Domestic Violence and Sharia, the UK versus Saudi Arabia

The UK's system of sharia courts seems to be undermining the criminal law against domestic violence among British Muslims, while the Saudis introduce a new innovation in whipping.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | November 1, 2016

The British legal system has gone a march farther than the American one in assimilating itself to sharia.  In America, sharia courts have generally operated on an underground basis, allegedly fully voluntary, but frequently involving enforced ignorance among immigrant populations that they have a right to appeal to the official legal courts.  The UK, by contrast, has official, operating sharia courts charged with, among other things, sorting out family law matters.  Now a group of Muslim women charge that these sharia courts are systematically undermining domestic violence protections for Muslim women in the United Kingdom.

According to the [Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (Mat)] website, the body cannot deal with criminal offences, but ‘where there are criminal charges such as assault within the context of domestic violence, the parties can ask Mat to assist in reaching reconciliation.

‘The terms of such a reconciliation can then be passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)  through the local Police Domestic Violence Liaison Officers with a view to reconsidering the criminal charges.’

But Southall Black Sisters, a women’s rights group, argues that Mat is effectively ‘sabotaging criminal proceedings’ against men accused of domestic violence by asking the CPS to ‘reconsider’ any charges.

The way this works, according to the sisters, is that the Mat first pressures the women to ‘reconcile’ with their husbands according to the tribunal’s arbitration.  It then presents documentation of this reconciliation to the official courts, and asks the courts to reconsider bringing any sort of criminal charges against the Muslim man.  The courts are apparently regularly willing to grant this request, as it reduces the load on the official court system, keeps the Muslim minority happy, and avoids an embarrassing conflict for any non-Muslims who might be charged with Islamophobia.

Fear of false charges of “Islamophobia” or hate crimes against Muslims has featured in a number of critical cases in the United Kingdom.  In the most infamous, it was this fear that stopped police in Rotherham from stepping in to stop a child rape ring that was ongoing for more than a decade, though it was repeatedly brought to their attention.

In the case of domestic violence, the sisters say, the courts offer the government an official endorsement that they are doing the right thing by Muslim women.  However, the sisters add, “Sharia councils and the Mat hold themselves out to be ‘courts of law’ but they are in fact highly arbitrary… [and] use dominant, patriarchal and authoritarian interpretations of Muslim codes which are passed off as ‘sharia’ laws.'”  This official inability to distinguish between what is and is not ‘true’ sharia gives these courts cover to do what they wish, and allows the British criminal courts to dodge taking up criminal charges against Muslim men that would expose the underbelly of domestic violence against women.

Ironically, a sharia court in Saudi Arabia has taken a harder line on abuse of wives than even the British criminal courts would likely do.  To the fury and humiliation of Saudi men, the court has agreed to a wife’s request that she be allowed to watch her husband’s judicially-ordered flogging for his abuse of her.  The court had ordered him to receive 60 lashes, half as punishment for his offense and half as “reparation” for her.  She sensibly requested to observe this process, given that it was meant to be her recompense for the abuse she suffered at his hands.

It is worth noting, however, that the Saudi husband bit his wife.  If he had beaten her, he would probably have not suffered any sentence at all.  Saudi men are thought to have a legal right to beat their women “moderately,” a right that is derived from longstanding readings of sharia.  The Saudi government has very recently taken the step of passing a law against wife-beating.  However, there remains an open question as to whether this law can supersede sharia’s permission to beat one’s wife.  Some Saudi imams have argued that the permission to beat one’s wife, within certain limits, is inherent in the faith.  It remains to be seen how this dispute will be resolved by the legal system.



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