The Sun and Daily Mail have reported on comments made by crossbencher Baroness Caroline Cox at a House of Lords conference on shari’ah law. Both the Daily Mail and the Sun published their articles online but have now removed them from their sites.
The Siasat Daily published an article based on the initial report in the Daily Mail:
“Brutal punishments like whipping and stoning could become widespread in Britain if Islamic Sharia law is allowed to thrive, a member of the House of Lords has warned.
“Baroness Cox said a growing number of British Muslims are shunning the official court system in favour of Sharia councils to settle legal disputes.
“She told a House of Lords conference this could even lead to the destruction of democracy and fuel support for far-right groups like the British National Party, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.
“Baroness Cox has been one of the most outspoken campaigners against the growth of Islamic law in Britain.
"British Muslims have been able to turn to Sharia courts since 1982.
“A study estimated that at least 85 Islamic sharia courts were operating in Britain”.
Baroness Cox was behind the introduction of the bill on shari’ah councils in Parliament last summer. Her comments, although not surprising are highly alarmist given the actual workings of shari’ah councils in the UK.
Shari’ah councils are mandated and governed by the 1996 Arbitration Act which permits the use of alternative religious courts for arbitration in matters under civil law. According to the Arbitration Act, as spelt out by the former Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, “…No court will endorse an agreement which conflicts with English law.
“But given the fact that speculation abounds on this point, let me say once again: There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Sharia principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law. There is no question about that. But English law will always remain supreme, and religious councils subservient to it.”
The plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears with Baroness Cox repeating many of the canards that are associated with those critical of shari’ah councils. Claims such as “Brutal punishments like whipping and stoning becom[ing] widespread in Britain if Islamic Sharia law is allowed to thrive”. The claims are all the more ludicrous and inflammatory because shari’ah councils deal only in matters of civil law, not criminal law. One can’t help but think that the Baroness uses outlandish claims on “whipping and stoning” to deliberately obfuscate the actual, and pretty mundane, work undertaken by the councils.
Perhaps more disturbing is the Baroness’s implying that Muslims are the architects of their own misfortune. The BNP’s rise and wrath is the product of Muslims use of shari’ah councils seems to be the Baroness’s argument. Would she then contend that British Jewish community fuels support for the BNP through its use of Beth Din courts?
The Daily Mail earlier this week printed an article on ‘Muslim support for ‘honour’ crimes’, a story it was forced to rephrase after the ‘Muslim’ facet of its report turned out to be false.
All the more worrying is the fact that the Daily Mail is one of the most popular news websites in the world. Such a reach carries with it a huge potential to counter prejudice and popular antipathy for minority groups in society. It’s a shame that the Daily Mail prefers to use its reader base to fuel support for the far right and its purported defence of western countries against the threat of ‘Islamisation’.
UPDATE: Further to the publication and subsequent removal of the Daily Mail and Sun articles on Baroness Cox’s recent comments on shari’ah law, the Church of England Newspaper has published an article about the Christian Broadcasting Council event at the House of Lords where Baroness Cox spoke. The paper has also posted a video on Youtube of Baroness Cox speaking about her concerns on shari’ah law and shari’ah tribunals in the UK. The video is available to view here.
You can write to Baroness Cox to convey your thoughts on her views as expressed at the CBC event and to the Church of England newspaper via WriteToThem.com.
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