South Carolina bill would nullify Islamic law in state courts

A South Carolina proposal would prevent the state’s courts from enforcing foreign law, including Islamic Sharia law, though Muslim advocates say it could essentially ban religion from mundane matters such as weddings and even burials.

The bill makes no reference to a specific religion or country, though its sponsors acknowledge they worry about the ultraconservative tenets of Sharia law, or Islamic religious law. At least 13 states have introduced similar measures this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Muslim advocates, however, fear the proposal could essentially ban mundane religious practices in legal documents like wills, which may distribute property based on Islamic traditions.

Order blocking Okla. Islamic law measure extended

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal judge on Monday said she would rule by the end of the month on a lawsuit challenging an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that would prohibit state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-Le Grange extended a restraining order blocking enforcement of the new law until Nov. 29 during a hearing in the case.

Oklahoma legislator’s proposal would ban use of Shariah law

By Bill Sherman, Tulsa World, 10/13/10

A proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that would ban Shariah
law in the state court system is either a pre-emptive strike against
encroaching Islamic law in the U.S. or an expression of Islamophobia,
depending on who you ask.

State Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, authored State Question 755,
which requires state courts to rely only on federal and state laws when
deciding cases, and forbids courts to consider international law or
Shariah law. It will appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. . .

“I would describe this as a pre-emptive strike,” Duncan said. “We don’t
want to let it get a toehold.”

Razi Hashmi, former executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the
Council on American- Islamic Relations, said the proposal is motivated
by hate for Muslims.

He said Duncan has a history of anti-Muslim bigotry, including backing a
proposal to ban Muslim headscarves on driver’s license photos and
refusing to accept the Quran as a gift.

“A law such as this sends us backward, and is really bad for business,
especially in an oil state that deals with the Middle East,” he said.

Study finds no sharia courts in Netherlands

A recent study has found that due to the ethnic and religious diversity of Dutch Muslim groups, the existence of an official legal institute for all Muslims in the Netherlands is not possible, and no Sharia courts currently exist in the country.

The study was conducted by Radbound University Nijmegen for the Ministry of Justice and sent by the ministers of Justice and Integration to Dutch parliament. It notes that while practices of counseling and conflict-arbitration on the basis of Sharia exist in the Netherlands, it does not take the form of settling disputes. Rather, Muslims ask among peers or scholars for advice about issues in which Islamic concepts and life in Dutch society offer choices. The cabinet response admits that the study alleviates concern about the existence of Sharia courts, while restating its position ensuring that there will be no parallel legal orders in the country.

Sharia in Netherlands (Dutch)

A recent study has found that due to the ethnic and religious diversity of Dutch Muslim groups, the existence of an official legal institute for all Muslims in the Netherlands is not possible, and no Sharia courts currently exist in the country.
The study was conducted by Radbound University Nijmegen for the Ministry of Justice and sent by the ministers of Justice and Integration to Dutch parliament. It notes that while practices of counseling and conflict-arbitration on the basis of Sharia exist in the Netherlands, it does not take the form of settling disputes. Rather, Muslims ask among peers or scholars for advice about issues in which Islamic concepts and life in Dutch society offer choices. The cabinet response admits that the study alleviates concern about the existence of Sharia courts, while restating its position ensuring that there will be no parallel legal orders in the country.

Proposed tightening of Danish Burqa law meets severe criticism

Minister of Justice, Lars Barfod, has put forward a bill which will increase the penalty from two to four years of imprisonment for people who force other persons to wear the niqab or burqa. In a hearing the bill has been met with severe criticism from the Association of Danish Judges, the Association of Danish Defense Attorneys as well as the Danish Police Union. To date the existing law has not been used to convict anyone of forcing other people to wear the niqab or burqa and in the hearing about the bill the Association of Danish Judges says the bill is of “purely political character”, the Association of Defense Attorneys finds the bill “motivated by a wish to demonstrate distance to foreign cultures” given that “there seem to no unbiased reasons for regulating the jurisdiction by law”. The Danish Police Union has also misgivings about the bill because it will “force the police to focus on a specific section of the population which will probably increase the risk of confrontations” the Police Union says.

