In England, Girls Vulnerable to Islamic Law

from Brussels Journal: (please check originating link as I may not have got all the right links in place) H/T AA

In March of last year a severely autistic man with the mental age of three married a woman in Bangladesh, via the telephone. Three of Britain’s most senior judges intervened, ruling the marriage could not be legal under English law, as the man was unable to give his consent.

This marriage, said Lord Justice Thorpe, was “sufficiently offensive to the conscience of the English court that the court should refuse to recognise it and should refuse to give effect to the law of Bangladesh and sharia law.”

Only six months later, sharia courts that had formerly operated illegally in Britain were reclassified as “tribunals” under the Arbitration Act, allowing them to pass effectively legally binding judgments in many civil matters.

However, with sharia law incompatible with English law and modern human rights norms, concerns were rightly raised that the sharia court system in Britain would grow into a parallel legal system. The disparity between English and sharia law was highlighted only a month later, as the House of Lords passed judgment in the case of a Lebanese woman who had claimed the right to remain in the UK with her son. An earlier Lebanese court decision, under sharia law, meant that, despite a history of abuse, her former husband would get automatic custody of the child when he turned seven.

Lord Hope of Craighead observed that under the sharia judgment, “[…] there is a real risk of a flagrant denial of their article 8 rights [of the European Convention on Human Rights] if the appellant and her child were to be returned to Lebanon.” Lord Bingham of Cornhill added, rather triumphantly, that her case was supported “[…] by JUSTICE and Liberty.”

Justice and liberty, Lord Cornhill appeared to say, are not supported by sharia. Not even in civil cases. For, in sharia, the rights of the man supersede the rights of the woman and children, Muslims are privileged over non-Muslims, and – where sharia is the dominant or sole form of law – cruel punishments, including death by stoning, hanging, etc., are meted out for adultery, homosexuality, apostasy, etc.

Although it has generally been thought that five sharia courts were operating in Britain, just over a week ago Civitas revealed that there are now at least 85 sharia courts operating across the country.

Troublingly, Civitas says that some sharia rulings it looked at, “[…] advise illegal actions and others that transgress human rights standards as they are applied by British courts,” and that, “[…] for many Muslims, sharia courts are in practice part of an institutionalised atmosphere of intimidation, backed by the ultimate sanction of a death threat.”

In other cases, a lack of ability in spoken English, or lack of familiarity of British society, law, police, etc., will undoubtedly mean that many Muslim girls and women in particular are left vulnerable to a court system that is biased against them. The Daily Mail newspaper reported a few days ago that, for example, Muslim women have to pay two and a half times as much as a man in seeking a sharia divorce in Britain, because her word has to be corroborated. In other words, the burden of proof is on the woman, and yet her evidence is not admissible by itself.

There were up to 8,000 forced marriages reported last year in England, with the Forced Marriage Unit dealing with an 80 percent increase from the previous year. Most of the victims are teenage girls from Pakistan and Bangladesh, with some as young as 13 forced to marry in order to preserve “family honor,” or to allow foreign nationals to emigrate to Britain as a spouse.

With the problem increasing, a Forced Marriage (civil) Act was passed in November 2008, making forced marriages unlawful and allowing them to be annulled. However, the act does not make forcing someone to marry against their will, or aiding forced marriage, a punishable offense. Public funds are also unavailable to those who have been married in Britain for less than two years, meaning that victims who flee an abusive marriage often find themselves destitute. “The situation,” according to Kate Wareing, director of Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme, “is so extreme that the police turn to the Home Office to detain the women so they have somewhere else to go.”

Nevertheless, even if a victim of forced marriage does escape, and even if the marriage is annulled under English law, the problem for any Muslim girl or woman may not end there. In February of last year, a 15 year-old Pakistani girl was forced to marry a forty year-old man with the mental age of five, again via the telephone. When she arrived in England from Pakistan she was forced to work as a prostitute by her new family, who invited men to their house to rape her. “This marriage,” Victoria Golshani on Islamist Watch observes, “was not recognized by the Home Office but was and is still recognized by the Sharia courts that flourish in the UK,” having been approved by the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain, despite the minimum age for marriage being 16 under English law.

Should she have a boyfriend at some point in the future – though doing nothing abnormal in the eyes of English society – she will be committing adultery in the eyes of Britains 85 sharia courts, and, as such, in the eyes of many Muslims in England and her home country, Pakistan. Such a thought would undoubtedly make any Muslim girl rightly fearful for her safety.

In 2003, Abdulla Yones was found guilty of murdering his 16 year-old daughter, Heshu. The father had discovered that she was in a relationship with a Lebanese Christian, and later received an anonymous letter accusing his daughter of being a “slut” and a “prostitute.” “Disgusted and distressed” by her relationship, Abdulla beat her for six months, before stabbing her eleven times and cutting her throat open in a frenzied attack.

In his decision Judge Neil Denison nevertheless suggested that, “It is arguable that Heshu’s conduct provoked her father,” adding in his concluding remarks [pdf] that the situation had arisen out of “irreconcilable cultural differences between traditional Kurdish values and the values of western society.”

Sharia law and Western norms of law and human rights are indeed irreconcilable. Britain’s sharia courts – as they have proven – have no respect for English law, or the rights of girls and women, but seem only to facilitate their abuse. If the Forced Marriage Act had made aiding or abetting forced marriage a criminal offense then members of the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain would no doubt be standing trial for recognizing, and continuing to recognize, the (forced) marriage of a minor – and one suspects this is precisely why it was made only a civil offense.

The desire of sharia judges to extend their reach, and to introduce harsh punishments, such as the chopping off of the hand for theft, shows that their vision of a future Britain is medieval and barbaric. Britain needs to have the courage of its convictions, and stand up for the human rights of girls and women, and the liberty of its citizens. The longer the sharia courts are allowed to operate the more these unalienable rights will be sacrificed.

About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

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