Monday, 11 February 2008

The Guardian: Jewish Beth Din could be archbishop's model

The Archbishop of Canterbury's message was not that there should be one law for Muslims and another for the rest. What he seemed to be positing was that the secular legal system should accommodate the traditional sharia councils which exist around the country, dealing with family and other disputes. One model could be the Beth Din, the rabbinical courts set up by a UK statute more than 100 years ago, which means they are recognised within the legal system.

They mainly deal with disputes between Orthodox Jews, although anyone can use the courts. Two individuals agree to have their dispute handled by the Beth Din rather than the ordinary courts. The judges, or dayanim, who preside are rabbis. If a dispute is over a contract under English law or another country's civil law, the court can "incorporate" some of the rules of the civil law into Jewish law. In reality, the proceedings are a form of arbitration. The majority of Beth Din awards that are contested are enforced by courts in the UK, although they can be overruled. Read more
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