Voice in the Wilderness

    This is Baroness Cox. She was created a peer by Margaret Thatcher many years ago but was eventually expelled from the Conservative Party for some maverick pronouncement and has been a tirelessly busy crossbencher ever since. She was one of the sponsors responsible for getting Geert Wilders’ film Fitna screened in the House of Lords.

Lady Cox is currently in the news because of a Private Member’s Bill she introduced in the House of Lords, aimed at curbing the creeping power of Sharia councils acting as courts of law. Her Bill may get a sympathetic hearing in the Lords but the likelihood of it being debated in the Commons are slim. Which brings me to this…

Last week the Ministry of Justice announced that it was abandoning its inquiry into the role of Sharia courts. Actually, what it announced was that there had never really been an inquiry as such, but rather an exploratory study of what challenges a hypothetical future inquiry might face. An impenetrable stone wall, apparently.

Sharia councils  – it’s estimated there are more than 80 of them in England but no-one knows the numbers for sure –  were too busy to co-operate with the Ministry of Justice, so the MOJ folded its hand and called it a day.

So here’s the thing. We have a legal system in the United Kingdom. It’s called Common Law and we’ve been perfecting it since the 12th century. A Sharia council is like a sectarian small claims’ court, the kind of thing that could be convened at short notice under a date palm to decide who has good title to a disputed goat. It should have absolutely no jurisdiction in the United Kingdom over criminal or family law but many Muslims believe it does and should and shall do evermore.

The Ministry of Justice, which used to go by the less Orwellian title of Lord Chancellor’s Department, is proving to be a toothless and cowardly old lion. I talk to my English friends about this topic and no-one seems able to stir themselves. The prevailing view is that a victory for Sharia is a foregone conclusion so, you know, why get your knickers in a twist? And that leaves us with this…

   Everyone happy with that?

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