The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal has take advantage of Section 1 of the Arbitration Act 1996 which allows individuals to nominate any third party to settle their argument. It says: “The parties should be free to agree how their disputes are resolved, subject only to such safeguards as are necessary in the public interest”.
In the Telegraph, Dr Nazir-Ali asked how we could be certain the parties had submitted to the rule of the arbitration tribunals willingly, particularly in the case of women. He said: “Both in terms of submission to a tribunal and in accepting its decisions, are women genuinely free, or is it possible that there are elements of coercion?”
The bishop also questioned how the rulings themselves could be reconciled with British law, based on such different values. In the cases of alimony, division of estate and marriage, he points out stark differences between Sharia law and that of the land which supposedly now supports it.
Also in the Telegraph, Joshua Rozenberg investigates the veracity of the reports which received much attention in the last fortnight. He said: “The tribunal, which was established in 2007, says it operates ‘within the legal framework of England and Wales’. When sitting, it must have at least two members, one a scholar of Islamic sacred law and the other a solicitor or barrister registered to practise in England and Wales.”
The Bishop of Rochester said: “This is not a time to flinch, but to uphold the hard-won liberties of this country for all of its citizens, whatever their creed or colour.”