Are Sharia councils failing vulnerable women?

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BBC Panorama has uncovered fresh evidence of how some Sharia councils in Britain may be putting Muslim women "at risk" by pressuring them to stay in abusive marriages.


In a small terraced house in east London, a woman and her husband argue before an Islamic scholar who sits on a dais above them in a room that looks and feels like a court.

This is Leyton Islamic Sharia Council, and Dr Suhaib Hasan will decide if the woman can have a divorce. Her husband is refusing to grant her one and the couple have been coming here for a year.

She accuses him of refusing to work, ignoring the children and verbally abusing her. He vehemently denies it. When Dr Hasan orders the husband to leave the room, the woman breaks down in tears.

"I hate him, I can't even bear to look at him, he has ruined my life," she sobs.

Dr Hasan sends the couple away for another month to try to save their marriage, with the help of Allah.

Written By: Jane Corbin
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

30 COMMENTS

  1. Its amazing, I think of the UK as being ahead of the US in so many social areas, your politics are more civilized your healthcare system makes more sense, etc. but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you let these things go on. To the extent I understand the reasoning behind it, it seems like multiculturalism gone insane, there are some things that people are expected to leave behind when they assimilate to a new culture and these kinds of courts should be at the top of the list. It seems obvious they are going to be stacked against women.

    • In reply to #6 by Red Dog:

      Its amazing, I think of the UK as being ahead of the US in so many social areas, your politics are more civilized your healthcare system makes more sense, etc. but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you let these things go on. To the extent I understand the reasoning behind it, it seems like multiculturalism gone insane, there are some things that people are expected to leave behind when they assimilate to a new culture and these kinds of courts should be at the top of the list. It seems obvious they are going to be stacked against women.

      How is this different, in principle to

      http://www.bethdin.org

      Orthodox Jews can be pretty misogynist although I don’t know anything about their legal system. Obviously in practice the courts in the UK are overstepping the mark.

      EDIT: A quick google search shows that, no surprises, the other big Abrahamic religion has misogynist courts

      http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/statement-on-high-court-beth-din-case/

      Michael

      • In reply to #10 by mmurray:

        In reply to #6 by Red Dog:

        Its amazing, I think of the UK as being ahead of the US in so many social areas, your politics are more civilized your healthcare system makes more sense, etc. but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you let these things go on…

        How is this different, in principle to

        http://www.bethdin.org

        Orthodox Jews can be pretty misogynist although I don’t know anything about their legal system. Obviously in practice the courts in the UK are overstepping the mark.

        EDIT: A quick google search shows that, no surprises, the other big Abrahamic religion has misogynist courts

        http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/statement-on-high-court-beth-din-case/

        Michael

        I agree with you, there is no difference and the Jewish courts, including those in the US, should be abolished. In fact, if anything with the US separation of church and state it seems to me that the Jewish ones in the US are clearly unconstitutional. I’ve never understood why they still exist, well I understand the political reasons.

    • In reply to #6 by Red Dog:

      Its amazing, I think of the UK as being ahead of the US in so many social areas, your politics are more civilized your healthcare system makes more sense, etc. but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you let these things go on. To the extent I understand the reasoning behind it, it seems like multiculturalism gone insane, there are some things that people are expected to leave behind when they assimilate to a new culture and these kinds of courts should be at the top of the list. It seems obvious they are going to be stacked against women.

      Welcome to my country.

      I think the problem can be summed up in one word: appeasement. People don’t criticize the religions of others – which is treated in some cases as synonymous with the ethnicity or race of others – and in return they expect religion to stay quiet. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in religious form. It’s probably not coincidental that most UK citizens indulge in a very watered-down form of Christianity in the first place, which practically makes them agnostic. The Ipsos MORI poll is one indication of this: the majority of people who identified as Christian revealed that they had confused religious affiliation with evidence that one is a moral or “good” person. Religion might have lost most of its political power here in the last three centuries or so, but it’s left a legacy of misinformation in mainstream culture that convinces people religiosity equals morality or harmless cultural tradition.

