Revealed: UK's first official sharia courts
ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases. The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence. Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.
It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network's headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996. Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.
Siddiqi said: "We realised that under the Arbitration Act we can make rulings which can be enforced by county and high courts. The act allows disputes to be resolved using alternatives like tribunals. This method is called alternative dispute resolution, which for Muslims is what the sharia courts are."
The disclosure that Muslim courts have legal powers in Britain comes seven months after Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was pilloried for suggesting that the establishment of sharia in the future "seems unavoidable" in Britain. In July, the head of the judiciary, the lord chief justice, Lord Phillips, further stoked controversy when he said that sharia could be used to settle marital and financial disputes. In fact, Muslim tribunal courts started passing sharia judgments in August 2007. They have dealt with more than 100 cases that range from Muslim divorce and inheritance to nuisance neighbours. It has also emerged that tribunal courts have settled six cases of domestic violence between married couples, working in tandem with the police investigations.
Siddiqi said he expected the courts to handle a greater number of "smaller" criminal cases in coming years as more Muslim clients approach them. "All we are doing is regulating community affairs in these cases," said Siddiqi, chairman of the governing council of the tribunal.
Jewish Beth Din courts operate under the same provision in the Arbitration Act and resolve civil cases, ranging from divorce to business disputes. They have existed in Britain for more than 100 years, and previously operated under a precursor to the act.
Politicians and church leaders expressed concerns that this could mark the beginnings of a "parallel legal system" based on sharia for some British Muslims. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so." Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: "I think it's appalling. I don't think arbitration that is done by sharia should ever be endorsed or enforced by the British state."
There are concerns that women who agree to go to tribunal courts are getting worse deals because Islamic law favours men. Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons. The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.
In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment. In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations. Siddiqi said that in the domestic violence cases, the advantage was that marriages were saved and couples given a second chance.
Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "The MCB supports these tribunals. If the Jewish courts are allowed to flourish, so must the sharia ones."
Wanted: Pretty woman flatmate who will cook and clean
A finance worker has been disciplined after sending an email to female colleagues asking them to recommend a lady flatmate who would cook and clean for him and be "reasonably nice to look at"
Paul Eley, 30, told colleagues he was looking for a woman to share his apartment rent free as long she was aged 18 to 26, attractive and happy to do his washing and ironing. He emailed 12 female co-workers asking if anyone needed a room and would be prepared to clean the whole flat once a week and the kitchen every day. Mr Eley said the new tenant would have to cook for him if he worked late, adding: "Nothing difficult, something like sausage and mash." She would "sometimes" be allowed to watch what she wanted on television and would be allowed friends around "as long as they are women". Mr Eley also stipulated that the lady would have to leave at a month's notice if he suddenly found a "serious" girlfriend who wanted to move in.
The fiduciary administrator made his comments in two emails sent to colleagues at investment company Concept Group Limited in Guernsey. Some of his appalled female colleagues forwarded the emails to friends and they were soon being read by hundreds of people on the island. After several complaints about his conduct Mr Eley was disciplined by company directors and warned the comments were sexist.
One colleague said: "Nobody was sure if he was trying to be funny or not. It was either a bad joke or the most sexist thing ever written. "Most women in the office didn't see the funny side and he was hauled in to the boardroom and given a proper dressing down for sexist behaviour. His bosses definitely didn't see the funny side."
Mr Eley insisted the emails had been a joke and he had not meant to cause offence. He said: "It was only meant as a joke and was not meant to be anything serious." Mr Eley sent his first email at 2.13pm on September 9 under the heading "New Flatmate" It said: "I am looking for a girl flatmate between 18 years old and 26 years old. Preferably someone who is very tidy and reasonable nice to look at." He then listed a series of cooking and cleaning jobs the new flatmate would have to do instead of paying rent.
Mr Eley is the latest person to have an embarrassing email proliferate unexpectedly. In 2000 public relations officer Claire Swire sent her boyfriend, Bradley Chait, an intimate email which went around the world after he forwarded it to friends.
What's the Matter With Sarah?
