Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

UK and Sharia Law

One MOJ reader had this comment in response to Carissa Mulder's thoughts on the UK case that I posted last evening:

Carissa Mulder towards the end of her comments states that "The UK has
never recognized sharia law." and later she states: "I would be happy
if sharia law were the equivalent of courts of canon law."

I think the accuracy of her first statement depends on what she means
by "recognize" because the UK government has allowed sharia courts to
operate in limited circumstances and has approved sharia-compliant
financial institutions to be formed and operate within the UK.

Sharia courts, like the Jewish Beth Din courts, are treated as
arbitration tribunals under the UK Arbitration Act 1996.  The parties
have to voluntarily consent to have the courts hear their case and
abide by its decision.  In cases for change of status, like divorce,
they may adjudicate the religious case but the parties still must seek
a civil divorce in order for their marriage to be legally ended under
the laws of England and Wales.  So in the case of divorce, sharia
courts and Jewish Beth Din courts are acting in ways that are somewhat
similar to the Office of the Tribunal of a particular Catholic diocese
which decides whether to issue declarations of nullity for Catholics
who wish their marriage to be annulled.

See this BBC article on Jewish Beth Din courts:
See this Telegraph article on Sharia courts in the UK:
See also this Daily Mail article in which a reporter observed several
cases heard by a UK sharia court:

Not everyone in the UK is happy to have sharia courts operating in the
UK like Catholic canon law courts or Jewish Beth Din courts.  The
articles in the past few years on sharia courts have sparked a
campaign to ban sharia courts.  The "One Law for All" campaign seeks
to have all sharia courts and religious tribunals banned and the laws
amended to prevent them from operating.  See the One Law for All
petition at:  http://onelawforallpetition.com/onelaw/onela300.php?nr=40155035
 This petition, however, is so broad that it would likely end up
banning Jewish Beth Din and Catholic canon law courts if its was
actually enacted into law.

As mentioned above, in addition to allowing sharia courts to operate
in limited circumstances, the UK has made other accomodations for
sharia law.  The Financial Services Authority has recognized three
Islamic banks and one Islamic insurance company as being authorized to
do business within the UK.  These institutions provide financial
products that comply with the sharia prohibition on usury, among other


Stabile, Susan | Permalink

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