Mange muslimer BBC har snakket med er slett ikke begeistret for erkebiskop Rowan Williams’ forslag om sharia-domstoler. De forutser splittelse og uenighet innad og større avstand til den ikke-muslimske del av befolkningen.

For det første vil sharia-domstoler reise spørsmålet om hvilken religiøs lovfortolkning som skal legges til grunn. Ikke minst gjelder bekymringen behandlingen av kvinner:

«Many Muslims are likely to be against Sharia because the interpretation and implementation… varies throughout the Islamic world.

«As Muslims in the UK are from across the world and therefore very diverse, it is unlikely all Muslims would ever agree to a single interpretation or implementation.»

«What’s more, I think it is unlikely that women would be included in any arbitration council. Although Islam gives women numerous Islamic rights, many Muslim women would fear discrimination due to patriarchal and cultural reasons. Muslims, particularly women may be pressurised by families and communities into using Sharia courts.»

Shaista Gohir, rådgiver for regjeringen i spørsmål om muslimske kvinner.

Dr. Bary Malik er både leder av en moske og samtidig advokat, han kjenner således begge områder.

Shortly before Friday prayers he explained that he could foresee problems with the Archbishop’s suggestion.

«There are so many different sects in Islam, which version of Sharia Law are we going to have?» he said.

«If we introduce some sort of Sharia Law in this country and if it clashes with the British legal system, how do we resolve that issue? The British legal system, for me, already addresses most of the things that are in Sharia.»

Tidligere innenriksminister David Blunkett mener erkebiskopen roter med forskjellen på voldgift og forliksråd og straffe- og sivilrett. Storbritannia tillater en tredjepart å opptre som voldgiftsdommer, hvis resultatet er fornuftig og begge parter kommer frivillig.

«[The archbishop] should have understood the difference between civil society – tribunals that seek to arbitrate or to mediate – and the civil law under which we all work.

«The fear I think is that there is a tendency for those, if you like, well-meaning liberals… to actually believe that we have to accommodate something which is external to our country and not to do with the development of a common citizenship.»

Ulike for loven

Trevor Phillips, leder av Likhets og menneskerettskommisjonen, lurer på om Williams helt forstår rekkeviden av sitt forslag. Det ville bety at domstolene må behandle folk forskjellig ut fra deres tro.

«It’s reasonable of him to want to have a debate about the limits of religious law and how much that should be recognised by the court.

«But the suggestion that a British court should treat people differently according to their faith – whether that’s being Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim, is absolutely divisive, and I think, really rather dangerous.»

BBC spør tilfeldige muslimske kvinner på gaten. En av dem er Maria Ahmad:

We are striving for integration but I’m worrying that something like this will breed division rather than integration

In Bradford, the idea seems to be creating anything but social cohesion with the reaction from Muslims in the city being bemusement over how any such arrangement could ever be integrated into English law.

Puzzled voices among Bradford’s Muslims

Storbritannia tillater voldgift ved tredjepart, forutsatt frivillighet, og dette benytter ortodokse jøder seg av. En slik voldgiftsdomstol kan altså ikke påtvinge andre jøder sine vedtak.

The Beth Din is the most formally entrenched of these minority courts. The UK’s main Beth Din is based in Finchley, north London.

It oversees a wide range of cases including divorce settlements, contractual rows between traders and tenancy disputes.

The court cannot force anyone to come within its jurisdiction. But once someone agrees to settle a dispute in the Beth Din, he or she is bound in English law to abide by the court’s decision.

This is because under English law people may devise their own way to settle a dispute before an agreed third party.

Crucially, the legislation does not insist that settlements must be based on English law; all that matters is the outcome is reasonable and both parties agree to the process. And it’s in this space that religious courts, applying the laws of another culture, are growing in the UK.

The end of one law for all?