Center for the Study of Political Islam International

Sharia Law in Europe

From the book Sharia Law for Non-Muslims (Bill Warner, 2015)

September 25, 2015

Topic Sharia

1. The law of Islamic word

Islamic law, called Sharia, regulates the complete spectrum of life, including penal code, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as marriage, sexual conduct, or dress. This law is a combination of the Koran and the Sunna (the perfect words and actions of Mohammed).

Therefore, Sharia is considered to be sacred, as opposed to manmade law. Sharia has minor variations based on the interpretation of the scriptures, but the societal implementation is very similar. However, Muslims do not agree about how much of Sharia law should be applied in their society. [1] Here are some examples in how Sharia is applied to different areas of life, and how the Muslim’s view of Sharia differs at various times and in diverse places.

Female genital mutilation
In Egypt, about 91 percent of women have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) [2]. Presently, FGM has been officially banned there since 2008 [3]. In 2015 an Egyptian doctor was convicted of manslaughter after a 13-year-old girl died after an FGM procedure [4].

Suicide bombings
Jihad is sacred war waged against non-Muslims, called Kafirs in Islam, in order to spread Sharia law. If someone dies in jihad and their motivation is devoted to Allah, they shall be reborn in Paradise. In Lebanon, the support among the Muslim population for suicide bombings decreased from 74 percent in 2002 to 33 percent in 2013. On the other hand, in Palestinian territories, about 67 percent of the Muslim population supports suicide bombings [5].

Despite the fact that support for slavery was quite weak in the Middle East in the 20th century, presently, the most rigid form of Sharia (which includes slavery) is applied by ISIS [6]. It is clear that the strictness of applying Sharia changes according to time and place, and every element of Sharia can be either applied or suppressed at will.

Currently, about 75 percent of the Muslim populations of the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, as well as the North African regions favor enshrining Sharia as official law, and about 55 percent of Muslims say that Sharia should be applied exclusively to adherents of the Muslim faith [7]. This attitude towards Sharia is shared also by European Muslims. This is most evident especially in European areas where the Muslim communities have grown significantly or where they constitute the majority. In Europe, there is a rapidly growing Muslim population in Austria, where the Muslim minority has increased by 70 percent between 2001–2012, as well as Germany, where the estimated growth between 2000 – 2009 is 42 percent [8]. In England and Wales, the Muslim population almost doubled over a 10-year period between 2001–2011 [9], etc.

Even though the growth of the Muslim population in Europe is quite rapid, nowadays, only 6 percent of the overall population in Europe is Muslim [10]. Despite this fact, Sharia law is already used quite widely.

The following text is a brief summary of how Sharia is applied in Europe according to relevant categories. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive work.

2. Democracy in EUROPE versus Sharia law

The main problem posed by enacting Sharia law in democratic European countries is that “the rules of Sharia are incompatible with the democratic regime.” This is not an “Islamophobic” opinion, it is a statement made by of The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) reported in 2003.

The ECHR has confirmed the observation made by the Turkish Constitutional Court that secularism is one of the indispensable conditions of democracy. The principle of secularism prevents the state from manifesting a preference for a particular religion or belief, and constitutes the foundation of freedom of conscience and equality among citizens before the law. Intervention by the state to preserve the secular nature of the political regime has to be considered necessary in a democratic society [11].

Moreover, since Sharia Law is discriminatory towards women, the European Court issued a resolution related to protection of women legal rights: “freedom of religion cannot be accepted as a pretext to justify violations of women’s rights, be they open or subtle, legal or illegal, practiced with or without the nominal consent of the victims – women” [12].

Everyone should remember these statements, because they are in strong contradiction to the opinion of many Muslims. It was revealed that in Europe almost 60 percent of Muslims agree that they should return to the roots of Islam, 75 percent think there is only one interpretation of the Koran possible to which every Muslim should stick, and 65 percent say that religious rules are more important to them than the laws of the country in which they live [13]. 65 percent of Muslims within the significant Muslim minorities of Southern and Eastern Europe (Russia and the Balkans) prefer application of Sharia to Muslims only [1]. The other polls revealed that 48 percent of British Muslim aged 25-34, and 50 percent of those aged 16-24, preferred Sharia law to the law of the country [14-15].

