When I first heard that the Labour Government had quietly betrayed minorities – most seriously, Muslim women – by granting powers of enforcement to Sharia courts run by the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal in Nuneaton, London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with more planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh, I was on the train and I couldn’t kick anything.
“There are concerns that women who agree to go to tribunal courts are getting worse deals because Islamic law favours men.
Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.
The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.
In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment.
In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations.
Siddiqi said that in the domestic violence cases, the advantage was that marriages were saved and couples given a second chance.
Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The MCB supports these tribunals. If the Jewish courts are allowed to flourish, so must the sharia ones.”
It’s rare but I’m with him on that. No way should Beth Din rulings have been permitted as enforceable. I think that the reason for the muted response to this development some years ago is that the orthodox Jewish community is small and introspective. But allowing it was an important act of sabotage which I hope to see repealed soon in the name of equality.
In a nutshell, my view on this is. Practising Muslims welcome in Britain. One secular law for all. Private courts? Well I can’t stop them but I resent them, they are used to affirm the subjugation of women, and they mustn’t under any circumstances be enforceable under British law. There’s a reason they are staffed by men and more men – the laws they inforce are inherently discriminatory.
I’m a piss-poor feminist and I do realise there’s no way I can win this argument. When women have told me that they want to cover their hair it’s been a battle I don’t want to pick. This is obviously different. I don’t want to undermine women in their wishes but I believe that the wish to acquiesce to a blatantly inferior and more dependent position in society is a symptom of subjugation. This is my backyard, I’m not going to sit quietly and let it go on with the explicit approval of the law.
I want to live alongside Muslims, Jews, Hindus as equals – in order for this to happen we need a single secular law for all.
“Liberal secularism is not a religious belief and has no non-political value. It is a view that applies to politics which is fundamentally characterised by ineradicable disagreement. It is of course possible that some religions might accept Liberal values only until demographic change gives them the monopoly of power. This is one of the dangers inherent in the system. But if a religious or political view does persist in claiming that it alone is not bound by the long-term obligations of Liberal civility, then it can hardly complain if it is criticised or vilified as a dangerous and backward doctrine. Such was the position of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe for much of the last four centuries, and it is a perception that it has struggled hard to overcome in the last 50 years. Moderate Islam is engaged in a similar struggle today.”
I intend to support the moderates in this matter.
See also Women Living Under Muslim Law.