I am shocked. Truly.
Sharia law has been introduced in Britain, an allegedly civilized Western country. I was originally freaked out when Canada played with the idea, but I must admit I figured it wouldn't happen for real so soon.
What to say?
I'm a truly optimistic person on the world in general, but I must admit this has thrown me for a pessimistic loop.
But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Ayaan Hirsi Ali warned us and has been beating the drum of caution ever since.
First, some context from the Wikipedia page linked above:
Sharia...is the body of Islamic religious law. The term means "way" or "path to the water source"; it is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islamic principles of jurisprudence and for Muslims living outside the domain. Sharia deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues...
Read the full page for a historical understanding of the source of Sharia and how it has evolved over time. For our purposes, I'll focus on issues that impact us today.
Freedom of speech: ...Sharia does not allow freedom of speech on such matters as criticism of Muhammad and that such criticism is considered blasphemy against Muhammad...
In Egypt, public authorities annulled, without his consent, the marriage of Prof. Nasr Abu Zayd when he got in conflict with an orthodox Islamic cleric from the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The cleric had condemned Abu Zayd's reading of the Qur'an as being against the orthodox interpretation and labeled him an apostate (seen as a non-believer and consequently not permitted to marry or stay married to a Muslim woman).
Homosexuality: Homosexual activity is illicit under the sharia, however the prescribed penalties differ from one school of jurisprudence to another. For example these countries may allow the death penalty for sodomy though not for other homosexual activities: Iran, UAE, Sudan, Nigeria, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia. Sharia does not recognize a human right of sexual self-determination.
That's actually a rather whitewashed coverage of the status of women in Islam. The women have few rights, cannot choose their husbands, and beaten and raped without recourse (it is their fault if they are raped), and effectively live a life of slavery. See my review of Infidel for the full story.
Women: ...Islam unequivocally allows both single and married women to own property in their own right. Islam grants to women the right to inherit property, in contrast with some cultures where women themselves are considered chattels that can be inherited...However, a woman's inheritance is different from a man's, both in quantity and attached obligations. For instance, a daughter's inheritance is half that of her brothers, Sharia law requires family members females or males to support each others as needed.
In practice Sharia law has often resulted in women living in fear or disadvantage. In instances of rape some interpretations of Sharia law require for an allegation to be validated, victims must have four witnesses to the crime or else the victims risk being charged with fornication or adultery making a rejected allegation a potential death sentence for the victim. In Yemen Sharia law required compensation to be paid to the husband in the case of a 10 year old child bride who requested a divorce after rape and abuse (the age of sexual consent under Sharia law is 9).
Islamic jurists have traditionally held that Muslim women may only enter into marriage with Muslim men, although some contemporary jurists question the basis of this restriction. On the other hand, the Qur'an explicitly allows Muslim men to marry any woman of the People of the Book, a term which includes Jews, Sabians, and Christians. However, fiqh law has held that it is mukrah (reprehensible) for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman in a non-Muslim country.
Sunni Islamic law allows husbands to divorce their wives by just saying talaq ("I divorce you") three times. In 2003 a Malaysian court ruled that, under Sharia law, a man may divorce his wife via text messaging as long as the message was clear and unequivocal. The divorced wife always keeps her dowry from when she was married, and is given child support until the age of weaning. The mother is usually granted custody of the child. The divorced wife also receives spousal support for three months after the divorce until it can be determined whether she is pregnant.
It is absolutely unacceptable for any democracy -- particularly any Western democracy -- to accept the tenets of Sharia in any form. I don't know the full extent of what Britain is allowing, but here are excerpts from the article linked above:
ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.
The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.
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...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...
The disclosure that Muslim courts have legal powers in Britain comes seven months after Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was pilloried for suggesting that the establishment of sharia in the future “seems unavoidable” in Britain...
Politicians and church leaders expressed concerns that this could mark the beginnings of a “parallel legal system” based on sharia for some British Muslims.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: “If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so.”
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...
Also in the article is the justification that special Jewish courts have been allowed, so Islamic courts are acceptable. I fear this will eventually be the wedge that brings Sharia to Canada as well -- it's not acceptable that any religion get special courts. The law is the law, and applies to all equally.
With this development, I truly fear that Mark Steyn is right, and soon it will be America Alone...