Sharia courts

Recently, Panorama aired a documentary looking at Sharia Courts. You can watch it online if you missed it.

It was certainly an eye opener, though the sad reality is that many of us might not be surprised. The programme contained Islamic scholars recommending to women who said they had suffered domestic abuse should go back to their partners and perhaps try improving their cooking or making more of an effort to look nice, surpassing even the most distasteful sarcastic jokes you could dream up.

Of course, the programme couldn’t point out the end conclusion – that Islam is a bad women. They extensively pushed the idea that these courts were bad for women, or at least some of them where, but never really dared to suggest that the doctrines they are interpreting might partly be at fault too.

Being a libertarian, I’m not sure exactly how we could tackle this situation even if we wanted to though. A mediation service is perfectly acceptable, and indeed encouraged by our own legal system in order to free up more court time. So given Sharia courts are not legally binding and therefore the women there voluntarily submit to them, we have no right to interfere.

In fact, it’s unclear why the women actually wanted a Sharia divorce, when they had already received a civil divorce – given you’re not actually married if you get an Islamic marriage, why would you need a divorce? Just walk away.

There are some issues that can be and do need tackling though.

Firstly and foremost, any compulsion to use the mediation system. Obviously, this needs to be stamped out. This is a difficult one though because if your entire extended family considers the courts to be the law it must be very difficult to ignore. Sure you can just walk away, but that must be like trying to leave a cult. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see how we could tackle that given it is actually the doctrine, not necessarily the system, that is the problem.

Secondly, we can stop so called Sharia marriages. If they want to have a Sharia ceremony, that is fine, we Humanists do the same thing. But marriage is an actual legal term, and if you’re not actually providing a proper legal civil marriage, then calling it a marriage is deceitful and false and ultimately leads to the kind of situations where people getting divorced have no legal protection because they weren’t actually married.



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This entry was posted on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 at 11:00 am and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.