The Guardian, Afua Hirsch
Muslim Arbitration Tribunal reports 15% rise in non-Muslims employing sharia law in commercial cases
Campaigners have voiced concerns over a growing number of non-Muslims using Islamic law to resolve legal disputes in Britain despite controversy over the role of sharia law.
A spokesman for the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT) said that there had been a 15% rise in the number of non-Muslims using sharia arbitrations in commercial cases this year. Last year, more than 20 non-Muslims chose to arbitrate cases at the network of tribunals, which operate in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Nuneaton and Luton. “We are offering a cheap and effective service for Muslim and non-Muslims,” said MAT spokesperson Fareed Chedie.
“95% of the people who come to us for arbitration do not feel they need legal representation.” Chedie said that tribunals deal mainly with civil and commercial cases, including mosque disputes referred by the Charity Commission. But the tribunals have also continued to hear cases in the field of family law and divorce, Chedie said.
“We are increasingly dealing with reconciliation and mediation in marriage,” said Chedie. “Many of these are cases where women have petitioned because they have a difficult marriage and want some guidance and direction. If they then want to terminate the marriage then we can help with that.”
The increase in marriage and divorce cases comes as one law firm has begun offering advice on civil Scots law and sharia law, making it the first in Britain to offer both civil and Islamic law as part of one service.
Glasgow law firm Hamilton Burns says that it is responding to a greater demand from Muslim clients who want advice on sharia law alongside civil advice under Scots law. It has teamed up with Shaykh Amer Jamil, a Muslim scholar who specialises in Islamic family law.
“We hope that by incorporating sharia family jurisprudence against a background of domestic Scottish legislation, we can provide our clients with as much relevant information as possible,” said Niall Mickel, a solicitor advocate and managing partner at Hamilton Burns. [more]