An Islamic Sharia law court has been established in Antwerp, the second-largest city in Belgium.
The Sharia court is the initiative of a radical Muslim group called Sharia4Belgium. Leaders of the group say the purpose of the court is to create a parallel Islamic legal system in Belgium in order to challenge the state’s authority as enforcer of the civil law protections guaranteed by the Belgian constitution.
The Sharia court, which is located in Antwerp’s Borgerhout district, is “mediating” family law disputes for Muslim immigrants in Belgium.
The self-appointed Muslim judges running the court are applying Islamic law, rather than the secular Belgian Family Law system, to resolve disputes involving questions of marriage and divorce, child custody and child support, as well as all inheritance-related matters.
Unlike Belgian civil law, Islamic Sharia law does not guarantee equal rights for men and women; critics of the Sharia court say it will undermine the rights of Muslim women in marriage and education.
Legal experts say the Islamic court will also undercut the state’s ability to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of so-called honor crimes. In 2007, for example, Belgium outlawed the practice of forced marriage. Those convicted of forcing someone into marriage by violence or coercion face a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to â‚¬2,500 ($3,500). This law is likely to be undermined as Muslim marriage disputes come under the jurisdiction of the Sharia court.
Sharia4Belgium says the court in Antwerp will eventually expand its remit and handle criminal cases as well.
The Sharia4Belgium group consists of Islamists who are committed to bring everyone living in Belgium (including all non-Muslims) under the submission of Islamic Sharia law….