Sep 7 2008 By Jeannette Oldham
A MUSLIM college in the Midlands is running the UK’s first official sharia law court.
The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal has already used sharia law to decide the outcome of more than 100 civil disputes between Muslims across the UK since it opened its doors last December.
The tribunal, which operates alongside the British legal system, was set up by scholars and lawyers at Hijaz College Islamic University in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
The Archbishop of Canterbury prompted controversy when he said use of certain aspects of sharia law seemed “unavoidable”.
And recently, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, said there was no reason why it could not be used for contractual agreements and marital disputes.
But in some Muslim countries punishments handed out under the legal system have included beheadings, public floggings and thieves’ hands being chopped off.
Faisal Aqtab Siddiqi, a commercial law barrister and head of Hijaz College, who has sat in judgment at a number of the tribunals, said British society was not ready for such punishments.
But he added that if society became more ‘civilised’ then those who broke the law should expect to receive the highest degree of punishment.
Last night, the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan and has both a Christian and Muslim family background, said he was concerned that people might feel coerced into accepting sharia-based arbitration.