Sharia Law - a threat to UK women & children

Created on: 21st March 2012

Baroness Cox told the Christian Broadcasting Council that British Muslim women were already suffering under Sharia. Rape victims were being denied justice, divorcees were losing custody of their children, and women were being disinherited. Sharia could open the door to child marriage and was already permitting polygamy.  Audio, pictures available

A House of Lords symposium heard clear warnings that Sharia law - strict Islamic law - must never be allowed to become a parallel legal system in the UK. If it did, there could be a right-wing backlash.

'There are now more than 80, perhaps 85 Sharia courts operating in the UK,' Baroness Cox told the Christian Broadcasting Council Symposium. 'Polygamy is already happening,' she said. 'It means Britain has two parallel legal systems, one which does not permit bigamy and the other which does.’

Sharing the platform at the CBC Symposium was Bishop Michael Nazir-Al. Together they warned of the threat to rape victims if Sharia law were to be allowed in the UK. 'Under Sharia Law if a woman wants to bring a charge of alleged rape she is obliged to provide four independent Muslim witnesses,' said Lady Cox.

'Failure to do so might result in the rape victim being accused of fornication and adultery,' added Bishop Michael. He warned that Sharia law could be used to justify child marriage. ‘You will have child marriage, because as soon as a girl begins her periods, she is eligible to be married. How will you maintain a minimum age for marriage?

'Sharia is an all-encompassing law that affects every area of a Muslim's life and a Muslim's community,' said Pakistan-born Bishop Michael, who has received death threats for opposing Islamic militants. Some put forward family law as the acceptable face of Sharia, but that militates against justice and freedom for women and young children.’

Lady Cox said Sharia law treated women as second class citizens. 'A woman's evidence is counted as half the value of a man's.’ As an example of discrimination against women she cited a widow in her 50s who wanted to remarry. ‘She was required by an Imam to first obtain permission from her only male relative - a 7-yr-old grandson living in Jordan.’

Another concern is that so-called honour attacks could be given legitimation. 'I've spoken to many women who have been so badly abused in domestic violence they have been hospitalised,' said Lady Cox. 'But they have been pressured not to prosecute because it would bring shame on their community. There are people on the run living in terror in our nation today. We have to do something about it.'

Baroness Cox has drafted a Private Member's Bill that would outlaw Sharia court judgments that undermine the legal rights of women and others under British law. She intends to launch her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill in the next session in parliament.

'I could not sit on the red benches and just keep silent about what was going on with the introduction of a parallel legal system. The time has come to draw a line in the sand,' she said.

And she warned that unless action was taken, support was likely to grow for far-right extremists in British politics. ‘My fear is that people will end up voting for the BNP,’ she said. ‘There is a real risk of polarisation in this country.’

While pressure is growing to introduce Sharia law in the UK, many Muslim countries had already amended Sharia law, said Bishop Michael, 'to take account of the injustices that occur.'

But the Bishop warned that radicalisation was spreading in many parts of the Muslim world. Along with that came pressure to introduce more extreme versions of Islamic law, including death for apostasy and blasphemy, floggings and amputations.

'If you had said to me in the mid 70s that such punishments would be meted out in Iran, and then in Pakistan I would not have believed it. Today, rights are being reversed in Iran, Pakistan and Sudan and I wonder how soon could this happen in Egypt?'

Bishop Michael feared the Arab Spring was more likely to encourage radical Islamist states, like Iran, than genuine democracy. 'The western press has been misled about the so-called Arab Spring,' he said. 'It is Islamist led. Tahrir Square in Cairo reminded me of Teheran in 1979 when a broad-based coalition wanted to remove the Shah. As soon as he was ousted, the Mullahs got rid of their allies.

'Democracy is never enough. What must happen in Egypt and other countries is the recognition of equality before the law if the Christian population is to be safeguarded. There must be a commitment to a common citizenship - one law for all.'  And he said that pressure to bring Sharia law into the UK must be resisted. 'It would be a mistake to recognise Sharia law here because its very principles contradict the Judeo-Christian principles of public law in this country.’

