Inside Britain’s Sharia courts

This article describes a new BBC documentary that goes undercover in Britain’s Islamic courts. The documentary reveals some shocking discrimination suffered by women. In Leyton Islamic Sharia Council, the oldest and most active such council in the country, scholars hear about 50 cases a month, most of them marital disputes. Nine out of 10 cases brought forth are by women. No one knows how many there are in Britain today, although some estimate at least 85. Although they cannot enforce their judgments, these councils control the lives of many Muslims. But according to the article the pressure from Sharia councils and the community they serve is causing suffering as islamic rulings are not always in the interests of women and can run counter to British law. There are more worrying cases involving domestic violence and children. The court in Leyton is reported to have said that with children if a marriage ends, the question of access to both parents is crucial. Safety is paramount and any UK court order must be followed. Sharia courts are putting women at risk of violence from abusive husbands, the Crown Prosecution Service has warned. The courts, which issue rulings according to Islamic law, have been found to be giving Muslim women advice which experts warned may place them in danger. Nazir Afzal, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the north-west of England, who is a Muslim and who has spoken out against honour-based domestic violence, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by what he was shown.

Missouri anti-Sharia law advances

JEFFERSON CITY • In what has become a regular ritual here, a state Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would prevent Sharia Law from taking over Missouri.

The Senate General Laws committee also discussed a measure that would outlaw any federal attempts to regulate firearms in Missouri.

The committee hasn’t acted on either measure, and both appear unlikely to have much chance at becoming law. But they both touch on some of the hottest ideological issues in the nation right now.

“They should call that the Tea Party Committee,” Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, a committee member, scoffed as she left the hearing.

Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, who acknowledged that Missouri isn’t in any immediate danger of being overtaken by foreign legal theories. But he said he wants to make sure the state “keeps things the way they are.”

The bill doesn’t specifically mention the Islamist Sharia religious law. But more than 20 states have considered similar measures in the past few years, generally tied to the ongoing debate over alleged Islamist influences in the U.S.

There’s no current mechanism under which a foreign law could apply in Missouri.

The second bill would make it illegal for any government official to attempt to enforce any federal firearms regulation in Missouri.

GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert: Guns Are Necessary To Protect Against Sharia Law

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) told a conservative radio host this afternoon that he believes Americans must be allowed to own firearms to protect against the growing threat of “sharia law.”

Appearing on web-radio show The Voice of Freedom, Gohmert argued that Congress ought to vote down any restrictive new gun regulations because American gun-owners need their firearms as a defense against Muslims who want to subvert the United States Constitution with the Islamic moral/political code.

“[The Second Amendment] is for our protection and the Founders’ quotes make that very, very clear. Including against a government that would run amuck,” he said, before explaining: “We’ve got some people that think sharia law should be the law of the land — forget the Constitution. But the guns are there, that Second Amendment is there, to make sure all of the rest of the amendments are followed.”

 

Gohmert has long expressed a belief that elements of radical Islam have infiltrated the United States government. Last fall, he vocally led the charge to investigate Clinton aide Huma Abedin for what he suspected were ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has also led the push for congressional hearings on “creeping sharia law.”

Oklahoma Senate panel approves bill prohibiting judges from basing decisions on foreign law

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers are considering banning judges in the state from basing any rulings on foreign laws, including Islamic Sharia law.

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A Senate panel on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the bill, which has broad support in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The bill would specifically make void and unenforceable any court, arbitration or administrative agency decision that doesn’t grant the parties affected by the ruling “the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.”

“This is a way to protect American citizens … where somebody may try to use any kind of foreign law or religious law to affect the outcome of a trial,” said Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, who sponsored the bill. Shortey described it as “American Law for American Courts.”

“This bill is entirely unnecessary and creates significant uncertainty for Oklahomans married abroad as well as those Oklahomans who have adopted a child from another country or are seeking to do so,” Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said in a statement. “These Oklahoma families don’t deserve to have this type of doubt cast over them.

“It also creates an atmosphere of uncertainty for foreign businesses seeking to do business with Oklahoma businesses.”

Leadership in Tallahassee must stand against in-toleration

Over the past two legislative sessions, the Florida House and Senate wasted precious taxpayer dollars hearing harmful and unnecessary anti-Sharia legislation. Indeed, it came perilously close to passage in 2012 — passing the House and ultimately dying awaiting a final vote in the Senate.So no Floridian should be surprised that an anti-Sharia bill was once again filed for the 2013 session.

The real uncertainty is whether Tallahassee leadership will finally stand up to this intolerance, or again give into it and, in the process, waste valuable taxpayer dollars.The neutrally titled and worded “Application of Foreign Law” bill, which applies to family law provisions, is nothing more than camouflaged bigotry.

It is based on model language drafted by a controversial attorney, David Yerushalmi, who has a record of espousing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and racist views.This legislation is a classic example of the proverbial “solution in search of a problem.” Its supposed purpose is to counter the infiltration of our judicial and legal system by Sharia (Islamic) law.

