Friday, 4 July 2008


Why is it that the media has twisted remarks made by Lord Phillips the Lord Chief Justice? In a speech at the East London Muslim Centre, reminiscent of comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury not so long ago, the Lord Chief Justice is reported as saying that Sharia Law has a place in the English Legal System but that severe physical punishments such as flogging, stoning and the cutting off of hands would not be acceptable. The Lord Chief Justice was, of course, talking about the possibility of parties agreeing to use Sharia law as a basis for mediated settlements rather than using court proceedings, whilst emphasising that there is no question of Sharia courts sitting in this country and that so far as the law is concerned those living in this country are governed by English and Welsh law.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was pilloried recently for suggesting that Sharia law should be embraced giving the example of family disputes in particular. The Lord Chief Justice, however, pointed out that our system already goes a long way towards accommodating this suggestion. Indeed my own experience in divorces concerning a dowry is that in cases between Muslims, Sharia requires the woman to keep her dowry and this is inevitably the anticipated outcome. Conversely though the Lord Chief Justice was clearly not suggesting that women oppressed and treated unequally by a set of legal principles should be forced to agree that their future financial position will be determined by Islamic religious law and nor that the talaq (where a husband can divorce a wife simply by reciting “I divorce you” on three separate occasions) should apply.

As Resolution stated in response: “ Individuals should be allowed the freedom to govern their lives in accordance with their religious beliefs provided that those beliefs and traditions do not contradict the fundamental principle of equality on which this country’s laws are based.

There’s a strong history of religious law living alongside civil law in this country, and certainly mediation and other forms of dispute resolution are useful methods for people to use to resolve family disputes but they must be used to find solutions which are consistent with the basic principles of family law in this country and people must always have redress to the civil courts where they so choose”.


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Judith said...

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