Sharia not to be feared

One of the indicators of a society's wellbeing is its ability to celebrate difference and learn from other people. Another is how justice is administered and disputes are resolved. The advent of sharia courts in Scotland should herald a time of reflection and interest, not fear and outrage (your report, 9 October). What sharia courts bring to our society is another method of dispute resolution. It is a particular group choosing to avoid the expense and time of using the court system

What is being brought to us is not some kind of parallel jurisdiction that replaces our legal system; rather it is a space, within a given community, for disputes to be resolved.

That being said, the method and outcome of the sharia court's deliberations must meet three crucial standards. Its rulings must not preclude recourse to the courts for the parties involved. The decisions must not break the fundamental tenets of the Human Rights Act upon which our legal system is now based. In that regard, the rights of women in particular must be respected.

We would apply these standards to any method of dispute resolution, including to changes in our own laws and legal system and so it is for consistency that we would expect the same of sharia courts or any other dispute resolution system. From that common ground there is much to learn about the journey to peace among families, neighbours and communities.

(REV) IAN GALLOWAY

Convener, Church of Scotland Church and Society Council

George Street

Edinburgh

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