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Dec 3, 2011

Another crack at Sharia in Australia.

Cartoon: From Dry Bones.

For some time the rantings of Sharia advocate Siddiq Conlon and his organization, Sharia4Australia have been rejected. Now another viper has raised its ugly head in the form of a request for ‘Koranic’ courts on the same lines as Koori courts for Aboriginal defendants who plead guilty in the far flung regions, only 'Koranic’ ones would have more scope:

Somali Community of Victoria president Abdurahman Osman said Koranic courts would maintain Islamic culture while also reducing legal costs borne by the state. "Instead of applying sharia law in Australia, it is better to have a Koranic court (like) the court Australia has for the Aborigines," he said. "That could help all African communities, especially the Somali community. …

Indigenous defendants who plead guilty to their charges and live in certain areas can elect to have their case heard in the more informal setting of the Koori court. Indigenous sentencing courts operate in all mainland states and territories, usually as a division of the magistrate’s court.

Offences involving family violence or sexual assault are not permitted to be heard in the Koori court, but Mr. Osman told The Australian domestic issues would be appropriate for a Koranic court, where a jury of elders from the same background as the defendant would rule on the case. "Domestic violence and problems between two families, between husband and wife, and if the crime comes from children, if youth are fighting each other -- these kind of things we could solve in our cultural way," he said.
That kind of ‘cultural way’ allows for wife beating, honor killings, death for apostates, forced conversion, genital mutilation, and women being second class citizens, just to mention a few.

It is undesirable to accept the existence of multiple legal codes in a nation, but in the case of Koori law there is an acknowledgement of the fact that Aboriginals were here first, had their own set of laws, and in remote areas are still strongly influenced by elders of their community. The same is not the case with the Islamic community.

Islam has existed here for since the 1860s/70s and its adherents have always been subject to the law of the land and have in no way suffered for it, and have always accepted it in the past. There is no logical reason for those coming into this country to have a special law just to suit them. It would be irrational for an Australian traveling abroad to insist that he be only subject to Australian law.

Probably one of the most worrisome aspects to this demand is the possibility that the multiculturalites will consider this a great idea leading the way to cultural diversity. Even more worrying, is that despite Attorney-General Robert McClelland ruling out any changes which would introduce aspects of sharia law, Gillard and her crowd may see some votes in it and place ‘political pragmatism’ above common sense and equal justice before the law.


  1. Unusually I may be forced to disagree with you here, though it depends a lot on the scope this guy wants for Koranic courts. When I first read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress one of the things that struck me most was the free market court system where anyone could set themselves up as a judge with a court, charging what they liked to hear cases (minus paying for the jury's time), and any parties in dispute could use whatever court both could afford between them and whose decision both could agree to abide by. Despite the attractions I can see problems, the most obvious being when one party is no longer able to agree on account of having been killed by the other, so I think there will always be a role for state courts and law in even the most minarchist society. That said, where two people can agree to use a private court to settle the matter, which I think would be overwhelmingly civil rather than criminal, then why not? It's not unprecedented. Not only are there Koori courts operating here but there are also the Rabbinical Beth Din courts that Jews sometimes prefer to use for civil cases, so the idea of Koranic courts doesn't cost me any sleep with just a few provisos:

    First, participation must be voluntary and if coercion of either party to use the Koranic court comes to light after a case is decided then it's nullified and the case is reheard in a secular court (which would also consider any possible criminal charges over the coercion)

    Second, like the Beth Din it should be restricted to civil law only. That might provoke some whining about how come the Koori courts wah wah wah, but as you said they're a special case, and besides they deal with the same laws that apply to everyone else but just hear the case in a different format. That's an important feature and I'm not sure from what he's said that Osman actually understands that.

    Third, and following on from that, it's got to be utterly clear that where religious and secular law, and therefore rulings, conflict the religious law always loses. No exceptions.

    Finally, I don't think this is the kind of thing that can be done on a handshake and an understanding so there probably should be an Act of Parliament establishing the rules under which they may operate and laying out strict conditions for jurisdiction. I imagine this is already the case for Beth Din courts but if not the Act could be written so as to encompass religious courts in a general sense, which would also means Hindus, Buddhists etc could set up something similar if they wished.