      It doesn’t help that the mainstream has a wishy-washy attitude towards religion and regards any form of criticism or anti-religionism as imprudent at best, immoral at worst.

  2. Why are these shari pseudo courts even allowed?

    Why don’t these women go to the normal courts and get a normal divorce? They should be going to the police immediately if they are being abused.

    • Yes, I don’t understand either. I’m from New Zealand. Why the hell are these sharia courts involved in divorce proceedings? Don’t you guys have BRITISH courts for that??

      In reply to #7 by canadian_right:

      Why are these shari pseudo courts even allowed?

      Why don’t these women go to the normal courts and get a normal divorce? They should be going to the police immediately if they are being abused.

      • In reply to #8 by Floyd:

        Yes, I don’t understand either. I’m from New Zealand. Why the hell are these sharia courts involved in divorce proceedings? Don’t you guys have BRITISH courts for that??

        In reply to #7 by canadian_right:

        Why are these shari pseudo courts even allowed?

        Why don’t these women go to the normal courts and get a normal divorce? They should be going to the police immediately if they are being abused.

        Unfortunately the precedent of allowing special interest groups to run their own courts was set when people allowed various Jewish religious groups to run their own courts. Even apparently in the land of the free and the home of the brave:

        http://www.bethdin.org

        Personally I’d close the whole lot. But failing that they obviously need far better oversight in the UK.

        Michael

      • In reply to #8 by Floyd:

        Yes, I don’t understand either. I’m from New Zealand. Why the hell are these sharia courts involved in divorce proceedings? Don’t you guys have BRITISH courts for that??

        In reply to #7 by canadian_right:

        Why are these shari pseudo courts even allowed?

        Why don’t these women go to the normal courts and get a normal divorce? They should be going to the police immediately if they are being abused.

        I suspect it’s a case of her actually being divorced by British law, but not by sharia law. Her community requires all people to get things done by sharia law, and so it’s enforced by the same kind of situation as with cults. These people are so afraid of being shunned by their community, or so convinced that these people are right about what makes Allah damn them to hell, that they have to go along with it.

        Of course, if sharia courts have actual legal standing in England then… well… let me just say that I’d rather have Creationism taught as legitimate science in my classroom, as a less harmful form of church and state non-separation.

  3. Are they not merely tribunals, the decisions of which are no more legally binding than a handshake. The parties are, legally, free to disregard the decisions of such “courts”. Even if the old fart behind the desk granted her a divorce, she would, presumably, still have to go through the legal formalities afterwards.

    Anyway, it has become increasingly apparent to me that it is the women of the world who will be instrumental in the downfall of religion.

    The repeated chauvinistic – to put it mildly – religiously-justified decisions will hopefully someday ignite an uprising among British muslim women.

    • In reply to #13 by Alternative Carpark:

      Are they not merely tribunals, the decisions of which are no more legally binding than a handshake.

      Nope they can be enforced

      The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal is a form of alternative dispute resolution which operates under the Arbitration Act 1996 which is available in the United Kingdom to Muslims who wish to resolve disputes without recourse to the courts system.[1] The “tribunals” were set up by lawyer Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab and operate in London, Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and Nuneaton. Two more are planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.[2] **Rulings can be enforced in both the County Courts and the High Court.[1] **

      EDIT: Actually that comment goes through to a Daily Mail article so make of that what you will.

      Michael

  4. An old story, but one which our complacent political leaders have ignored for a long time, allowing the problem to become a more entrenched and permanent feature of Muslim urban areas.

    Since Rowan Williams expressed his such broad-minded support for sharia courts, (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1577928/Archbishop-Williams-sparks-Sharia-law-row.html) apparently oblivious to the hardships they impose on many women, they have been unopposed and unchallenged. This is the price of pretending that Islam is a religion of peace, despite knowing that the opposite is true. If we faced the truth and frankly spoke out against this cult of ignorance and cruelty then we could oppose these courts and other such manifestations of islamic evil with some kind of consistency.

