Tag Archives: Justice

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.

Justice

Sometimes there is a little bit of justice. This morning I was coming down the Barkham Road to work, and on the 40mph stretch stuck to 40mph as usual. As is often the case at rush hour I had an idiot behind me, who I can only assume was late for something. Suffice to say he was doing the usual driving too close, and periodically popping out to see if he could overtake. The moment of poetic justice though, was the point where he actually chose to do it. If you know the road, you’ll know that the stretch down the hill just after the Guide Dogs for the Blind building is straight, and with a clear view ahead, so this was the point he chose to roar past. Of course the other thing about the stretch is that it is in a built up area, often busy with children walking to school if this weren’t the school holiday, and has a number of fairly busy side turnings. As a result it has a 30mph limit and a speed camera. I have to say that there is a certain satisfaction when an idiot like that proves it even more by only spotting the bright yellow painted speed camera quite as late as he did… He did manage to slam his brakes on before the camera, but only just.

Needless to say, the idotic overtake and potential points on his licence didn’t gain him much at all, and I was not far behind him all the rest of my way to work. He just ended up following the car ahead instead of following me.