    Bottom line, as long as there are clear boundaries and everyone understands that just like the Koori courts any religious courts are always subordinate to the secular courts and must defer to them if asked, I can live with it. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if there are underground/informal Islamic courts already in existence, and if there are it seems like there's a greater potential for abuse and coercion than if they were brought into the open and their operation formalised.

  2. While I haven't read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, I was impressed by an article in Reason a long time ago on the issue of private courts.

    Generally I see little problem with the issue of private courts where a contract is entered into by both parties prior to the hearings. Such a court is binding by contract and entered into voluntarily.

    I do however believe that courts should be secular in nature and that theocratic judgements are highly undesirable owing to the reliance on ancient superstition being the basis of that belief system. I would have just as little faith in a Fred Nile court as in a Siddiq Conlon one.

    Law needs to be based on rationality and once you introduce elements of theocratic values, that is not the case.

    While your concept of secular supremacy would negate many of the negatives, I have little confidence that our current politicians have the intellect or commitment to ensure this. I understand your argument but when in the light of our politics you ask, "what could go wrong?" I see a hell of a lot of problems.

  3. Yes, as with so many things it seems unlikely to work properly with the current bunch of morons overseeing it. However, even with that I'd suggest Koranic courts could run on the same model as existing Beth Din, and I think that it's only a matter of time before that's demanded under equality legislation. After all, if Jews can have their courts why not others? The question will be asked eventually, but if the answer is that the Beth Din restrict themselves to civil matters only - divorces, contracts and so on - then it's hard to see a reason to prohibit a Muslim version of that. But it's not hard to think of reasons not to ask Ibrahim Siddiq white-boy-convert-trying-to-out-Islam-the-Muslims Conlon how to do it, starting with him being an intolerant dickhead. Similarly Osman and company need to be clear that any Koranic courts here would have rather less scope than Koori courts and certainly no more than Beth Din, and the choice is accept it or book your flights.

    I'm going to have to go and see if I can find the Reason article you mentioned, but in case you're interested here's an article about Islamic courts currently operating in the UK. I share some of the concerns with the Civitas report author mentioned, principally that some parties might be being coerced into using them rather than secular courts (we can't know for sure unless someone investigates), and of course their rulings are subordinate to British law if there's any clash, but by and large they seem to work. Probably as far as things should go for the foreseeable future, though.

  4. For some reason the article you mentioned is not loading, but you will have some trouble finding the reason article as it is from over 30 years ago and I have not been able to find other stuff from that era. I was trying to find one called 'Idealism versus Crackpot Reality' not long ago and had no luck.

    The coercive thing is my main problem as the child of a Muslim is considered a Muslim with no choice in the matter, as well as the problem over apostacy.

    As far as I am aware Jews have a choice in the matter.

    Frankly I am not convinced that any form of theocratic law is appropriate in a secular society, but I accept the basis of what you are saying as valid.

  5. Sorry, might have stuffed the link up. Just in case this is the URL:

    Shame about the one you mentioned. I thought you meant a recent one and I was going to look for it on their site. What's that thing about assumption again?

    Yes, agreed about the coercion thing, and it's undeniably troubling. Yet we can't assume that it's endemic within Islamic communities any more than we can pretend it doesn't happen in those of other religions. It's pretty trivial but I'm an atheist with no way to get un-baptised and as I understand it the church regards me in a similar way to how Islam regards apostates - i.e. I belong to Jesus whatever I do - it's just that it's more genteel about it these days. Just as well because once I was old enough to understand what I'd been signed up to as a baby I was pretty pissed off. Less trivially I recently came across a story told by Penn Jillette in God, No! about a New York Jew who hadn't started even to learn English until he was 21, and it was his third language (Yiddish and Hebrew being 1st and 2nd) - I can only speculate on how much choice there'd be in his community over whether to use the Beth Din. On the other hand the story was about him leaving Judaism and meeting up at a Brooklyn restaurant specialising in non-kosher food for lapsed and ex-Jews, and while that kind of thing would be greeted with sadness and a shrug in some Muslim communities others would go apeshit batspasm ballistic over it.

    Tricky, isn't it? I'm inclined to use the NAP and presumption of innocence as guides, but as you've pointed out that alone makes it too tricky for the current political class.