Five sharia courts have been set up – in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester and Nuneaton. The UK government has quietly sanctioned their rulings as enforceable, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, such rulings were not binding and depended on voluntary compliance by Muslims.
Lawyers have issued grave warnings about the dangers of a dual legal system; and the disclosure drew criticism from Opposition leaders.
Dominic Grieve, 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, added: ‘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’.
Muslim tribunal courts in Britain started passing sharia judgements 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 police investigations, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.