Taking advantage of the 1996 Arbitration Act, a new network of sharia law courts in Britain have legal authority in some marriage, financial, inheritance, or domestic violence disputes. Even the UK's High Court must enforce the decisions of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal panels set up in five major cities.
The lawyer who set up the courts last Summer explained:
We realized that under the Arbitration Act we can make rulings which can be enforced by county and High Courts. The Act allows disputes to be resolved using alternatives like tribunals. This method is called alternative dispute resolution, which for Muslims is what the sharia courts are.
To see how the panels' decisions can impact women differently than men,
In a recent inheritance case, two sons got twice as much as the daughter according to sharia law. And in domestic abuse cases, which are usually treated as criminal cases in Britain, husbands were ordered to take anger management and receive mentoring from elders.
Businesses use alternative dispute resolution contracts all the time — perhaps the Muslim community just wants to work towards more expedient and culturally appropriate results, too. Even so, should rules based on Muslim or other religious law be signaled out as an unacceptable basis for alternative dispute resolution?