Tag Archives: English

Inside a Sharia Court

I’ve just watched an episode of This World on BBC2 entitled ‘Inside a Sharia Court‘. The programme starts from the premise that a number of British Muslims would like to see Sharia Law implemented in the UK, and that since most westerners understanding of the practice is in terms of the stoning and amputations the programme set out to look at a place where Sharia Law already exists alongside British law, in certain parts of Nigeria.

In Nigeria, Sharia Law applies only to Muslims, indeed even Muslims can appeal their case back into the regular legal system. According to the programme the only two amputations there have been for theft were people who refused their right to appeal and opted to take the Sharia Law sentence. On the ground it seems very popular, but when part way through the programme you see a Christian man who is fighting a case against a Muslim through the regular courts you can understand why. In the regular courts business is conducted in English, a language the man doesn’t understand, and more than that the case is bogged down in legal technicalities. Compare that with the Sharia court where at one point the judge gets through four cases in half and hour, and lawyers are generally not involved and you can see the difference. For the normal person on the ground, the legal system is expensive and inaccessible, whereas the Sharia courts give them swift justice.

Having said that, is it necessarily fair? One case that is shown is a man accused of theft. The prosecutor has no witnesses to the crime, indeed offers no evidence at all. The man confessed, but in his testimony said that he confessed after being beaten and tortured by the Police. The judge offers him a choice of ten lashes or a prison sentence for his crime – he opts for the lashes. The programme also discusses how accusations of rape are handled – the judge states that a woman must report it immediately, and be able to produce four witnesses otherwise her crime is regarded as adultery.

By the end of the programme, the presenter seems at least in part convinced by the merits of Sharia Law and thinking that it might work for British Muslims in the UK.

For my part I think that you need to separate the particular laws from the process. Even in the UK the issues of the mainstream legal system in Nigera are present – what the Sharia system is providing is justice for simple matters at a much lower level, without the formality of a full court case. As an example, a friend is currently having a boundary dispute over his property – and has been quoted a pretty well unaffordable rate for the solicitors he needs to sort it out. In Nigeria, these kinds of disputes are handled by the Sharia court. I doubt that a system that dishes out public floggings and amputations as punishment would ever be acceptable to most British people, but certainly a system that allows the average person to quickly and simply sort out legal disputes would be very welcome.

What Happens when you let an English teacher loose in a Shop Full of Cheap Books

Beth spent yesterday at a training course held by a major book publisher in London. Whilst she was there, she discovered that the publisher has a staff bookshop, which offers their books at significantly reduced prices. She asked the course supervisor whether she as a visitor was allowed to buy books from the shop and was told yes, as long as she remembered that she had to carry them all home! Needless to say when I picked Beth up on the way home from work her bag was somewhat heavier than when she left…

Whose Language is it Anyway?

Over the past couple of days I’ve been having one of my periodic frustrations with Microsoft Excel. This time it was down to date formatting. Basically I was asked to produce a VBA macro that saved off the contents of one worksheet to a CSV file.

This is in theory pretty straightforward as Excel has an option on the Save dialog to save in CSV format. However I didn’t bargain on the complications of Excel.

One of the common problem areas that people come across on Excel relates to it being a US product, so by default it will use the confusing US numeric date format, of mm/dd/yy. As a result we will always ensure that all of our dates are defined with a textual month, which avoids too many problems, we also ensure that the international settings are set to UK, which usually avoids problems. When you save out a CSV manually, the dates come out fine. However when you do the same thing in a VBA macro it ignores the settings, and converts everything to the US numeric date format.

After some digging around, I found that this is because VBA maintains a different language setting, so although I was working on a UK English machine, with fully UK English settings, VBA was in US English.

Having found this out, I then tried to force VBA into UK English, not possible as the language libraries are separate too. So this morning I got a copy of the VBA Software Development Kit, complete with language files. I ran through the install, and got to the screen where it allows me to choose the language in which to install VBA:

Language Choice

As you can see, not much of a choice at all – the only English provided is US English. If I want to get the dates to save in any other way than the confusing US numeric dates, I have to manually output the file.

As one respondant to a similar query about dates online said VBA is very US centric…