Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Martin Bentham, Home Affairs Editor
Sharia law "courts" are already dealing with crime on the streets of London, it has emerged.
The revelation came after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, called for an "accommodation" with parts of the Islamic legal code in a speech which attracted widespread condemnation.
The Archbishop said parts of civil law could be dealt with under the sharia system but already some communities have gone much further - and it was revealed today that a teenage stabbing case among the Somali community in Woolwich had been dealt with by a sharia "trial".
Youth worker Aydarus Yusuf, 29, who was involved in setting up the hearing, said a group of Somali youths were arrested by police on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager.
The victim's family told officers the matter would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail. A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate the victim.
"All their uncles and their fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf. "So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing."
An Islamic Council in Leyton also revealed that it had dealt with more than 7,000 divorces while sharia courts in the capital have settled hundreds of financial disputes.
Today's revelations came as controversy raged over Dr Williams's call for parts of sharia law to be adopted in Britain.
His comments were condemned by Downing Street, the Tories and the chairman of the Government's Equalities and Human Rights Commission. They were described as a "recipe for chaos" by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.
Along with the Islamic Council in Leyton, there are reports of at least two other sharia courts sitting in London. There are also courts in a number of other areas of the country with high Muslim populations, including Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, Birmingham and Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
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