of sensationalism and tabloidesque headlines.
  12. Trans-sane

    Trans-sane LE Book Reviewer

    Pile. Headlines are written by journos with the express intention of selling their brand of news. They can in fact have very little resemblance to the actual facts. As long as the hedline is BROADLY similar to the story and the clarify the point in the main body of the text (that only 40% of people read after the second paragraph) then they can write pretty much what they want as a header.

    I oersonally have no problem with Sharia law being used as a mediation tool, or jewish, hindi or sihk (sp?) law being used for the same purpose. However, as soon as the use of ANY religious law breaches the secular law protecting ANY individual from the traditional angry mob (humans are good at mobs. We've been doing mobs for thousands of years at least) then the project has been a failure. The secular laws of this country come first in all situations. I don't care if it is a catholic claiming that a divorce isn't legal or a muslim claiming his daughter should marry a man she has never met- secular law overide religious law. END OF!!! Anyone who disagrees, etc. etc. etc.
  13. I agree with what the proposals are for Financial matters, however Sharia Law has the potential for abuse when it comes to dealing with Matrimonial matters and the relationship between a man and his wife.

    This needs to be looked at properly, as Sharia Law is open to massive interpretation, to ensure parity in all cases, and to prevent it creeping into areas which should be governed by English and Welsh/Scottish Law. Rather than a quick fix that sounds good but not properly thought out (just like everything else the government does).
  14. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    'Common Law'
    'Civil Law'
    'Criminal Law'

    I don't see one for 'Religious' or 'Divisive' Law - though I could be wrong of course.

    This gobment likes the idea of cultural, religious and social ghettos, but I do not.
  15. This secular society does and has for some considerable time acknowledged mediation outside of the courts, be it social, or religion based quite why the Archbishop of Canterbury and now another supposedly intelligent member of the establishment starts chopsing off knowing full well that the outrage wagons are circling...

    The outrage wagons that the press seem to love feeding these days remind me so of the dieing days of the Wiemar republic and the rise of the third Reich, that the broad sheets are moving closer and closer to emulating the red tops is a grave disappointment. And also a grave worry.