Scaremongering about Shariah Law

It has happened again – someone says something about Islam, Muslims, law, Shariah, UK, etc, etc, etc, the media starts it’s god-forsaken scaremongering, the ignorant public jump to their own ill-informed conclusions and go into a frenzied panic. Actually, Muslims should have been anticipating this for a while now, the media did seem a little thin on the Muslim-bashing side recently (oh, aside from the “bugs-under-Mr Sadiq Khan’s-table” of course).

This morning I woke up to news that the Archbishop of Cantebury called for measures to incorporate parts of Shariah law* into the British legal system. His comments have been faced with harsh criticism from politicians and media moguls alike. Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips reacted with the following statement: “implication that British courts should treat people differently based on their faith is divisive and dangerous“. Has the man finally lost his mind?

Then you have No.10 officials who apparently claim the Prime Minister “believes that British laws should be based on British values” – How on earth does this statement mean the Prime Minister is opposed to aspects of Shariah law being incorporated into the current legal system? The PM himself has been the Keynote speaker at virtually every Islamic banking conference since 2003 as the then Chancellor. If anything, he very much welcomes Shariah compliant law and has gone so far as promoting it as an alternative method for British Muslims. The simple truth is that people just aren’t aware of the facts.

One newspaper (commonly read by most London commuters) ended their coverage on this topic with a rather disturbing statement “the Islamic legal system can dictate the dress-code” – what? This is absurd and totally inaccurate. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs and comments, the Muslim dress-code is not defined by Islamic jurisprudence and is instead a “suggested” approach, which many Muslim men and women choose to adopt through their own free will. It is precisely this kind of incompetent and irresponsible journalism that prompts turmoil within communities which usually live in perfect harmony for the most part of their lives.

Speaking to a couple of non-Muslim colleagues this morning (who approached me about the issue) I found that they felt the same – “what is all the fuss about? Shariah courts already exist right?” was what they asked – and they were right. Shariah laws are already practised amongst British Muslim families today – the issue here is whether civil law should be flexed to adopt to Islamic law for Muslims living in this country and not whether the Islamic penal code should be adopted – which is what is frightening everyone. I think I can safely say that the majority of Muslims do not want to see a change in the penal code in the UK – they merely want a more adaptable system which permits and recognises Islamic legal rulings on things like marriage, divorce, banking, and so forth.

The mere fact that a non-Muslim has brought up this issue should be enough of an indication that British Muslims are not looking to take over the world. This debate should be welcomed and thrashed out in a reasonable and sensible manner through knowledge and common sense, not through poorly informed scaremongers.

*Shariah law = Often translated as the “Islamic way”, based on Muslim principles of jurisprudence.

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