Are Sharia Tribunals Coming to Your Town?

Are Sharia Tribunals Coming to Your Town?

Are Sharia Tribunals Coming to Your Town?

Recent news of an Islamic “sharia court” in the Dallas area raised alarms but once PolitiFact-TexasSnopes, and Dallas Morning News reporters accepted sharia judge assurances that the tribunal is essentially just mediating marital and contract disputes, alarm subsided.

However, since the Islamic Tribunal website announces that the Dallas sharia center is a model and will serve to “set a precedence (sic) that will be emulated and duplicated throughout the country,” Americans should persist in getting answers to some deeper questions before assenting to a sharia tribunal franchise.

If sister sharia “councils” in the UK and the EU are instructive, this tribunal’s protestations that proceedings comply with the law of the land are false. Undercover investigations and policy center studies across the pond reveal that the sharia councils operate as counter-cultural and unlawful parallel civil — sometimes criminal – courts. Normalization of similarly operating sharia centers in the U.S. would be like embracing apartheid courts in this country.

To be sure, the Dallas sharia “judges” have now defined the operation as “non-binding” arbitration but this may be a clever way of trying to exist in the ambiguous space between regulated arbitration and advice-only mediation services.

As in Great Britain, these sharia functionaries may posture according to political convenience. A recent investigation by the UK Bow Group, commissioned by a British House of Lords Peer Caroline Cox and titled A Parallel World: Confronting The Abuse of Many Muslim Women in Britain Today, shows that the sharia “mediation councils” (there is no non-binding arbitration designation in Britain) also internally “call themselves courts and the presiding imams are called judges.” The sharia pronouncements “are seen to be legal judgments.”

The BBC recently conducted an undercover investigation at one of the estimated 85 sharia tribunals in the UK. A female reporter posing as a Muslim wife complained that her husband was hitting her and the Islamic counselor advised her to “be courageous” and ask whether her husband was upset by her cooking or because she sees her friends. He cautioned the woman to only go to the police as a “very last resort.”

In another investigation, two imams from British sharia centers agreed to officiate marriages in 2012 for 12 year old girls to men in their twenties.

According to BBC News, increasing numbers of Muslims are turning to tribunals to resolve family and contract disputes. These tribunals reported as of January 2012 that they addressed an average of 200 to 300 cases monthly. Many Muslim women are forced into sharia tribunals since their marriage records are not filed with civil authorities.


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