Yesterday, I told you about the controversy involving the Bishop of Canterbury's call for Sharia law in the UK.
Today, the Times of London reports that Sharia courts are already is a fact of life in the UK and has been used even in violent disputes.
Sharia courts have already spread across Britain and are being used as an alternative and informal legal system by many British Muslims.
Unofficial Sharia courts, such as those run by the Islamic Sharia Council, hear cases across the country from Leyton in East London to Dewsbury in Yorkshire.
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The first court started in Birmingham in 1982. There are now about ten courts, with three in London and others in Birmingham, Rotherham and Dewsbury. They cater to Muslims of various ethnic backgrounds, mainly from the Indian sub-continent, but also many from Arab and Somalian backgrounds.
Though their rulings have no basis in law, participants abide by them voluntarily and often settle their disputes without referral to British law authorities.
Most cases relate to matrimonial issues. An Islamic Council based in Leyton, East London, says that 95 per cent of about 7,000 cases the council had dealt with since it opened in 1982 dealt with divorce – specifically, with releasing women from bad or forced Islamic marriages.
Though rare, some British Muslims have used these courts as an alternative to English criminal law. Ayda-rus Yusuf, a youth worker from Soma-lia, told BBC Radio 4 last year that a stabbing case was decided upon by an unofficial “court” sitting in Woolwich, southeast London.
He told the Law in Action programme that a group of Somali youths were arrested on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager. The victim’s family told the police it would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail.
A hearing was allegedly held with elders deciding that the assailants should compensate the victim.