In answer to QM’s question about Sharia, perhaps Baroness Cox is the person to answer it. While I generally express disdain for politicians of all stripes, one who has had the party whip withdrawn for being a thorn in their side, gets kudos from me. I like people who defy the party machine and stand firm on their principles despite the personal cost. I also have some admiration for Cox’s willingness to follow through with her beliefs despite criticism from supposed allies.
Now she is taking on Sharia.
Baroness Cox is talking about sharia law in Britain. It is exactly the sort of topic mainstream politicians will not touch, but Cox – freed from party politics when she had the Tory whip withdrawn seven years ago for signing a pro-Ukip letter – relishes an unpopular cause.
That statement says it all – the regular politicos just won’t touch it and they damned well should. We have here an unexploded bomb. One that will, sooner or later go off. When it does, there will be casualties. Therefore, defusing it sooner rather than later is the best option. While I believe that people should be free to use arbitration from a third party when sorting out disputes, any attempt to bring this so called vile and incompetent legal code into the UK in anything more than that which applies to the Beth Din courts should be vigorously resisted.
As it stands that is the case currently – i.e. they arbitrate in such things as marriage disputes. So, what’s the problem here? Cox wants to tighten up the law to ensure that any judgements made in such courts only apply to civil disputes and not family or criminal law. Actually, this is precisely how things stand under English law. What worries Cox and others – me included – is function creep.
Technically that is what the law already says but there is growing concern that religious courts are suffering from “jurisdiction creep” and are ruling on issues such as domestic violence and child custody when they have absolutely no right to do so.
The use of sharia in the UK currently comes in two forms. Like Jewish Beth Din courts, Muslim arbitration tribunals can rule on property and financial disputes as long as both parties are happy to have their hearing heard in a religious context. Any decision an arbitration tribunal then makes is enforceable by the civil courts.
Sharia councils – of which there are an estimated 85 operating across the country – have no jurisdictional powers and should only be operating in an advisory capacity, but there are fears they are increasingly straying into areas of family and criminal law.
And having got a toe in the door, the foot will come next, followed by the ankle. I don’t as a general rule want to see more law. However, in this case, I can make an exception. Sharia has no place in a civilised society and Islam is a supremacist religion bent upon domination. That it is not using the sword on this occasion makes it no less dangerous. Therefore, if tightening up the law on how these courts operate minimises the risk they pose, then so be it.
I’ll be watching this one with interest but not necessarily optimism. The likelihood of this getting through the commons is slim at best. We can but hope.