Mrs May and Sharia

I was quite irritated this evening to find an old hostile report by Nick Gutteridge in the Express re-peddled on the web about Mrs May’s general comments regarding Sharia law. Clearly, the Express was trying to stir up some sort of Islamaphobia and it is wrong.

It describes Sharia law as “drawn from the Koran and various fatwas”, and suggests about 100 such lawcourts are active in the UK today. The use of the word “fatwa”is designed to provoke fear, because for the readers of the Express, the word “fatwa” means only one thing. It is what happened to the man who wrote “the Satanic Verses” Salman Rushdie. And, I wonder how many readers of the Express have ever bothered to read “the Satanic Verses”?

The Express has a long history, founded by Pearson and passed to Beaverbrook during the 1st World war-  in the past was the paper of choice for many. Today, it lurks in the gutter with the Star and the Sun and, of course, is known to have supported the baser elements of UKIP. But when it was first launched in 1900, it was revolutionary in cutting advertising from its front pages. It was the news that was wanted and that’s what the Express provided. Bravo!

Lord Beaverbrook admittedly thought of it as little more than a broadsheet for promoting propaganda, often for the Government- so it enthusiastically embraced Appeasement in the run up to 1939.

Still, I am also very fond of Rupert Bear and Giles both of which were launched by the paper and Andrew Marr was a former columnist.

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By the 1960s, it had taken on a slightly aggressive stance and the Duke of Edinburgh was apparently quoted calling it “a bloody awful newspaper. It is full of lies, scandal and imagination. It is a vicious paper”. It has done the same thing more recently, launching a crusade against East Europeans- “Britain is full and fed up. Today join your Daily Express Crusade to stop new flood of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants”. Horrible!

Anyway, this is how the Express quoted Theresa May,

“Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit a great deal from the guidance they offer.

“A number of women have reportedly been victims of what appear to be discriminatory decisions taken by Sharia councils, and that is a significant concern.

“There is only one rule of law in our country, which provides rights and security for every citizen.

“Professor Siddiqui, supported by a panel with a strong balance of academic, religious and legal expertise, will help us better understand whether and the extent to which Sharia law is being misused or exploited and make recommendations to the Government on how to address this.”

Now to Sharia law:

Feirstly, Sharia is derived from the Koran and the Hadiths. Not from Fatwas as the Express claims. There are a variety of schools of interpretation – Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Jarafi and Hanbali. It stretches from specific rules instituted by the Prophet to Urf, or customs which may well be in conflict with primary texts and open to debate. Urf is what we would regard as “common law”.

We already have a limited use of Sharia, as we have a limited use of catholic canon law in the UK, particularly with reference to divorce or annulment, but the religious ruling does not and cannot replace the civil act.

Theresa May is talking about the positive influence of Religion on the lives of many people in the UK and across the world. The express is whipping up Islamophobia by referring to the appalling treatment of women in certain societies- certainly not imposed by the Koran, but possibly covered by local customs, Urf. The Express should be  careful in what it says.

I think we should be positive about Sharia, while respecting its limited use within our society. Of course, we cannot allow people to abuse others under the excuse of following some interpretations of Sharia and I doubt most imams would advocate this.

Theresa May is right of course!

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