    • In reply to #17 by inquisador:

      An old story, but one which our complacent political leaders have ignored for a long time, allowing the problem to become a more entrenched and permanent feature of Muslim urban areas.

      Since Rowan Williams expressed his such broad-minded support for sharia courts, (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1577928/Archbishop-Williams-sparks-Sharia-law-row.html) apparently oblivious to the hardships they impose on many women, they have been unopposed and unchallenged. This is the price of pretending that Islam is a religion of peace, despite knowing that the opposite is true. If we faced the truth and frankly spoke out against this cult of ignorance and cruelty then we could oppose these courts and other such manifestations of islamic evil with some kind of consistency.

      I don’t think it has anything to do with what you think about Islam. There is a simple principle at stake, that when it comes to our legal system we have one system for everyone and its not supposed to be driven by any particular religion. These courts (and the Jewish ones that mmurray mentioned) are a clear violation of that principle and should be abolished.

  5. “Are Sharia councils failing vulnerable women?” Why is there a question mark at the end of the headline? That’s what they’re designed to do.

    They are a sympton of a culture which has descended into and remains in an infantile state because of the perverse interpretations of its religion by childish adult mails, who fear women because they have been rendered incapable of controlling their sexual urges by unnatural practices; Oh no, that’s the Roman Catholic Church.

    Well, same difference!

  6. Not living in Britain, I’ve been taken aback by the news that sharia “councils” are functioning in that country. I’m so shocked that I’ve got only questions to ask. Could anyone tell me if a Muslim woman has access to the British juridical system in case she doesn’t trust or accept the decisions of a sharia council? Why this stupid thing has been allowed to reach that far?

    • In reply to #27 by Odalrich:

      …Could anyone tell me if a Muslim woman has access to the British juridical system in case she doesn’t trust or accept the decisions of a sharia council?…

      She absolutely does. Anyone on these shores can use and be subject to the law (of England & Wales in London anyway). As far I can see, Sharia councils are a form of mediation and have no legal power of enforcement. Arbitration (which is how I feel it is sometimes portrayed) is not applicable to Family Law matters and therefore is not binding anyway. (see: http://www.lawyerssecularsociety.org/default.asp?sectid=394). In any case, no council of whatever flavour can violate Parliamentary Sovereignty i.e. they cannot rule something that is illegal under current law.

      However, the crux is being able to access it, or even knowing you have the right. It is either a triumph or failure, depending on your point of view, of a multicultural Britain that anyone can get by with minimal or no English language skills inside a local community that could either support or suffocate them. As Zeuglodon already said, it’s gone a bit mad that aspects of inclusive multiculturalism have conflated nationality, ethnicity and religion and placed it above common-sense criticism. I guess the cases where such communities turn a blind eye to the law of the land are doing the same thing from the inside, as it were.

  7. In reply to #28 by Docjitters:

    In reply to #27 by Odalrich:…Could anyone tell me if a Muslim woman has access to the British juridical system in case she doesn’t trust or accept the decisions of a sharia council?…She absolutely does. Anyone on these shores can use and be subject to the law (of England & Wales in London anyway). As far I can see, Sharia councils are a form of mediation and have no legal power of enforcement. Arbitration (which is how I feel it is sometimes portrayed) is not applicable to Family Law matters and therefore is not binding anyway. (see: http://www.lawyerssecularsociety.org/default.asp?sectid=394). In any case, no council of whatever flavour can violate Parliamentary Sovereignty i.e. they cannot rule something that is illegal under current law.However, the crux is being able to access it, or even knowing you have the right. It is either a triumph or failure, depending on your point of view, of a multicultural Britain that anyone can get by with minimal or no English language skills inside a local community that could either support or suffocate them. As Zeuglodon already said, it’s gone a bit mad that aspects of inclusive multiculturalism have conflated nationality, ethnicity and religion and placed it above common-sense criticism. I guess the cases where such communities turn a blind eye to the law of the land are doing the same thing from the inside, as it were.

    Thank you.

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