Monday, 29 June 2009

Mail wants you be to afraid of Sharia courts

The Mail's front page splash Britain has 85 Sharia courts is based on a a Civitas report, co-written by Denis MacEoin. MacEoin was author of the infamous Policy Exchange report, and also oversaw the nonsense about Harry Potter and Ludo being 'banned' in Muslim schools. So while intelligent people may want to question the report, the Mail cut and pastes the press release and sticks it on the front page. And adds an editorial.

The Mail isn't the only one - the Sun has also received the press release, but adds the word 'fundamentalist' to the word 'Sharia' to make it all seem more scary. It then adds, with some useful explanation that:
Some UK sharia courts work as part of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system which works with British law to deal with commercial, civil, and matrimonial matters and some instances of domestic violence and neighbourly disputes.
And that is, apparently, 'fundamentalist'.

Then the Guardian has given MacEoin an opportunity to explain his position in their Comment is Free section. He states:
I have not been able to get reports of live rulings from tribunals, but there are a large number of online sites which offer fatwas in answer to questions posed by believers and these seem likely to represent the kind of answers which tribunals in Britain must produce.
So this 'academic' has written a report based not on what has actually happened, but what might have happened based on what he has discovered via Google. As there is, according to an earlier Guardian article, five different schools of interpretation of Sharia it seems near impossible to claim the examples he has found are sure to be representative anyway.

But no such analysis, or even attempts to find out facts, has come into the Mail's report. It does include a side-panel on the workings of a Sharia court from 2008, but even the headline to that - 'The elders who dole out justice' - sounds like it is something of the vigilante about it (who else 'doles out justice'?) Why does neither the Mail nor the report say the Jewish Beth Din courts, for example, 'dole out justice'? Could it be that MacEoin has declared himself 'pro-Israeli and involve myself in the defence of Israel'?

Instead the Mail includes a quote - again direct from the press release - from Civitas Director David Green saying:
The reality is that for many Muslims, sharia courts are in practice part of an institutionalised atmosphere of intimidation, backed by the ultimate sanction of a death threat.
Maybe the report provides evidence for this, but it sounds like wild anti-Islam scaremongering to suggest that this is the case in this country (certainly the Mail's sidebar example makes no such claim).

The Guardian have said columnists have been commissioned to write counter-articles to MacEoin, which will surely provide better and deeper understanding of the detail of the Sharia issue than I can. I will update the post then.

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