Posted by Amanda Hopkins

Your Comments

posted by Jancis M. Andrews on 22-03-12

What were British politicians thinking of when they allowed Sharia law for domestic disputes. Just how criminally blind and stupid can a politician get? Two systems of law in one country? That makes it two countries, not one. The UK has sunk so low it's frightening. It's time for the British to turf these dangerous politicians out and replace them with members of parliament who REALLY have the best interests of the country at heart, and are not in it just for the prestige and perks.

posted by Brian on 22-03-12

Poor old's a bit too late now to rectify what has already been done...You have multiculturalism to thank

posted by pauline on 22-03-12

This has been going on for a gneration. What have our courts done about it? we allowed these people into this country and let them police themselves. Our God the God of Israel is love and mercy. Allah is a cruel god. Islam means "submit". We as a chuch have walked by on the other side" But praise the Lord for a few who have been rescued and come to Christ and for those who look after them.

posted by Gareth on 23-03-12

Religeons are only as good as the people who practice them. I would advice the level of education of the practitioners to be vetted and relevent to the UK system. Otherwise, we risk far too many worse things than little imams with village idiot mentality.

posted by Sarah on 23-03-12

I heard about Baroness Cox's initiative and I was looking forward to hearing the outcome of the research she was carrying out, hoping that it would be an objective analysis of the situation. However, I have been disappointed. The examples cited about rape victims, permission for marrying, and female witnesses are all completely wrong. There has been a complete and utter failure to differentiate between the practice of some Muslims and Islamic law itself. 1. One female witness is equitable to one male witness under strict Islamic laws. However, with many patriarchal Muslim societies, their backwardness means women are not granted this right based on some spurious grounds, dressed up as religion. 2. When a woman is raped, the usual laws of evidence will apply and the man will face severe punishment. In Muslim societies like Morocco, the rights of women are abused by a male-led judiciary and Islamic law is actually perverted. As a result, few women can successfully prosecute for rape. However, one cannot blame this on Islam. It is the views and cultural norms of the society that are to blame. 3. In many societies around the world, mainly third world, puberty is the age at which a boy or girl can marry. However, this is not the same as saying they should marry at this age. In many Muslim jurisdictions, the age at which a person can marry is 18 - higher than the age in Britain. There is no compulsion for the age of marriage under Islamic law and the norm within each society has historically been respected. 4. Under strict Islamic law, only a girl who is young and was never married before needs permission to marry (and that's only according to some schools of thought, intended to protect virgin girls from exploitation). Women who have been married before are free to choose whom and when to marry. To use one skewed and frankly ridiculous example of an imam who clearly has no idea about the context required for some rules to apply - to suggest 'this is shariah' - is insulting. I hope anyone who reads the Baroness' comments will do so critically. The greatest threat to the Islamic religion is from the marginal individuals who confuse their own cultural norms with Islamic law, and try to pass the former off as the latter. We become part of the problem when we allow them to succeed. Anyone who is truly interested in what Shariah law means needs to investigate it objectively. In my view, the only way to ensure these extreme practices do not continue is not to drive them underground (as the Baroness' initiative will do), but rather, make those who seek to rule on religious regulations far more accountable for their decisions. Maybe this will bring an end to the ridiculous decisions being made by some imams in Britain. It is clear that some ideas such as polygamy go against British legal and cultural norms. Muslims are expected to abide by the laws of the lands in which they live and therefore this should not create a conflict. When the Baroness speaks about a parallel system, again she is conflating the issue and is really out of touch with reality. The fact is that many minority religious communities have some form of informal parallel structure which is social, NOT legal. The Shariah councils are the same. Just calling something ‚??law‚?? does not make it law. Britain has one legal system which monitors us all. The Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and other communities have some social structures which allows them to regulate themselves where religious concerns are brought up. This is a fact of life and springs up anywhere in the world where there are sizeable numbers of people professing a single faith. Overall, it appears that by singling out the Muslim community, and frankly attempting to scaremonger, the Baroness is revealing her real prejudices.

