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Mel P’s alternative “reality of Sharia”

Mel P’s alternative “reality of Sharia”

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday August 02 2016

How fitting that after a Manchester based law firm reported experiencing vitriolic abuse following an online advertising campaign featuring Muslim client and product services, Melanie Phillips in The Times should crop up to reiterate the guff that perpetuates such ignorance about shari’ah tribunals in the UK.

It seems Ms Phillips is disturbed by the terms of reference of the shari’ah review instructed by Theresa May when Home Secretary. The terms, for Phillips, do not go far enough. In fact, nothing short of the excising of shari’ah tribunals operating in the UK is what is needed since they unlike Jewish Beth Din courts are “unique”, according to Phillips.

Phillips quotes Elham Manea who was whisked to London by the Brussels based European Foundation for Democracy to give evidence to the inquiry to the effect that the problem is “Islamic law itself”.

You can find out more about the EFD and its place amongst the “Israel lobby in the European Union” in the report by Spinwatch here.

Needless to say, Phillips’ penchant for the EFD’s chosen “scholar” of Islamic law is not without context or bias.

On the claims by Manea about shari’ah tribunals, Phillips writes:

“It is Sharia that holds that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man, that condones marital rape, forced marriage and honour-based violence and that puts women into burqas. It is Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce, children, property and inheritance that violate fundamental human rights and equality for women. It is Sharia that also orders the harshest possible punishments for apostates, blasphemers and homosexuals.”

We’re sure Islamic scholars would be interested to learn from Phillips where exactly the edicts on “martial rape, forced marriage, honour based violence and putting women in burqas” appear in Islamic texts. Not least because such practices have been denounced by scholars as un-Islamic and in violation of the Prophetic tradition which stipulates: “The best of you are those who are the best to their women.”

The problem with shari’ah tribunals, Phillips claims, is that they “are unique. They are unlike Jewish religious courts in Britain, which recognise that the Jewish laws they informally promulgate are invariably subject to the overriding law of the land. Islamic law, which recognises no superior secular authority, works very differently.”

It’s of little consequence to Phillips of course that both Beth Din courts and shari’ah tribunals operate within exactly the same limitations imposed by the Arbitration Act, confined to family law and subject to the primacy of English common law.

It is interesting to note that in arguing the compliance of Beth Din courts with English law Phillips ignores the plight of Jewish women whose experiences before Beth Din courts would merit attention if the victim was Muslim and the culprit Islamic law. But in Phillips’ world, only shari’ah tribunals mistreat women and fall foul of western norms on gender equality – which paradoxically denies them the right to choose how to dress lest their free choices fly in the face of feminists who insist veiling is irreconcilable with feminism. Muslim women lose either way.

Phillips quotes Manea with enthusiasm repeating the latter’s claim that the UK has “created an “invented community” of Muslims led by Islamists whose status was inflated by the British authorities.”

It is a fantasy anyone with the smallest amount of knowledge about state relations with British Muslims in the last decade would see through. There is no “invented community” of Muslims, only British Muslims who, as citizens of liberal democracies, have organised and established civic structures much like the concept of the “Jewish community” and its communal representative bodies, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council. Or are we to believe that British Jews are an “invented community” and their status “inflated by the British authorities” for whatever purpose?

Phillips claims, “Many British Muslims are anxious to live under the legal protection of human rights. So why does the British establishment allow this parallel jurisdiction to thrive? Britain should have drawn a line in the sand over Sharia long ago.”

The logical outcome of Phillips’ diatribe against a “parallel jurisdiction” would be to outlaw Beth Din courts and shari’ah tribunals, not one or the other, but both. But that is precisely what those who agitate against shari’ah tribunals do not suggest. For them, it is only the latter that “poses a threat to the principles of democracy” though their arguments in support of the assertion owe more to anecdotes than serious research.

It is shocking how far anti-Muslim prejudice reaches to deny one religious minority, the largest in the UK (Muslims), the privileges enjoyed by another (Jews). It is a further illustration of the blinkered arguments of campaigners who fail to see that equality demands fair treatment of all religions in the UK not preferential treatment of some minority groups and active discrimination against others.


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