Non-Muslims Turn to Shariah Courts in UK to Resolve Civil Disputes
Posted Jul 21, 2009 11:22 AM CST
By Martha Neil
Shariah courts in the United Kingdom aren't just being used by Muslims. A small but growing number of non-Muslims also are turning to the religious tribunals to resolve commercial disputes and other civil matters.
The tribunals, which apply Islamic law based on the Koran, can offer a swifter resolution than the British courts, and commonly recognize oral agreements in a business setting, according to the London Times. As with arbitration, the rulings of the religious tribunals can be enforced under British law if the parties agree at the outset to be bound by the them.
The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal tells the newspaper that 5 percent of its cases involve non-Muslims.
In one case last month, a non-Muslim sought the court's help in resolving a dispute with his Muslim business partner concerning profits from their company. The non-Muslim alleged an oral agreement—and the court agreed that it existed, based on the Muslim partner's conduct, says Freed Chedie. He is a spokesman for barrister Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siqqiqi, who established the tribunal.
The non-Muslim was awarded 48,000 pounds (or about $79,000 in U.S. dollars).
The growing popularity of Shariah courts among both Muslims and non-Muslims in the U.K. has been controversial. Opponents express concerns that they can undermine important British legal traditions, such as providing women with the same civil rights as men.
Earlier related coverage:
ABAJournal.com: "Islamic Court Rulings are Enforceable in the United Kingdom"