Back in 1996, the United Kingdom (Britain) passed a piece of legislationÂ called the Arbitration Act. Â The idea was to let citizens settle certain disputes among themselves rather than taking the matter to an official court. Â The law allows an “outside court” as it were, do the work along with the provision that whatever agreement is reached must be binding according to British law.
Fast forward a couple decades, and with the influx of so many Muslims, full fledged Sharia courts, or tribunals, have bloomed in England. Â The problem: Sharia courts do not give a fig for the home country’s laws. Â Most specifically, there is zero respect for the British law that ensures women’s rights. Â That has Baroness Caroline Cox, a member of the House of Lords, not in a charitable mood. Â Last month, she published a 40-page report via The Bow Group titled “A Parallel World: Confronting the abuse of many Muslim women in Britain today.” Â In the preface, she writes:
While wholeheartedly endorsing freedom of religion, I am deeply concerned at the problems faced by women and girls in Britain who are suffering from religiously-sanctioned gender discrimination.
I have sat and wept with those who are oppressed, abused and treated as second class citizens. One Muslim woman told me: â€œI feel betrayed by Britain. I came here to get away from this and the situation is worse here than in the country I escaped fromâ€.
Sharia courts have taken full advantage of the Arbitration Act and have been regularly treating Muslim women in Britain like second class citizens. Â The problem Baroness Cox has is not so much the freedom of religion aspect of the matter, but that women may not understand that in Britain Sharia Court decisions may not be legally binding. Â From The Gatestone Institute:
Muslim women, who may lack knowledge of both the English language and their rights under British law, are often pressured by their families to use Sharia courts. These courts often coerce them to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions, which are imposed and viewed as legal judgments.
That was not the intent of the Arbitration Act. Â As usual with Muslims that is the tact they have taken though, and the women suffer as a result. Â The report outlines the number of ways the Muslim Imams have simply taken over law enforcement within their own communities many times through mosques.
…Sharia forums are understood to be operating out of mosques around the country or through other arrangements, such as meetings of community elders, which are being presented within particular communities as making authoritative and legally binding rulings. British Indian author and journalist Edna Fernandes, after her own investigation, concluded that â€œscores more imams dispense justice through their own mosquesâ€ and that â€œsharia is being used informally within the Muslim community to tackle crime such as gang fights or stabbings, bypassing police and the British court systemâ€.
Britain is now experiencing what the United States is facing if the concept of Sharia Courts is not addressed and soundly squelched. Â For women, the specific issues faced that are outlined in the report are ostracization, threats, intimidation, claims that Sharia Law takes precedence over civil law, etc. Â Because of the cultural influences and deliberate isolation, girls and women suffering from domestic violence, marriages that are not legally binding in Britain, and those who are in polygamous marriages and do not wish to be are very reluctant to go to civil authorities for help.
Interesting facts from a study of 50 Muslim women in the British West Midlands are:
Around 90 per cent of those who identified as being â€˜marriedâ€™ were not in marriages legally recognised by English law. Of these women, over half were not aware that they do not have the same rights as they would have with a civil marriage.
Some of the women interviewed assumed that, because the Nikah (Islamic wedding ceremony) had taken place in the UK, it automatically counted as a valid marriage.
Two thirds of those who identified as being married said their â€˜husbandâ€™ has more than one â€˜wifeâ€™.
In mainstream Islam, a husband does not have to undertake the same process as the wife when seeking a Talaq (Islamic divorce). He merely has to say â€œI divorce youâ€ three times, whereas the wife must meet various conditions and pay a fee.
Some of the women interviewed, when speaking of their own Talaq proceedings, specifically referred to their lack of legal protection after discovering that their Nikah did not constitute a valid marriage under English law.
In this way, Sharia Law does not serve women well, and certainly not as equal to men save the natural differences God gave us.
In addition to the summary of abuses toward women and violations of the British Arbitration Act outlined in the summary, there are a number of testimonials in the second segment of the report telling of Muslim women applying for divorce in Sharia Court and not being granted their freedom despite the husband having moved on, non-consent, and more. Â There are stories of women being told they must surrender their children. Â There is clear demonstration that using the Sharia Courts and Councils over civil authorities in Britain does not serve these women’s interests.
Â â€œI feel betrayed by Britain. I came here to get away from this and the situation is worse here than in the country I escaped fromâ€.
Baroness Cox has taken on the challenge of getting British law changed to better serve these women. Â The third part of her report includes recommendations for Britain taking back authority. Â So far, interest in Britain for correcting the problem exists, but it does not seem to be a priority. Â Cox will be introducing a bill in the upcoming Parliament to address these issues.
“The government’s response will be a litmus test of the extent to which it genuinely upholds the principle of equality before the law or is so dominated by the fear of ‘giving offense’ that it will continue to allow these women to suffer in ways which would make our suffragettes turn in their graves.”
Would that American feminists feel the same.