English law reigns supreme over sharia, says Straw

The Lord Chancellor confirms that sharia ‘courts’ will remain subservient to common law. There is ‘no room for parallel legal systems’ and the law has not changed, he says: Earlier this week, I said here that the Lord Chancellor should deliver a major speech addressing people’s fears about Islamic law in Britain. Never let it be thought that this writer is without influence in high places. Yesterday Jack Straw did just that, addressing the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference in London. This, in full, is what he said on the subject of sharia: “As a Government, it has always been our aim to extend opportunity and prosperity to all – to all parts of the country and to all different communities. This is not about preferential treatment. It is about fairness. This is not about political correctness. It is about respect. “Whether it is employers with prayer rooms; faith schools; kosher and halal food in work places and public services like hospitals; laws to tackle hate crimes; or the provision of financial products that fit with religious beliefs – we have worked to provide a space in which the rights and diversity of people of all faiths are protected, whilst at the same time setting a clear framework of acceptable behaviour for all citizens. “This is the thinking which underpins our approach to sharia law. Of course those who live in this country will always be governed by English law and will be subject to the jurisdiction of English courts. “But there has been much speculation over sharia law in recent weeks, so it may be worth me setting out the true position. “Many dreadful things have been done in the name of mainstream religions. Barbaric practices such as stoning have been – quite wrongly – justified by reference to Islam, for instance. The same was true in earlier periods, for instance when the state apparatus was used to run Inquisitions in countries like Spain. Joshua Rozenberg reports.

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