Any attempt at monitoring, protection, record-keeping or other oversight would be immediately seized upon as Islamophobic, racist (though they never say which race), colonialist, and just earth-shatteringly gauche.
“Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice,” by Elaine Sciolino for the New York Times, November 19:
LONDON “” The woman in black wanted an Islamic divorce. She told the religious judge that her husband hit her, cursed her and wanted her dead.
But her husband was opposed, and the Islamic scholar adjudicating the case seemed determined to keep the couple together. So, sensing defeat, she brought our her secret weapon: her father.
In walked a bearded man in long robes who described his son-in-law as a hot-tempered man who had duped his daughter, evaded the police and humiliated his family.
The judge promptly reversed himself and recommended divorce.
This is Islamic justice, British style. Despite a raucous national debate over the limits of religious tolerance and the pre-eminence of British law, the tenets of Shariah, or Islamic law, are increasingly being applied to everyday life in cities across the country.
The Church of England has its own ecclesiastical courts. British Jews have had their own “beth din” courts for more than a century.
That comparison is common, but shallow. Neither the Anglican nor Jewish systems compare to the total legal and political system that sharia is. As such, there is no assurance of how much sharia will ever be “enough” sharia, short of the whole package.
But ever since the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, called in February for aspects of Islamic Shariah to be embraced alongside the traditional legal system, the government has been grappling with a public furor over the issue, assuaging critics while trying to reassure a wary and at times disaffected Muslim population that its traditions have a place in British society.
Boxed between the two, the government has taken a stance both cautious and confusing, a sign of how volatile almost any discussion of the role of Britain’s nearly two million Muslims can become.
“There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Shariah principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law,” the justice minister, Jack Straw, said last month. But he added that British law would “always remain supreme,” and that “regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law.”
Practically speaking, that’s a moot point when the “alternative” enshrines inequality before the law, and people choose it (or are made to submit to it) in place of British law and its guarantees.
Conservatives and liberals alike “” many of them unaware that the Islamic courts had been functioning at all, much less for years “” have repeatedly denounced the courts as poor substitutes for British jurisprudence.
They argue that the Islamic tribunals” proceedings are secretive, with no accountability and no standards for judges” training or decisions.
Critics also point to cases of domestic violence in which Islamic scholars have tried to keep marriages together by ordering husbands to take classes in anger management, leaving the wives so intimidated that they have withdrawn their complaints from the police.
“They”re hostages to fortune,” said Parvin Ali, founding director of the Fatima Women’s Network, a women’s help group based in Leicester. Speaking of the courts, she said, “There is no outside monitoring, no protection, no records kept, no guarantee that justice will prevail.” […]
Read it all.