By Australian columnist JANET ALBRECHTSEN
For left-leaning elites outside the United States, the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate is a case of "only in America" -- a sneering phrase foreigners use to explain a weird or distasteful American phenomenon. For them, the emergence of a small-town conservative Christian woman with a large family and a beehive hairdo, who talks about the small-town American values of faith, family and love of country, is the equivalent of crass American television. Mrs. Palin, with "her churchgoer's smile" and her hillbilly family with their hillbilly names, was a "soap opera . . . too implausible even for day-time television" wrote Anne Davies in the Sydney Morning Herald. "A race that began as the 'West Wing' now looks alarmingly like 'Desperate Housewives,'" said Jonathan Freedland in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
If one needed a primer on why a certain class of elites outside the U.S. will always detest the political, cultural and social undercurrents flowing through the heart of middle America, the emergence of the gun-toting, pro-life Mrs. Palin has provided it. With tedious predictability, a steady undercurrent of anti-Americanism explains why foreign liberals detest Mrs. Palin. Her rising popularity across America has rudely confirmed that not all Americans care about the preferred presidential pick of the international left-liberal community. Barack Obama is their anti-American dream candidate, a man who is part of their project to bring America, the great Satan, to heel. After all, he never spoke about the possibility of victory in Iraq. Only American withdrawal and defeat. And thus America's humiliation. Both Mrs. Palin's beliefs and her evident popularity cast doubts on whether Americans are really on board with this overseas vision for America's future.
All along, this international strain of anti-Americanism evident in Australia and beyond has been driven by a determined refusal to comprehend that peculiarly American curiosity: those who wear their God-fearing, love-of-America conservative values on their sleeves. In other words, people such as Sarah Palin who mean it when they say "God Bless America." Respectable politicians in places like Australia don't speak about the love of country. And certainly not in secular Europe or multicultural Britain.
The selection of Mrs. Palin and her role in Republican electoral math this year are also highlighting issues in American politics that surprise and confuse foreign left-wing intellectuals. Commentators in Australia, such as the Sydney Morning Herald's political editor, Peter Hartcher, have lately sniped about Mrs. Palin's deeply pro-life beliefs and at those Americans for whom abortion is an election issue. The tendency is to crow about the less divisive politics of abortion in Australia without explaining, or necessarily even understanding, why the issue is heated in the U.S. No mention that in Australia, unlike the U.S., abortion has not been fuelled by an activist, social-engineering judiciary. No mention that a cadre of unelected judges stole the issue from the American people in the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in his 1992 dissent in another abortion case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, by hijacking the issue and telling Americans they could not decide abortion laws for themselves, "Roe fanned into life an issue that has inflamed our national politics." Such explanations are diligently ignored by progressives outside the U.S. who prefer to portray abortion politics as driven by a creepy and peculiarly American religious Right.
One sees the same studied ignorance of the U.S. when foreign left-leaning folk talk about guns and the death penalty. Australian elites regard those provisions of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to bear arms and permitting the death penalty as signs of a venal, backward society. It's another case of "only in America." Deriding Mrs. Palin for her hunting habits is a neat way for them to ridicule small-town Americans who cherish those constitutional rights.
To be sure, much of the hysteria from the left wing in Australia mirrors the leftist frenzy within the U.S. Mrs. Palin was always going to upset the global sisterhood for not being the right kind of careerist woman. She is a happy feminist who doesn't moan about female victimhood. She loves to shoot moose but is not a fan of aborting babies. That you should be opposed to hunting animals but in favor of abortion on demand is an international article of the feminist faith.
Similarly, left-wing media pundits outside the U.S. were always going to parrot the class-driven condescension of her attackers at home. A self-declared "hockey mom" educated at a no-name university, a former beauty queen who used to broadcast the local sports news surely cannot aspire to be vice president. The provincial Mrs. Palin is the perfect proxy-without-borders for the universal disdain metropolitan elites harbor toward those allegedly less sophisticated than themselves.