The organizations as Sharia4Belgium, Sharia4Holland, Islam4UK, or groups contributing to the website struggle to extend Sharia law in European countries. This two-phased process is described at Sharia4chechia website. The goal of the first phase is to establish Muslim communities, which understand the example set by Mohammad and are able to spread Islam. In their opinion this phase is already finished. The second phase is concerned with increasing the numbers of conscientious Muslims. They will be able to establish society similarly to the ‘Golden age,’ and thus realize an Islamic ‘utopia’ [16]. Within this view is the expectation that Sharia will be imposed on non-Muslims as well. This situation could easily encompass a fight between democracy and political Islam in European countries.

In recent times, in countries such as Germany, France, England, the Benelux countries, Denmark, Sweden, and others, Sharia law has been applied in a lot of areas of European society. Therefore it is useful to divide application of Sharia law to the two main areas: Sharia for Muslims, and Sharia for non-Muslims (Kafirs).

3. Sharia applied to Muslims

3.1. Sharia as a parallel legal system in Europe
Very often, legal cases among Muslims in Muslim communities are unofficially arbitrated by Muslim authorities, or officially by Sharia law. There exists a parallel system of law with the system used the country inside Muslim communities, with family law often being the focus. The rights of women under Sharia law are strongly limited in comparison to European law. Typical examples of such phenomena are the Muslim courts, especially in England.

3.1.1. Muslim courts in England
The unofficial Sharia courts provided by Muslim representatives have been operating in the UK since the 1980s [18]. At the time of writing of this article, there are 85 official courts – Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (MAT) – that have been operating under the Arbitration Act since 1996 [17].

These institutions are able to provide advice to those Muslims who voluntarily choose them to resolve their civil and family disputes (divorce, marriage, criminal law etc.). The court's decisions can then be enforced by the county courts or the High Court. But in reality, Sharia law courts exploit a lesser-known legal clause from the 1996 Act to make their verdicts officially binding under UK law in cases including divorce, financial disputes, and even domestic violence [18]. The BBC documentary, "Secrets of Britain's Sharia Courts", revealed what is really happening in Britain's Sharia Councils. They are more than just arbitration tribunals.

3.1.2. Muslim courts in other European countries
Generally, if the Sharia courts are not officially supported by government, they can simply operate within the mosques. For example, the existence of “parallel justice” in Germany was reported in Spiegel in 2011, and in Joachim Wagner’s book Richter ohne Gesetz (Lawless Judges) [19].

The feminist writer, Nahed Selim, reported that mosques in the Netherlands are implementing Sharia rules of marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, and parental authority, among others [20]. Imams resolved many conflicts in the ghetto of Vollsmose in Denmark. Several media reported the fact that the imam’s justice in Vollsmose was ratified by council of elders (i. e. a body consisting of a group of the eldest and most respected citizens in the area). The religious and ethnic legal systems outside the jurisdiction of civil law are alive in Sweden [21]. In 2011, a Sharia court was established in Antwerp, the second-largest city in Belgium, by radical Muslim group called Sharia4Belgium [22]. This court "mediates" family law disputes for Muslim immigrants in Belgium.

There is a special situation in Greece. For almost a century, Sharia courts have been working in the Greek area of Thrace. The Mufti has jurisdiction among Greece’s Muslim citizens in that region in cases concerning marriage, divorce, alimony, custody, guardianship, the emancipation of minors, Muslim wills, and inheritance disputes if these relationships are ruled by Sharia. This special legal system of “concurrent jurisdiction,” as defined by the EU, is a matter of controversy among Greek lawyers and human rights organizations [23].
Sharia law is used in European legal acts and this means that these courts create a parallel system to secular law.

3.2. Sharia law in European law
This case of application of Sharia law is different from Sharia courts, because the cases are solved according to Sharia by non-Muslim authorities. The Kafirs use Sharia law for various situations. There were some examples mentioned from England, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Secularism suffered an incredible intrusion in the UK in 2014 when Sharia law was adopted into the UK legal system. The Law Society published guidelines for drawing up documents according to Islamic rules, which would exclude non-Muslims and encroach on women’s rights. Using these guidelines, High Street Solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills which will have the power to exclude non-Muslims completely and deny women an equal share of an inheritance [24]. It is important to notice, also, that a Sharia-compliant finance system is growing in the UK. David Cameron said in 2013, “I want London to stand alongside Dubai and Kuala Lumpur as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the world” [25].

The principle of Sharia law has also been used in Germany. Even though Sharia law is not included directly in the German legal code, it is officially used in court to decide ‘Muslim’ cases. Elements of Sharia were used in cases involving family and inheritance disputes [26–27]. The interior minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate supported the use of Sharia law in 2012 [28]. The court in Hamm announced in April 2013 that Sharia law will be applied in German courts for those who marry under Sharia law in a Muslim country and decide to seek divorce in Germany [29].

