Express stokes hysteria over “Shari’a Court”

Islamophobia Watch - Home - ‘Now Muslims Get Their Own Laws’

This is a response to the shocking lead story in today’s Daily Express, a disreputable newspaper which routinely leads with scare stories of this nature. The story “exposed” a voluntary Shari’a court in Dewsbury, run by local Muslim leaders, which they admit has been running since 1996 and is a registered charity (i.e. a non-profit organisation, for US readers).

The Muslim Council of Britain, in response to references to things Inayat Bunglawala has said which they claim agrees with their stance, published this statement which denies that Mr Bunglawala said these things in reference to the Express’s current story. (More from Bunglawala here.)

I would like to make my own response to specific points in this article:

  • They call the courts “controversial”. In fact, it is (as Islamophobia Watch and Inayat Bunglawala have already stated) only what the Jewish community has been doing with their Beth Din for decades. It is not a parallel legal system with the enforcing power of a court. It is only “controversial” because it has been made the subject of a hostile front-page story in a crappy newspaper.
  • The story repeatedly draws attention to the fact that the court is based in Dewsbury, where one of the July 2005 bombers came from. In fact, Muhammad Siddique Khan is only one of thousands of Muslims who live in that town, most of whom knew nothing of his and his friends’ plans (and none of his accomplices lived in Dewsbury; one of them did not even live in Yorkshire).
  • The newspaper refers to “radical Muslims” setting up the “court”. In fact, they are traditional Muslim community leaders. (My guess is that they are of the Deobandi tradition.)
  • The story makes alarming references to Islamic criminal law, which is not something this court deals with. It deals only with mediating between parties in issues such as marriage and property as a way of avoiding court proceedings, which are expensive as anyone who has been through the system will know all too well.
  • The “Sharee Council” story is linked to a stereotype-laden and inflammatory opinion piece by Leo McKinstry, which is accompanied with a picture of the London bus blown up in the July 2005 bombings. Since the occasion is that the Express have suddenly discovered that there are voluntary councils set up for Muslims to settle their disputes, the image is totally irrelevant and can only serve to alarm and arouse suspicion.

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