But for the past two legislative sessions, proponents have failed to cite even one Florida court decision, or any other court decision, demonstrating an actual need for this legislation.  They can’t provide any examples because — as pointed out by a recent American Bar Association resolution and report opposing anti-Sharia measures — state and federal laws already prohibit courts from applying religious or foreign law in any way that would be against public policy, or constitute government advancement of or entanglement with religion.

This reckless legislation, however, imprudently goes far beyond these proven limitations.  This legislation is applicable to all religious law. So, for instance, the observant Jewish community regularly uses religious tribunals (Bet Dins) to resolve all kinds of disputes, including divorce settlements, which often are the basis for civil court divorce decrees and orders.

But this legislation would prevent a Jewish couple in Florida from voluntarily using a Bet Din to resolve their divorce settlement, and also would invalidate an out-of state divorce based on a Bet Din arbitration.  It also could negatively impact the use of Christian religious tribunals or certain applications of Canon law.

The leadership in Tallahassee needs to send a clear message that Florida values its diversity and welcomes persons of all backgrounds. They can do that by blocking this offensive bill, and unifying Floridians through legislation that finds common ground to move the state forward.

Foreign law ban proposal advances in Wyoming House Judiciary Committee

A proposal to ban Wyoming courts from considering foreign or international law narrowly won approval from a legislative committee Tuesday. The legislation under review is similar to an unsuccessful 2011 proposal that would have prevented courts from considering international law or Sharia law. This new legislation however does not specifically name Sharia, or Islamic, law. But During the January 22 hearings, it was said  that the possibility of Sharia law being considered in Wyoming is one of the things the resolution would prevent.Sharia-law-Billboard

Supreme Court rejects taxpayer challenge to AIG bailout AIG bailout

(Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by a taxpayer who claimed the government’s 2008 bailout of the insurer American International Group Inc violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

Without comment, the court let stand a June 1 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that Kevin Murray lacked standing to challenge the $182.3 billion bailout, including its use of taxpayer funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”).

The bailout left the government with a controlling stake in New York-based AIG, which it has since reduced.

Murray, a Michigan resident and Marine veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said the bailout violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause because AIG has units that market and sell financing products compliant with Sharia, Islamic law based on teachings of the Koran.

He contended that the sale of such products was a basis for a “global jihadist war against the West and the United States,” and sent a message that non-adherents to Islam were outsiders.

But the 6th Circuit said nothing in the law authorizing TARP suggested that Congress knew or intended that TARP funds might support the sale of the Sharia-compliant products.

Britain debates Sharia courts

19 November 2012

 

The implementation of the Sharia (Islamic law) in the UK has been a very controversial topic. Although certain aspects of Islamic law have been implemented in the UK for a decade, certain sections of the society seem to be resisting the idea.

 

Rulings under Sharia law are enforced through the 1996 Arbitration Act, which warrants any form of agreement provided that both parties agree to adhere to its decision. Since then practicing Muslims have been seeking remedies from the Islamic law at the Sharia courts to resolve disputes among themselves.

 

Sharia law was first brought to the attention of the public in 2008 when Dr Rowan Williams, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, in a BBC interview remarked that adoption of some aspects of Islamic Sharia law in the UK “seemed unavoidable”. He then received some hostile reactions and his remarks were then followed by a report on Sharia courts. According to the report published by a think thank called Civitas in 2009, around 85 Sharia courts operate in Britain. The report claimed that the decision of these courts most of the time are incompatible with British common law and “inherently discriminatory against women in matters relating to child custody, domestic violence and divorce.”

 

The use of Sharia in the UK came under heavy criticism from the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), which is campaigning to stop its use in Britain:

 

”We have spoken to many women and all of them tell us the same story; sharia law is not providing them with the justice they seek. The councils are dominated by men, who are making judgements in favour of men,” said Diana Nammi, a spokesperson for IKWRO.

 

Further Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, has long opposed the use of Sharia in the UK, and argued the rule of law “must not be compromised by the introduction of a theocratic legal system operating in parallel”.

 

 

On 7 June 2011 Baroness Cox introduced a new Bill in the House of Lords that aims to outlaw the Sharia law where it conflicts with English law. In proposing the new Bill she said:

 

“Through these proposals, I want to make it perfectly clear in the law that discrimination against women shall not be allowed within arbitration. I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Muslim women by sharia Courts. We must do all that we can to make sure they are free from any coercion, intimidation or unfairness. Many women say, ‘we came to this country to escape these practices only to find the situation is worse here’.”

The Bill will receive a second reading later this year.

 

According to a BBC report however, increasing numbers of British Muslims are using these courts to resolve family and financial disputes. In the report Sheikh al-Haddad, a representative of the Islamic Sharia Council, the biggest Sharia body in the UK states that ”Our cases have easily more than tripled over the past three to five years, on average, every month we can deal with anything from 200 to 300 cases. A few years ago it was just a small fraction of that”.

 

Further, a leading UK barrister Sadakat Kadri supported the use of Sharia law in the UK. He told the Guardian that sharia courts were good for “the community as a whole” by putting Sharia on a transparent, public footing and should be more widely accessible to those who want to use them.

