When Pope John Paul II died, a friend of mine was angry that Match of the Day was cancelled. I bear no grievance towards Baroness Thatcher, whose passing necessitated the cancellation of a Panorama exposé of Britain’s Sharia courts, but, still, it was a shame. A great many of these institutions are places in which, as I have written, our theocratic ideologues can act as if they live in an Islamic state. It is where they can do actual harm.
The Islamic Sharia Council is the biggest Sharia body operating in Britain. The officialdom includes Maulana Abu Sayeed, Suhaib Hasan and Haitham al-Haddad. Sayeed, its President, was charged with involvement in war crimes in his homeland of Bangladesh, has has said that rape is “impossible” within marriages. Hasan, its Secretary, was recorded by Undercover Mosque preaching that “the Khilaafah” will have “political dominance”; establish “the chopping of the hands of the thieves, the flogging of the adulterers and flogging of the drunkards” and wage “jihad against the non-Muslims”.
Al-Haddad, who represents the Council in the media, is a regular target of this blog. One might think that I have something personal against him, but while I loathe his ideas I do not feel great animus towards him as a man. Unless he is a great actor, he is a sincere fellow, and tends to be frank in expressing his principles. These are almost as obnoxious as principles can be but it is good to know where stands. It is what helps us to know that to have a man who endorses genital mutilation, tells parents to marry their daughters off while they are young, orders women to obey their husbands and tells people not to question men who beat their wives preside over familial affairs is dangerous and obscene.
Such beliefs can be reflected in the workings of the courts. I will take a moment to say that I do have no grievance with anyone making the point that divorce, especially between people who have children, is a grave step that should be preceded with seriousness. What is vile about Suhaib Hasan, for one, is that he treats marital abuse with no such seriousness. Panorama sent an undercover journalist to him, bearing a secret camera and a tale of regular, painful beatings from her husband. Hasan granted that she should go to the police as a last resort but told her that she should first ask him if she could appease him with her behaviour. To suggest that abuse might be a level response to, say, bad cooking is offensive in its silliness. To suggest that it is the victim’s duty to change her ways is obscene.
Hasan’s blithe attitude towards domestic abuse was a matter of public knowledge long before this programme and, indeed, before the BBC was writing neutral reports on his organisation. The Guardian plonked a camera down in his office two years ago. “He has hit me in the past,” it filmed a woman saying, “He hit me once”. “Only once?” Hasan replied with an obnoxious chuckle. “So it’s not a very serious matter”. How many women have been talked into staying with their husbands and endured further suffering? One suspects he doesn’t save these words for the cameras.
Charlotte Proudman, a barrister blogging for the Independent, has explained how the courts are weighted against women. If a husband seeks to divorce his wife, for example, he has to pay two hundred pounds. If a wife seeks to divorce her husband, she has to pay four hundred pounds. These women are not liable to have a great deal of spare cash. A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. An article on the website of the Islamic Sharia Council, which also endorsed capital punishment for adulterers almost in passing, said this is because “women…are governed by their emotions” while “man is governed by his mind”. Hrm. For people who are twice as cerebral as their wives, some of these men appear to commit a great deal of violence.
These courts have been overlooked because, well – they are filled with eccentric religionists doing things among themselves. This is idle. Women are being manipulated into endangering themselves, on the basis of ideas that most of them will have been raised to accept without question. Kids, Panorama were to allege, have been ordered to be given up to violent husbands, and one must ask if Haddad’s belief in the need for parents to marry off young daughters has been promoted. Moreover, men like Hasan, who wants to “offer” sharia law to the United Kingdom, and Haddad, who has spoken of the “Islamic Republic of Britain”, hope to one day expand their power over everyone. It is time we made it harder for them to indulge their fantasies.