Most people are familiar with the system of sharia courts which has been established in Britain. Similar systems have been proposed in the USA, Canada, and Australia, as well as other European countries. According to the orthodox multicultural rationale behind such courts, they will act as arbitration boards similar to those used by Orthodox Jews, will be used for civil cases only, and will never be allowed to supersede the secular law of the land.
On closer examination, all of three the above assumptions turn out to be false.
Unlike sharia courts, Orthodox Jewish courts recognize the supremacy of the laws of the nations in which they function. Islam never recognizes any law superseding Islamic law. According to its core texts, such recognition is not possible.
The last two assumptions are belied by events in Vollsmose, a culturally enriched suburb of Odense in Denmark. Imams in Vollsmose sit in judgment on criminal cases, and thereby keep them out of the Danish court system.
This is occurring in Denmark which, unlike many other European countries, has resisted most of the demands made by Muslims, including those for sharia courts. The situation in Vollsmose demonstrates that a parallel judicial system — both civil and criminal — inevitably arises in Muslim enclaves, even in the absence of official state recognition.
Imams mete out punishment in Vollsmose
In Vollsmose most reports to the police are withdrawn and instead end with local imams, who mete out an appropriate punishment.
Police believe the parallel judiciary system undermines their work — and lets criminals escape punishment under Danish law, writes Dagbladet Information.
Police in Vollsmose experience that up to 90 percent of all reports are withdrawn after a few days because the imams and other powerful men in the area resolve the cases on their own.
Parallel judicial societies
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“Today there are criminals who are never punished according to Danish law,” says Torben Aagaard, who serves in the Odense district.
He explains that there is a parallel judiciary system, which makes it very difficult for the police to do their work:
“Of course there are many out there who live under Danish law, but as long as they do not dare stand up against the others, it is hard to do anything,” says Torben Aagaard.
Imams have power
He believes that money is being used, threats, and sometimes violence to resolve conflicts within the Muslim communities.
According to imam Abu Bashar, the imams resolve many kinds of conflicts:
“Both neighbor disputes, problems between men and women, and other conflicts. People respect what the imam says, but they do not like the police,” says the local imam, who is often called upon when a conflict occurs in the area.
He would not comment on the issue of violence, but says it is a part of the culture to listen to the imam, and that is why the imam has such power — even more than the police in some contexts.