 

Kadri said they played a role in safeguarding human rights: “It’s very important that they be acknowledged and allowed to exist. So long as they’re voluntary, which is crucial, it’s in everyone’s interests these things be transparent and publicly accessible. If you don’t have open tribunals, they’re going to happen anyway, but behind closed doors.”

Justifying Sharia in Britain

In an East London office, British Muslims consult the legal talents of the Islamic Sharia Council’s (ISC) scholars. The dispute-solving Sharia body is the largest in the UK. The books on the waiting-room coffee table, bearing titles such as ‘Tolerance within Islam’ and ‘The Journey of the Soul,’ seem to prepare disputants for a mutually agreed solution.
Sharia law has been applied in the UK since 1982 facilitated by locally-appointed councils, known as Sharia courts. An estimated 85 Sharia courts are believed to be operating in Britain, according to a 2009 report by the think-tank Civitas. They have no formally recognised powers and therefore cannot impose legally binding penalties. However, it is estimated that thousands of UK residents use Sharia courts each year, and they voluntarily accept the rulings – mostly about family matters.
Although widely used, women’s rights groups such as the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation complain that Sharia courts discriminate against women. And, it was these complaints along with British activists who ran the campaign called ‘One Law For All’, that lead Baroness Caroline Cox to introduce The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill in the House of Lords on 7 June 2011. The bill, which is up for debate on 19 October 2012, is aimed at ensuring that Sharia courts operate within the realms of British law. Islamic scholars are noted for claiming they have legal powers under Sharia law.
According to Cox, many British Muslim women do not know their rights under English civil law: “A woman once told me that she came to this country to escape Sharia law, but that the situation was much worse here than that of the country she was from.”
One example of the inequality is the fee for divorce. The application for religious divorce costs 200 pounds for men and 400 pounds for women. The reason behind this is that the process is more complicated and therefore more expensive, while it’s easier for a man to get a divorce.
But the bill could benefit men too. Despite being legally divorced under British law Mizanur Rahman, whose wife applied to the council for a religious divorce, says the council is unfair. His wife has been demanding money from him through the ISC. The council has sent the Islamic divorce papers to him three times. So far, he has resisted signing: “It’s not me but her who wants a divorce, thus she needs to pay,” he says.
Anti-Sharia activists say the courts are incompatible with democracy and human rights and thus hard to incorporate into British life. A petition calling for the ban of Sharia courts organised by the ‘One Law for All’ campaign gathered twenty thousand signatures. Activists say “Sharia is the legal arm of a political Islamist movement wreaking havoc across the world and therefore is a threat to secularism”.
Defenders of the courts believe everyone, including devout Muslims, should have the right to settle personal disputes in front of the tribunal of their choice. They say they give Muslims a facility already available to Orthodox Jews under Beth Din courts. They claim that many Muslim women feel the need for a cleric’s reassurance that they can break a forced marriage. Financial disputes are also claimed to be resolved quicker and cheaper rather than within the British legal system. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, says he does not see Sharia courts as a threat to the harmony in the UK, either.
The Equality bill will not ban private religious courts, but will place a duty on public bodies to ensure women who have religious or polygamous marriages are made aware of their legal rights under the law. The Bill is also seeking to create a new criminal offence criminalising any person who purports to legally adjudicate upon matters that ought to be decided by criminal or family courts. Lady Cox also insists that the Bill is not aimed at Muslims, nor does it name them. It targets gender discrimination whenever the religion arbitration court makes the discrimination.
However, even is the bill is passed, it may face some opposition from the council itself. Furqan Mahmood, an Islamic scholar at the ISC says, not women but men need to be protected. He says that according to Islam, men have to pay women to get married, financially care for their wives, and support their children even after divorce. He says “Islam makes men slaves of women.”
Berza ŞİMŞEK – Contributor, Strategic Outlook
contact : berza.simsek@yahoo.com

Anti-Sharia Activists Influencing Tennessee GOP

Thursday, August 09th, 2012, by Blake Farmer

It’s getting tougher to be a Republican in Tennessee while also fully accepting the practice of Islam.

 

An incumbent in the U.S. House found herself on the defensive after being called soft on Sharia law, and the governor has been forced to explain why he hired a Muslim as part of a growing public push to raise suspicions of Islam.

 

“By stopping this now, we’re going to save ourselves a lot of difficulty in the future,” says Lee Douglas, a dentist in Brentwood who sees what he calls an “infiltration” of Islam in federal and state government.

 

Douglas points to the appointment of Samar Ali to work in Tennessee’s economic development office. He and others drafted a resolution criticizing the governor and making a case that Islam is bent on world domination.

 

A version of the document has been signed by a growing list of county-level Republican executive committees, including the state’s wealthiest and arguably most influential GOP stronghold of Williamson County.

 

Douglas uses the term Sharia, laws outlined in Muslim holy books, almost interchangeably with the religion itself.

 

He says the government should be showing deference to the religion on which the country was founded – Christianity. Instead, Douglas sees the U.S. Justice Department going to bat for Muslims, who make up one percent of the state and the U.S. as a whole.

 

Federal courts intervened in a lawsuit that attempted to keep the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro from opening.