Sharia law — sacred law for Muslims — has been allowed to function in an official way in this country since 1998. This was when Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (MATs) were set up and allowed the same legal sanctions as other types of tribunals.
This came about because we then had a Labour government which was encouraging the large scale immigration of Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh and saw the new residents as automatic votes for Labour — which they largely have been. Thus Labour became Muslim-friendly in a way that hadn’t happened before when ‘British’ Caribbean blacks started coming into the country at a slower pace in the 1960s.
By all means, Muslim immigrants in this country should be allowed –just like every other citizen — to run whatever organisations they want in their leisure time, but the MAIs should never have been given the partial legal status that they have — that is, precedence over British law on several issues such as inheritance, divorce and family discipline. Although anything approaching serious offences were not handed over to MAIs and, of course, remain the province of British police and British courts of law, MAIs were a step too far.
As to the government allowing a British District Judge, Shamim Qureshi, who sits at Bristol Crown Court, to double as “presiding judge” at a MAI as was conceded yesterday, this is going a step too far. It is only delaying the ultimate absorption of Muslims within the culture of this country.