The BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action this week claimed that it had uncovered evidence that Islamic sharia law was being practised in Britain in secret courts.

Youth worker Aydarus Yusuf, 29, told how he helped convene an unofficial court which uses a Somalian version of sharia which he claims is “cultural” rather than religious. He said a hearing was held in Woolwich, South-east London, after a group of youths were arrested on suspicion of attacking another Somali teenager. The victim’s family told police the matter would be settled out of court and the suspects were freed on bail. The trial was conducted by community elders who ordered the attackers to pay compensation to the victim. Mr Yusuf said: “The accused men admitted their guilt and apologised. All their uncles and fathers were there. They agreed compensation.”

He insisted he is more bound by the law of his country of birth than British justice, adding: “Somalis, wherever we live in the world, have our own law.” The strength of sharia law was the strict punishments. Assailants were unlikely to re-offend as it would bring shame on their families, he said.

A Scotland Yard source said it was common for the police not to proceed with assault cases if victims did not press charges.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity said: “Sharia courts now operate in most larger cities, with different sectarian and ethnic groups operating their own courts that cater to their specific needs according to their tradition. The Government has not been straight about this. It has its own sharia advisers and it has already introduced measures that are compliant with sharia law. Muslim communities are creating their own infrastructure based on sharia law. A Muslim community can now function within its own society on every level.”

Dr Mohammed Naseem, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said: “Sharia law states that you respect the law of the land and therefore it cannot be enforced in this country.”

Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi, a barrister and principal of Hijaz College Islamic University, near Nuneaton, Warwicks, said this type of court had advantages for Muslims. “It operates on a low budget, it operates on very small timescales and the process and the laws of evidence are far more lenient and it’s less awesome an environment than the English courts,” he said. Mr Siddiqi predicted that there would be a formal network of Muslim courts within a decade.

Some academic lawyers welcome alternative legal systems. Dr Prakesh Shah, law lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “Tribunals like the Somali court could be more effective than the formal legal system in maintaining social harmony.”

NSS Honorary Associate Maryam Namazie commented: “Far from being lenient, Sharia law is harsh and inherently unjust. In countries where Sharia is the law of the land like in Iran, people are still being hung from city squares and stoned to death (with the law even specifying the size of the stone). Any increase in the implementation of Sharia law in this country will have a corresponding effect on injustice, threats against and intimidation of the most vulnerable in society. It will leave a large number of people in regressive fragmented ‘minority’ communities with relative rights and at the mercy of self-appointed and parasitical ‘community leaders’ and imams. Clearly, it is discriminatory to have different and separate systems, standards and norms for ‘different’ people and deny them universal and equal rights and standards and the secularism fought for and established by progressive movements over centuries.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Sharia law will not be introduced to the whole or any part of the UK. We are absolutely clear that existing British law applies to everyone.”

The above was published on Newsline, 1 December 2006. To read the rest of the weekly National Secular Society publication, click here.

To read about why Sharia courts have to be opposed, read a speech I gave in Canada against the establishment of a court there. An international campaign was successful in preventing it from happening. If need be, we have to do the same here.

1 Comment

  1. Minneapolis has the largest Somali community in the US. I will have to investigate to see if Sharia law is held secretly here.Because the warloads who the US supported in Somalia, were so corrupt, the country is turning to Islamism. Ethiopia is on the verge of invading, and fighting the Islamists. Other countries might be involved as well, in a potential war.Regards.

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