Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Separate Muslim Courts Become Part of British Legal System" - American Humanist Association

Not a cool development. Accepting religious law (basically ancient, superstitious/based on the existence of a supreme being/deity) as legal & binding in a modern secular country with separations between religion & state (at least up to now I thought the UK was a secular place w/ religion & state separations) is definitely a step backwards and can be bad news for a lot of people. Basically accepting religious law = a step back towards the pre-enlightenment dark ages (not to mention sharia courts ruled pre-9/11 Afghanistan where it was illegal to watch TV, women had no rights, etc. - go here for more on Islamic law; check out aspects of the criminal code that includes lashing as punishment for drinking) where religious orders & appeals to their Gods & morality determined the definition of justice; again, bad news for lots & lots of people. Of course I could be overreacting here, so, here's the full press release from The American Humanist Association:

"Separate Muslim Courts Become Part of British Legal System

For Immediate Release - Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088
fedwords@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

(Washington, D.C., September 16, 2008) The British government has quietly
sanctioned five Muslim sharia courts within the United Kingdom. They have
been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, and Nuneaton. Their
rulings are enforceable through the county courts or the High Court, which
is part of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. This is a new development
because, previously, rulings made by sharia courts weren't binding.

The Muslim tribunal courts began operating in August 2007 and deal with
issues that range from family law and inheritance to disputes with
neighbors. The courts have also settled six cases of domestic violence.
Under a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996, arbitration tribunals are
binding in law, provided that both parties agree to give it power to rule.
Some have argued that the sharia courts fall under this domain while a
number of British lawyers have decried what they see as a dual legal system,
arguing that British law should remain absolute. Douglas Murray, the
director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said recently, “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.”

One issue in particular is the concern that women will suffer under Islamic
law, which favors men. For example, under Islamic inheritance law sons are
awarded twice as much as daughters. In all six cases addressing domestic
violence, the husbands were merely ordered to take anger management classes.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, sparked a national debate in
the UK when he said earlier in the year that the establishment of sharia law
“seems unavoidable.”

The American Humanist Association supports the concept of a democratic
secular state, with complete separation of religion and government.
Consistent with this, humanists support the freedom to think and believe or
not believe, resisting efforts to impose one’s religious beliefs on others
through coercive and punitive measures. The AHA opposes violations of those
basic rights whether or not they are bolstered by religious law or custom.

# # #

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for
the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in
Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters
and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms
our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."

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