More British Muslims seeking Islamic law
Many British Muslims resort to sharia courts to seek ‘divine’ aspect of marriage, divorce.
By Cyril Belaud - LONDON
Many Britons reacted with alarm at a suggestion by the Church of England's top cleric this month that the country could adopt aspects of the Islamic code.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has faced calls to resign, while political leaders distanced themselves from his controversial views, insisting that domestic law must take precedent.
But by saying that incorporating parts of sharia law seemed "unavoidable" in certain circumstances, he shed light on the fact that Muslims here have long been turning to the Islamic code.
There are about a dozen sharia courts in Britain -- although they have no formal legal status -- and are mainly used to resolve non-criminal, and particularly family, disputes.
The biggest is the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, east London. Since it was set up in 1982, it has dealt with 7,000 divorce cases in accordance with Koranic values.
"We act as a religious court, which means deciding about their dispute and giving them written determination, based on sharia, Islamic principals and jurisprudence," said one of its founders, Mufti Barkatullah.
The council is not a substitute for the civil courts but provides an "additional" service, granting or refusing an Islamic divorce -- or talaq.
"People who live in the United Kingdom undertake and abide by the law of the land, but they regard those laws as administrative law, not a divine law," Barkatullah said.
"The matters of marriage and divorce don't fall into the state domain. It is a religious matter."
1) More British Muslims seeking Islamic law