Another point of criticism of the bill is that it forbids witnesses in courts to wear clothing that covers the face. The purpose is that the court has to be certain of the identity of a witness but the Association of Danish Judges finds the formulation of the bill problematic: “In today’s courts it is more often sunglasses and caps the judges must ask witnesses not to wear rather than it is burqas or niqabs”. In the hearing about the bill the Association of Danish Judges has sarcastically questioned whether sunglasses can be termed as clothing. The Ministry of Justice has taken this comment into account in the formulation of the bill that has been put forward.

So far the Minister of Justice has not given any argument for the bill other than that it is a follow-up on the government’s burqa-commission which published its report two months ago. The commission found that only three women in Denmark wear burqa.

A Law Banning the Burqa and Niqab in France Would be Legally Tenuous, Say Specialists

While French ministers like Eric Besson claim that a possible law against the burqa is a way to protect the dignity of women, others point to how it would remove practicing Muslim women’s dignity of choice. Denys de Bechillon points to how the notion of dignity is one of the most complicated to determine in contemporary legal matters. Moreover, legal scholars usually cannot determine whether it was forced upon her by her husband or her brother. Until now, there has been no legal text or position in France which claims that the face must be visible in the public sphere, except for identity cards or being stopped by police. It is unclear how the constitutional council would react should such a ban be put into place as no law like it has come before the courts.

Canadian Omar Khadr faces military tribunal

Canadian Omar Khadr, the last westerner left in Guantanamo Bay, will face trial by military tribunal unlike the high-profile 9/11 plotters who will be brought to New York for trial in a civilian courts where they have far greater rights and protections, US officials announced. Khadr’s lawyer Barry Coburn, accused the administration of resorting to Bush-era injustice.

Some other terrorist suspects, including Khadr, who is accused of killed a US medic during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was only 15 in 2002, will be tried in military tribunals – the special courts created by the Bush administration and widely discredited because they admitted evidence that would be outlawed in civilian or normal military courts. However the White House admits the prison camp on a leased naval base in Cuba won’t be closed by the year’s deadline in January. It remains unknown whether the military tribunals will be held at Guantanamo or elsewhere.

Note: some details of this summary were derived from a 2008 CBC News article.

Non-Muslims turning to sharia ‘courts’ in Britain to resolve disputes

Growing numbers of non-Muslims are turning to Sharia “courts” to resolve disputes in Britain, it has been claimed. Up to five per cent of cases heard by the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT) involve people who do not follow the Islamic faith, it has been estimated.

The body operates court-like arbitration hearings in London, Bradford, Birmingham, Coventry and Manchester, mainly dealing with disputes between business partners and mosques. Those who use the service agree voluntarily to submit to its adjudication but its rulings are considered to be legally binding and can be enforced in county courts under the 1996 Arbitration Act. A separate body, the Islamic Sharia Council, has been operating for several years, hearing divorce cases with a panel of seven “judges” based in London.

The MAT said that the greater weight attached to oral agreements in its hearings than the courts was making its service attractive to non-Muslims in Britain, who it estimates are now involved in one in 20 of its cases. “We put weight on oral agreements, whereas the British courts do not,” said Freed Chedie, a spokesman.

Sharia courts in the UK

For the first time, the Islamic Sharia Council has granted access to a newspaper to observe the entire sharia legal process in Britain. Over several weeks, the author was allowed to witness the filing of complaints, individual testimony hearings and the monthly meeting of imams, or judges, where rulings are handed down.

Sharia has been operating in the UK, in parallel to the British legal system, since 1982. Work includes issuing fatwas – religious rulings on matters ranging from why Islam considers homosexuality a sin to why two women are equivalent to one male witness in an Islamic court. The Islamic Sharia Council also rules on individual cases, primarily in matters of Muslim personal or civil law: divorce, marriage, inheritance and settlement of dowry payments are the most common.

However, sharia is also being used informally within the Muslim community to tackle crime such as gang fights or stabbings, bypassing police and the British court system. A few hardline leaders would like it to be taken even further. One religious leader said that Britain should adopt sharia punishments such as stoning and the chopping off of hands to reduce violent crime.