Plans to set up Sharia courts raises stink in Scotland

October 9th, 2008 - 2:59 pm ICT by ANI  

Edinburgh , Oct 9 (ANI): Sharia courts, which have been operational in England for more than a year now, will soon be set up in Scottish cities, like Edinburgh and Glasgow. Secret talks are said to be underway to bring these courts to the neighbouring country.

The move is being opposed by several quarters of the Scottish society. Attempts to set up sharia courts in Canada in 2005 were abandoned after protests.

Qamar Bhatti, director of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT), which runs the courts, admitted secret discussions were taking place with lawyers and Muslim community groups in Scotland , reported The Scotsman.

In September, it emerged that five sharia courts, ruling on civil cases from divorce to domestic violence and financial disputes, had been operating for more than a year in London , Birmingham , Bradford, Manchester and at MAT headquarters in Nuneaton , Warwickshire.

Sharia law is Islams legal system, derived from the Koran and from fatwas the rulings of Islamic scholars. It covers every aspect of a Muslim’’s life and day-to-day conduct. They have legal powers, and their decisions are enforceable through the county courts or high courts. They deal with a range of issues, including marriage, divorce, family and financial disputes.

Such courts have been set up in mosques, Islamic centres and converted premises such as shops. While most meet weekly, advice on some issues can also be obtained online. The decisions are collectively made by three to six scholars and imams.

However, concerns have been raised about the establishment of a “dual legal system”. Womens domestic violence groups have also voiced fears, saying traditional sharia law arbitration is “dangerous and inappropriate” in cases of abuse.

Last night Bill Aitken, the Scottish Tory justice spokesman, said: “Informal private arrangements between individual members of the Muslim community are one thing, but in criminal matters, Scottish courts must have total jurisdiction. Matters of divorce and domestic violence require to be determined by conventional courts. We cannot have private arrangements when human rights are an issue.

The move to establish sharia courts has sharply divided opinion among Scotland ‘’s Muslims. Some defend the right of the Muslim community to rule on its own affairs. But others say MAT has not consulted them and there is no demand for sharia courts.

Aamer Anwar, a Glasgow-based civil rights lawyer, said: Those using sharia law are fully entitled to religious freedom as long as it doesn”t conflict with criminal law. Because it happens to be Islamic, people jump to the conclusion it is barbaric. It is down to the community to decide for itself.

Some Muslim women say they are concerned about the interpretation of disputes because of the patriarchal nature of their culture. (ANI)

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