An independent review for the Home Office has appealed for evidence about the application of sharia law in the UK. While Muslims may reasonably expect a balanced report from the Chair, Mona Siddiqui, and the inquiry is beginning with evidence from people with experience of sharia in practice, the terms in which the inquiry is framed are extraordinary. It does not begin by asking how sharia law or how the courts work, but whether sharia law isn’t dangerous and liable to misuse.
“Individuals with experience of sharia law are being urged to take part in an independent review examining whether the religious code is being misused within Britain. The government-commissioned sharia law review is exploring whether the application of sharia is incompatible with the law in England and Wales. It will also examine the ways in which the practice may be being misused, or exploited, in a way that may discriminate against certain groups, undermine shared values or cause social harms.”
I have no direct interest in sharia law, but I grew up in a world where people could always go to a rabbinical court if they chose; while I have may lots to say about the unreasonable bits in my own community’s law, I can’t see any fundamental objection to a system of mediation based in shared principles and voluntary consent. In the febrile and sometimes toxic atmosphere surrounding the current clash of cultures, a less tendentious brief might have been better judged.