The Muslim Council of Britain warmly welcomes the Lord Chief Justice's valuable contribution to the discussion on the role of Islam and Muslims in Britain's legal traditions. In a scholarly speech outlining the development of the equality laws in the English legal system Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers spoke of the "widespread misunderstanding" of the nature of Sharia law.
Speaking at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel, he said "There is no reason why Sharia principles, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution [with the understanding] that any sanctions for a failure to comply with the agreed terms of mediation would be drawn from the Laws of England and Wales."
Commenting on the speech that the Archbishop of Canterbury had made in February this year, the Lord Chief Justice said, "It was not very radical to advocate embracing Sharia law in the context of family disputes, for example, and our system already goes a long way towards accommodating the Archbishop's suggestion. It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law."
Supporting the Lord Chief Justice's principled position on the issue, the MCB Secretary General said, "It is a credit to this country's strong and independent judiciary that Lord Phillips has put the demands of justice above those of the prevailing political narrative. The MCB reaffirms its commitment to the principle of equality before the law and welcomes Lord Phillips' call for Muslims to be allowed to apply elements of Islamic law to the governance of personal relationships where this does not conflict with the laws of the land. The MCB also strongly supports the appeal of the Lord Chief Justice for suitably qualified Muslims to join the judiciary."
Dr Abdul Bari, the Secretary General of the MCB reaffirmed his appeal for a thoughtful discourse on the place of certain elements of the Islamic law in the English Legal system devoid of the hysterical overreaction and misrepresentation, as was the case in relation to the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech in February this year.
Notes for Editors:
1. The Muslim Council of Britain is a representative British Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
2. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matraver, spoke at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel on 3 July 2008.
For further information please contact the MCB:
The Muslim Council of Britain,
PO Box 57330,
Tel: 0845 26 26 786
Fax: 0207 247 7079