Thursday, 9 June 2011

Bill introduced to place restrictions on Sharia courts

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A private members bill has been introduced into the House of Lords which would place restrictions on the use of Sharia law in England. The bill, which can be read in full on the parliamentary website, would make it a criminal offence to falsely claim that Sharia courts – which may be used for arbitration in civil disputes with the agreement of both parties – have legal jurisdiction over family or criminal law. It would also prohibit any activity "that constitutes discrimination, harassment or victimisation on grounds of sex", notably "treating the evidence of a man as worth more than the evidence of a woman", a common practice under some readings of Sharia law.

The bill has received backing from some Christian groups, including Christian Concern and the Christian Institute, and the National Secular Society, whose executive director Keith Porteous Wood spoke at the launch event:
"Laws should not impinge on religious freedoms, nor should courts judge on theological matters. By the same token, democratically determined and human rights compliant law must take precedence over the law of any religion."
The bill has been tabled by Baroness Cox, an outspoken critic of "militant Islam" who caused controversy in 2009 when she invited the Dutch MP Geert Wilders to show his film Fitna at the House of Lords.
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