An ex-Muslim makes some good points in a post on the Weekly Standard blog about what it means to have Sharia courts in Britain. (We commented on Britain’s Sharia courts a few days ago, here.) Not any old ex-Muslim — the author is David Gartenstein-Ross, who was born Jewish, became Muslim, worked for a Muslim charity, found it was connected to radical activities, and left Islam for Christianity, all before 9/11. So he knows whereof he speaks.
He points out that Britain hasn’t adopted Sharia law as its law, which we know, but some reports have sounded as if that’s what’s happened. The Sharia courts are, rather, a form of “alternative dispute resolution” which people use voluntarily. The courts are civil, not criminal, so they won’t be stoning adulterers or cutting off hands. Here are the problems that he sees:
First, there is a question about rights that are due to specific political communities. Are the rights provided to women under British marriage or inheritance law a baseline that they are due, or can they freely contract to be given fewer rights? We have in fact already seen this happen under the sharia tribunals.
One Sharia court divided a man’s estate among his five children. The two sons got twice as much as the three daughters (apiece) — that’s the law under Sharia. Under British law, of course, sons and daughters get equal portions. This brings him to the second point:
This fact raises a question about how voluntary individuals’ accession to the sharia tribunals will actually be. Are women (for example) going to be forced by their families into marriages under sharia that provide them with fewer rights than they would have under British law? Will they be fully informed of the differences between the two systems when they enter into these contracts? This is a particular concern because Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has warned of “no-go” areas in some Muslim communities in the UK, a concern that has been echoed by British police officials.
(Bishop Nazir-Ali is a Church of England bishop originally from Pakistan who understands the threat of radical Islam, unlike many, perhaps most, of his fellow clerics.) Gartenstein-Ross continues:
The third question is who will be on the courts interpreting sharia law? Will they be Salafis, Sufis, Shias? Will they have a conservative or liberal interpretation? Will this empower scholars who are contemptuous of British society, or those who encourage integration? The concerns commentators are expressing about a “parallel legal system” for some British Muslims are not baseless.
And we in the United States should be very concerned, because of the many judges here who look to other countries for guidance. At least two members of the U.S. Supreme Court have written about the influence non-U.S. law has on their decisions. And we know that many on the left look to Europe to learn what the right attitude is towards political and cultural matters.
But we’re in better shape than Europe. We have people like Tom Tancredo, who introduced an anti-Sharia bill in Congress. Even though it won’t pass, he has done a great service by bringing up the issue and educating people. We have websites and blogs like Jihad Watch, FrontPage Magazine, and the countless others — many of which are listed on our Blogroll — reporting on the jihad in America every day.