The most senior judge in England yesterday gave his blessing to the use of Shariâ€™ah law to resolve disputes among Muslims.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said that Islamic legal principles could be employed to deal with family and marital arguments and to regulate finance. He declared: â€˜Those entering into a contractual agreement can agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law.â€™
In his speech at an East London mosque, Lord Phillips signalled approval of Shariâ€™ah principles as long as punishments–and divorce rulings–complied with the law of the land.
But his remarks, which back the informal Shariâ€™ah courts operated by numerous mosques, provoked a barrage of criticism.
Lawyers warned that family and marital disputes settled by Shariâ€™ah could disadvantage women or the vulnerable.
Tories said that legal equality must be respected and that rulings incompatible with English law should never be enforceable.
Lord Phillips spoke five months after Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams suggested Islamic law could govern marital law, financial transactions and arbitration in disputes.
The Lord Chief Justice said yesterday of the Archbishopâ€™s views: â€˜It was not very radical to advocate embracing Shariâ€™ah law in the context of family disputesâ€™. He added there is â€˜widespread misunderstanding as to the nature of Shariâ€™ah lawâ€™.
Lord Phillips said: â€˜Those who are in dispute are free to subject it to mediation or to agree that it shall be resolved by a chosen arbitrator. There is no reason why principles of Shariâ€™ah law or any other religious code should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of dispute resolution.â€™
Lord Phillips said that any sanctions must be â€˜drawn from the laws of England and Walesâ€™. Severe physical punishment–he mentioned stoning, flogging or amputating hands–is â€˜out of the questionâ€™ in Britain, he added. . .