OK, first a disclaimer: I’m no legal expert, but my instinct is that this story in the Times, about sharia arbitrators, absolutely stinks of an attempt to whip up anti-Muslim feeling. A hefty pinch of salt is needed.
What concerns me is fundamentally not to do with who is doing the arbitration, which is (I’m told) a common and optional alternative to civil proceedings. As the story alludes to, Jewish halachic courts have been doing this for ages.
The problem it is that the arbitrator in question thinks that reconciliation and withdrawal of criminal charges is a good outcome in a domestic violence case:
In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment.
In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations.
Siddiqi said that in the domestic violence cases, the advantage was that marriages were saved and couples given a second chance.
That is not OK, that is extremely dangerous. I also don’t understand why domestic violence falls under the category of cases that could be dealt with by an arbitrator – it seems totally inappropriate.