Blinded by their anti-American prejudices, progressives outside the U.S. mistakenly treat Mrs. Palin as a country hick who has simply roused evangelicals and gun-loving and hunting Republicans. They miss the significance of her nomination. The Governor from Alaska is attracting so much positive attention outside the beltway of American politics -- and indeed 10,000 miles away, where ordinary Australians are cheering her on even as their elites pour scorn on her -- because she is the real thing. She is a sassy, happy, straight-talking mother of five who has succeeded, not through affirmative action programs or family connections, but through sheer dint of hard work and conviction politics. If Australia's left-wing elites don't understand Mrs. Palin's attraction to middle America it's because they don't or won't ever understand middle America.
Cast out terror TV
Comment from Australia
HEZBOLLAH'S terrorist television station is once again being beamed into Australia. Al-Manar, translated as "the beacon", has been called more accurately a beacon of hatred and violence. It is to be hoped that the Rudd Government and the Australian Communications and Media Authority are doing everything in their power to block the station, as has been done in the past.
This is in no way hypocritical, nor does it undermine Australia's commitment to freedom of speech. Even in societies whose commitment to freedom of speech is as strong as Australia's, there are limits to that freedom, such as where the speech incites violence or racial hatred. Indeed, this balancing has already occurred here for stations such as Al-Manar. In 2005, ACMA proposed new standards prohibiting broadcasts that directly supported terrorist organisations. These standards were the direct result of an ACMA investigation into Al-Manar the previous year. And ACMA has acted again since then to have the station removed from satellites that broadcast into Australia.
Significantly, Australia is not alone in drawing a line between freedom of speech and incitement to violence. The US, France, Canada and the European Union have banned their nationals from broadcasting Hezbollah's TV station into their territories because of the station's message and its dominance by a terrorist organisation.
The prohibition is well deserved. Al-Manar acts as the propaganda arm of Hezbollah, helping to raise money for, and recruit members to, the terrorist organisation. The group and its TV station demonise the West and incite violence against it, repeatedly calling for resistance against coalition forces in Iraq and glorifying terrorism, with videos showing suicide bombers detonating themselves. Al-Manar also helps to perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by stoking violence against Israel.
In one example, a child dressed as Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah repeats one of his speeches to a crowd of children, some of whom are dressed in suicide vests to punish the "Zionist enemy". Other programs extol the virtue of jihad and suicide operations, calling for death to Israel by exploding bodies. The station spreads anti-Semitism by perpetuating noxious anti-Jewish myths and conspiracy theories, such as the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blood libel and the lie that Jews were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2003, the station broadcast a 30-part anti-Semitic series, one episode for each night, depicting a supposed Jewish global government. If claims that Al-Manar is popular among Arabic speakers in Australia are true, it is even more important to stop it influencing and inflaming its audience.
Al-Manar cannot be separated from Hezbollah's military wing. Although the terrorist group holds seats in the Lebanese parliament, it makes no distinction between its armed and political branches. Al-Manar, likewise, promotes Hezbollah's political as well as military messages, be it its so-called resistance against Israel or attempts to justify the group turning its arms on Lebanese people, as it did recently. And, as we all know, money is fungible. Hezbollah's funding of Al-Manar cannot be separated from the funding of its armed branch.
So what could the Government do? First, capitalising on its friendly relations, it should reach out diplomatically to the Indonesian and Qatari governments - both of which own shares in the satellite company that broadcasts the station - as well as private shareholders and impress on them the importance of removing Al-Manar from the menu of channels available on the satellite.
The Indonesian Government has made significant strides in the past several years in combating its militant problem. Broadcasting the propaganda of a foreign terrorist group to Indonesians as well as to populations throughout Southeast Asia and Australia is clearly not in Indonesia's interests. Consistent with those interests, it is to be hoped that the responsible leadership we have seen in public and private domains in both countries will come to the fore on this issue.
The Rudd Government should also pursue all domestic legal measures available to it. It is almost certainly illegal under Australian law to provide support to Hezbollah, a banned terrorist organisation, and, by extension, to its TV station. The Government should determine whether any Australian nationals own part of the satellite company and, if so, take appropriate legal action. The Government should do the same for any Australians found to be facilitating the broadcast of Al-Manar in Australia.
Al-Manar spreads a dangerous and violent message in its role as a Hezbollah mouthpiece. It should not be able to use Australia's airwaves to disseminate such poison to undermine our harmonious multicultural society.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.