posted by John on 25-03-12

Actual baroness cox is correct see this quote:- A woman`s testimony counts half of a man`s testimony. The Quran in Sura 2:282 says: And let two men from among you bear witness to all such documents [contracts of loans without interest]. But if two men be not available, there should be one man and two women to bear witness so that if one of the women forgets (anything), the other may remind her as for under aged marriage:- Mature men are allowed to marry prepubescent girls. The Quran in Sura 65:1, 4 says: 65:1 O Prophet, when you (and the believers) divorce women, divorce them for their prescribed waiting-period and count the waiting-period accurately . . . 4 And if you are in doubt about those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, (you should know that) their waiting period is three months, and the same applies to those who have not menstruated as yet. As for pregnant women, their period ends when they have delivered their burden. These quotes from the koran show where islam stands.

posted by Dane on 27-03-12

Sharia is not a law or system. It is a method to ensure submission as per q'aran. Saying islamic law is like calling the koala, a koala bear. For justice to work in law court administration both a prosecutor and a defence counsel is required. One iman of informal credentials, even with the best of intentions, cannot with his book, be an alternative court system. Sharia may be acceptable in the desert to structure a tribe into submission but in modern society, the Baroness is right!

posted by Denis MacEoin on 27-03-12

Sarah does well to try to balance this piece, but I think she is better informed about the myth of shari'a and its application than with how it is applied. To make things simple, I suggest she go to some of the online shari'a sites that are run in this country and abroad, where she will find no end of rulings, usually with reference to previous fatawa (fatwas), that argue for actions incompatible with British legal standards. Or she should make reference to a popular manual of shari'a law such as 'umdat al-salik (Reliance of the Traveller), which is available in English translation. She may like to note one example of how Westerners are presented with anodyne versions of the law. In the English text, there is no reference to slavery or slaves, whereas the Arabic text has frequent references (because slavery is lawful in Islam). She will find a ruling that a Muslim cannot be put to death for the murder of a non-Muslim. That a woman can only marry with the permission of a male wali or guardian (not a non-Muslim), A virgin bride's father or grandfather may force her to marry, a non-Arab man may not marry an Arab woman, a non-Muslim man may not marry a Muslim woman, a Muslim man may not marry a Zolroastrian, an idol worshipper, an apostate from Islam, a woman with one parent who is Jewish or Christian, while the other is Zoroastrian, a man of lowly profession may not marry the daughter of someone of superior profession, that it is 'offensive' to send a Muslim child to a non-Muslim day-care centre, the only acceptable witnesses to a marriage are two men (not one man and two women), and much more. Many Muslim rulings surrounding marriage and child custody are entirely unacceptable in Western society. Muslims are the incomers here, and they must adapt to our laws and customs, not the other way round. Islamic law is antiquated and is frozen because its sources (mainly the Qur'an and the ahadith) are deemed divine and unchangeable. If a Muslim society is willing to accept that (and tie itself to the past), that's fine. But we are under no obligation to take such laws and customs to our hearts.

posted by VivKay on 21-06-12

The Scripture talks about nations, not people being inter-dispersed over the world. Islam should never have been introduced into the UK, a country with its foundations in Christianity. There's no self-regulatory pressures if the laws of UK end up adjusting to the demands of this community. After years of women's rights and votes for women, Sharia law is misogynistic and a backward step into the Middle Ages. Each nation should enshrine it's best traditions and culture, not allow a descend into oppression from splinter groups from foreign nations. Overpopulation and over-fertility has been part of allowing this oppressive religion to spread to the West. It's "white guilt", not compassion, that's driving much of the immigration into Western nations.

posted by carl on 17-09-12

Its very simple really. If you are of islam and choose to live in Great Britain you are in no position to complain. Comply with our laws and customs or stay where you are. The lure of money or what ever it is that leads you to leave a community you do respect is clearly the problem you should be addressing.

posted by Desmond Forde on 27-12-14

This is madness this is against everything the people have fought for over the centuries. We have laws to protect all out rights as free people. To bring Sharia means the child rapes all over the country are acceptable and part of the British justice system. It gives the green light for the raping of woman and children. Think of the future for all woman and children of all faiths. Think of Rotherham and every city and town where these child rapes have happened and rapes by non muslims. The Politicians of the past and your ancestors who fought against slavery and crimes against woman and children, they would be screaming at our left wing shameful Politicians. Do not vote for conservative, labour or liberal. Vote for UKIP and kick out Sharia law as it breeds hatred.

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