Storbritannia har fått sine offisielt godkjente sharia-domstoler i seks byer og flere er underveis. Domstolenes vedtak har lovens kraft og vil bli backet opp av britiske domstoler.
Muslimer oppdaget at de kunne bruke loven om voldgift, og myndighetene stilte seg positive. Forutsatt at partene frivillig søker seg til domstolen.
Virksomheten begynte i august 2007, og man har dømt i rundt 100 saker.
Sharia-domstolene dømmer i saker som angår sivile forhold: ekteskap, barnefordeling, arv, og vold i hjemmet.
I en bestemt arvestrid fikk jentene halvparten av brødene etter å ha gått til en sharia-domstol. Dette er i Storbritannia, og det skjer med myndighetenes velsignelse.
Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.
Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.
It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996.
Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.
Reaksjonene på domstolene er til dels sterke.
Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: «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.»
There are concerns that women who agree to go to tribunal courts are getting worse deals because Islamic law favours men.
Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons.
The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.
In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment.
In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations.
Muslimene viser til det jødiske samfunn som har hatt slike domstoler i 100 år.
Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: «The MCB supports these tribunals. If the Jewish courts are allowed to flourish, so must the sharia ones.»