By Richard Edwards, Crime Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:55AM BST 16 Sep 2008
Five sharia courts have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester and Nuneaton, Warwickshire. The government has quietly sanctioned that their rulings are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously, the rulings were not binding and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.
Lawyers have issued grave warnings about the dangers of a dual legal system and the disclosure drew criticism from Opposition leaders.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: “If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so.”
Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, added: “I think it’s appalling. I don’t think arbitration that is done by sharia should ever be endorsed or enforced by the British state.”
Muslim tribunal courts started passing sharia judgments in August 2007. They have dealt with more than 100 cases that range from Muslim divorce and inheritance to nuisance neighbours.
It has also emerged that tribunal courts have settled six cases of domestic violence between married couples, working in tandem with the police investigations.