Williams: Archbishop argued that sharia is "inevitable" in Britain.
Williams: Archbishop argued that sharia is “inevitable” in Britain.

Last updated: 6:47 am
September 18, 2008
Posted: 4:06 am
September 18, 2008

‘IS Britain heading straight for disaster?” George Bernard Shaw once began a BBC radio talk. “That is a question I can easily answer. Britain is not heading straight for anything.” The reply works for the question: “Is Britain heading straight for sharia law?” It’s heading that way – but by a winding path.

News reports this week have given a much stronger impression. They allege that sharia got a legal OK from the government and is already being enforced. A Muslim college in the English Midlands supposedly runs a sharia court that has so far decided more than 100 civil disputes.

In fact, that “court” made its rulings legally binding by a clever dodge: being accepted as a “voluntary arbitration tribunal.”

Under British law, any two people can agree to take their dispute to such a tribunal rather than to court; the tribunal’s decision is then binding on them. It can even be enforced by the official courts and the police.

Faisal Aqtab Siddiqi, a commercial-law barrister, had the bright idea of establishing a sharia court as the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal. He acknowledges that it so far only handles civil cases such as divorces and inheritance disputes, since British society isn’t ready for such innovations as public floggings and hand-choppings. But these are early days.

The story generated appropriate outrage. Some came from liberal Muslim women: Writing in the Independent, Yasmin Alibi-Brown points out that many immigrants left home to get away from sharia to a country like Britain, where all are equal before the law. Non-Muslim Brits probably feel at least as indignant.

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