Monday, April 30, 2007

Daily Express - Hysterical Nonsense?

Splashed across the front page of today's Daily Express is a story about Sharia courts in Britain. The express headline reads: "NOW MUSLIMS GET THEIR OWN LAWS IN BRITAIN". Quite obviously, the headline is intended to cause concern. Even the use of the word "Now" is, presumably, designed to imply that this is another step in a process. The question is, though, is there any merit to this story?

The article itself doesn't carry very much new information. It simply tells us that there are Sharia courts operating in the major cities of the UK. We already knew that. Back in November the BBC investigated the Sharia courts of Britain and found them to be little different to the Jewish courts that have operated in this country for decades. They are religious courts of arbitration. Their decisions are legally binding under the Arbitration Act 1996 (not sure what happened before then).

Clearly, so long as these courts are dealing merely with civil cases, and the two parties agree to be bound by the court's decision, there is nothing to discuss. However, should the courts be dealing with criminal cases then this is a different matter. The Express report makes no mention of any criminal cases being judged by these Sharia courts. Certainly, no new laws have been invented for Muslims as the headline implies.

This article appears to nothing other than a cheap attempt to gain readers with an apparently shocking "exclusive". However, there is nothing new in the article. As proof of the purpose and stupidity of this article one need look no further than the following paragraph:

The Daily Express can reveal that one of the controversial courts has been set up in the home town of the 7/7 London bombings ringleader.
Is this a revelation? No; it's a pathetic attempt to link a perfectly valid court of arbitration to a terrorist act. There are real problems within the Muslim community, but inventing new ones to sell papers is to do a disservice to the entire country. Shame on them.