Parts of Sharia law are officially used in Spain. The Spanish government has amended Spain’s Law Concerning International Adoption in a way that will oblige Spanish parents to comply with the Islamic form of guardianship called Kafala until their children become adults. Moroccan children adopted by Spanish nationals will be educated as Muslims regardless of their parents’ religion [30]. The Spanish court now tends to recognize Islamic divorce or repudiation (talaq) effects with some analogy with the "express divorce.” But because secular divorce is not regarded as sufficient to dissolve a marriage for many Muslims, Spanish courts try to accept the validity of repudiation if there was a public decision of a court with enough guarantees, and if there is the possibility of divorce for women (khul) [31].

It is also important to notice that polygamy is officially possible in Europe. Although polygamy is technically banned in the Netherlands, the marriages of Muslims who have several wives are now recognized by Dutch authorities in the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The marriage registrars recognize polygamous marriages of immigrants that have taken place in countries where having more than one wife is permitted, such as Morocco [32].

Above there were described examples of Sharia law in Europe applied to Muslim population only. However, there are also cases of Sharia law being applied to Kafirs.

4. Sharia applied to Kafirs

This section offers examples of limitations placed on the right of expression, the requirement of Sharia in “no-go” areas, anti-Semitism, the influence of Sharia on education, and others phenomena in Europe. The application of Sharia law strongly influences lives of Kafirs, because it is often directly focused on them.

4.1. No-go areas
Muslims in European cities and countries often live in the same area or district. Within these areas is considerably higher content of Muslims than in the rest of the country’s population. A lot of them are immigrants. In European countries there are a lot of these areas [33, 34].

These immigrant populations can grow very fast. According to [21] Oslo may have a non-Norwegian majority in 20 or 30 years; Birmingham may be majority Pakistani in 2024; and the native German population is expected to become a minority in less than 40 years many of its own large cities. In such areas, closed communities can be found where, unofficially, Sharia law is valid. Recently the media informed the public about these “no-go zones” – or “Sharia zones” – where Sharia patrols monitor the population so that it adheres to Sharia law. Below, several cases in England, France, and the Netherlands will be mentioned as examples.

4.1.1. England
Sharia patrols – also referred to as Muslim patrols or Modesty patrols – involving a group of members of an organization self-named the Sharia Project, have patrolled streets in East London since at least early 2013 [35]. Three Islamic converts who were jailed for threatening non-Muslims were banned from promoting Sharia Law in Britain in 2013 [36]. In some London neighborhoods, pro-ISIS British jihadis go on “Sharia patrols” to discourage behavior they deem un-Islamic. This was reported by CBS in the end of 2014 [37].

4.1.2. France
In 2014, Le Figaro published the contents of a leaked intelligence document that warned about the imposition of Islamic Sharia law in French schools in Muslim ghettos. The document related that there was veiling [of young girls] on playgrounds, halal meals in the canteen, chronic absenteeism (bordering 90 percent in some parts of Nîmes and Toulouse) during religious festivals, and clandestine prayer in gyms or hallways. A 120-page research paper entitled “No-Go Zones in the French Republic: Myth or Reality?” (“Les zones de non-droit dans la République Française, mythe ou réalité?”) documented dozens of French neighborhoods where police and gendarmerie cannot enforce the Republican order or even enter without risking confrontation, projectiles, or even fatal shootings [38,39].

4.1.2. Netherlands
A scandal happened at the beginning of the new year 2015 in the Netherlands because of cooperation during New Year’s Eve between The Hague Police Department and the Salafist As-Sunnah mosque. Volunteers of the As-Sunnah mosque were patrolling the Transvaal and Schilderswijk districts of The Hague on New Year’s Eve in order to prevent young people from causing trouble. The volunteers of the mosque were rewarded with tourist vouchers for their service [40].

4.2. Self-censorship as infringement of free speech
One of Sharia’s most egregious infringements on human rights concerns free speech. The reason is very simple: criticism of Mohammad, Allah, or Islamic doctrine is considered blasphemous behavior in Islam, which forbids such acts. An effective tool against criticism is the charge of Islamophobia. Nowadays, whoever criticizes Islam can be labeled an Islamophobe, “problematic,” untrustworthy, or a radical person. Indeed, the worst problem is that opponents of Islam are killed.

Dutch film director Theo van Gogh was killed for short film Submission (2004), which criticized the treatment of women in Islam. Subsequent to the publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoons (2005) by Lars Vilks, buildings were burned and people were killed. Mr. Vilks lives as a “live target,” and survived the latest attack by a gunman in Copenhagen in 2015 [41].

