A look at religious courts in the UK

The Archbishop of Canterbury has caused a furore with his comment that it “seems unavoidable” that parts of Islamic Sharia law will be adopted in the UK.

For many non-Muslims, the idea of a religious court holding power over British citizens seems totally alien to our mainly-secular culture.

But not to all non-Muslims. It has often been remarked on how similar Muslims and Jews are in many of their traditions, such as food laws, burial rites and language, and this case could prove no exception. Jewish courts are in daily use in Britain, and have been for centuries.

British Jews, particularly the orthodox, will frequently turn to their own religious courts, the Beth Din, to resolve civil disputes, covering issues as diverse as business and divorce.

“There’s no compulsion”, the registrar of the London Beth Din, David Frei, said. “We can’t drag people in off the streets.”

Both sides in a dispute must be Jewish, obviously, and must have agreed to have their case heard by the Beth Din. Once that has happened, its eventual decision is binding. English law states that any third party can be agreed by two sides to arbitrate in a dispute, and in this case the institutional third party is the Beth Din.

The Beth Din also takes care of a multitude of Jewish community affairs, many of which never give rise to any dispute: the dates of the Sabbath, kosher certification of caterers and bakers, medical ethics for Jewish patients and religious conversions. But it is in the areas of divorce and litigation that the Beth Din acts as a court in the western sense.



0 Responses to “A look at religious courts in the UK”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


RSS Talk Islam

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

%d bloggers like this: