Sharia law ‘could be used in UK’, senior judge says

One of Britain’s senior judges has suggested that sharia law could have a role to play in mediation in the UK.

Lord Chief Justice Nicholas Phillips made the suggestion at a speech to the East London Muslim Centre last night.

He said sharia law was like any other religious code in that it could be used “as the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution”.

Lord Chief Justice Phillips added: “It must be recognised, however, that any sanctions for a failure to comply with the agreed terms of mediation would be drawn from the laws of England and Wales.”

The remarks follow outrage over Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams’ prediction earlier this year that sharia law would be widely adopted in Britain in the future.

Dr Williams said there was a place for “constructive accommodation” of Islamic law in areas such as divorce in February.

Islamic Sharia law is a legal and social code, derived from the Koran, designed to help Muslims live their daily lives.

However, its implementation has proved controversial in the west, particularly as a result of the extreme nature of some of its punishments for disobedience.

At present orthodox Jewish courts, the Beth Din, operate in the UK and pass judgment in civil disputes – covering issues as diverse as business and divorce.

The theme of relations between the wider Muslim community and the rest of British society was picked up by international development minister Shahid Malik last night.

He said many Muslims in Britain today “feel like the Jews of Europe” in the way it feels legitimate to target them, while making clear he is not comparing present-day Muslims to victims of the Holocaust.

The comments feature as part of Channel 4 programme Dispatches, to be broadcast on Monday.