A brutal attack on those exercising their right to free speech was carried out at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2015. Seventeen people were killed within three days. While many representatives of Islam described it as a horrible act, violent protests erupted in parts of the world – including Europe [42]. Everyone in the world knows about killing of opponents of ISIS. Many of these are perpetrated by Europeans, who can go back to Europe [43]. This constitutes a very real danger, for most people today recognise that opponents of Islam can be killed.

It is interesting, that 42 percent of French people said after the Charlie Hebdo attack, cartoons that upset Muslims should not be published [44]. In the Netherlands, for example, advertising agencies were too scared to put up the posters with the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Fear quickly turns to self-censorship in Europe [45]. The main newspapers often do not write about “Muslims” – but rather write about “radicals”, “immigrants” and “lone wolves”, or write in circumspect ways.

4.3. Anti-Semitism
Historically, the Jews have been persecuted by Kafirs as well as by Muslims. It is currently the case due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The growing anti-Semitism in European countries who host large Muslims minorities is obvious. Sweden is a good example. The already small Jewish community in Malmö is shrinking by 5 percent a year. The synagogue on Föreningsgatan, a fashionable street, has elaborate security. Reflecting the level of fear, Jewish community officials not that the building’s glass is “rocket-proof,” and guards check all strangers seeking to enter the synagogue [46].

Christians and Jews are widely persecuted in Muslim countries, and things have gotten much worse the last few years. Many Muslims in Europe regard the Jews as the evil power that controls the West. Almost a fifth of Muslims in the UK consider the Jewish communities to be legitimate targets in the “running battle for justice in the Middle East” [21]. In Denmark, Christian asylum seekers are repeatedly exposed to everything from harassment to threats and physical abuse by other refugees in the asylum centers, simply because they have converted from Islam to Christianity [47]. The anti-Semitism is widespread in European Muslim communities [48].

4.4. Education
European countries allow the establishment of Muslim schools, and Islamic education in public schools is also possible in some of European countries. However, there are tendencies to have the “non-Muslim schools” also teach in accord with Islam. England is very good example, since there is state funding of several Muslim schools, as well as many of independent Muslim schools.

Recently, a scandalous case, dubbed “Trojan Horse,” was discovered in Birmingham in 2014 [49]. “Trojan Horse” [50] was four-page document outlining a strategy to oust non-Muslim head teachers and staff at state schools in Muslim neighborhoods and replace them with individuals who will run the schools according to strict Islamic principles.

This document is now considered a hoax. Nevertheless, in response to it by the Department for Education commissioned an inquiry which found clear evidence that there were many associated people in positions of authority within schools who “espouse, endorse, or fail to challenge extremist views.” The inquiry inspected 21 schools in the city. Following the inquiry, five schools have been subject to special measures [51].

5. Summary

This paper briefly describes the growth of Sharia law in Europe. When the Muslim community is small or when it does not have real power, Sharia law remains hidden. Generally, this law is strictly applied only in mosques or similar places; but when the Muslim community expands and its power grows, a parallel law can arise creating a social system based on Islamic rules. Later, Sharia can win official status and it is often used as family law for Muslims. Unofficially, it can even be enforced on Kafirs in “Muslim” areas or districts.

Imposition of Sharia is a slow process which can be described in the following way: The spread of fear results in self-censorship, and everybody becomes wary of criticizing Islam. Policies can be influenced by Muslims, who tend to increase pressure on courts, schools, and other institutions. The laws created by Kafirs slowly become limited by the demands of Sharia and the radicalism of Muslims. This process poses a threat to the basic principles of democracy, because the rules of Sharia are incompatible with democratic governments. This obviously leads Kafirs to increase their opposition to Islam.

Everyone in Europe should know that the phenomenon of a creeping Sharia reflects the life of Mohammed. It can be easily described as two phases. At first, Mohammed was preacher and Islam was a mere religion. During that time, he attracted about 150 followers for Islam. Later, Mohammed became politician and a warrior, and thus Islam became more political and the Arab world was totally transformed. By the time Mohammed died, the majority of Arabs were Muslim who had submitted to Islam.
For these reasons, non-Muslims should understand the basics of Sharia law and Islam. It concerns them imminently.


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[2] THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN 2014, [online]. 2014., p.79.
[3] Egypt bans female circumcision after death of 12-year-old girl, The guardian [online]. 2007.
[4] Egypt doctor convicted over girl's death in landmark FGM case, Reuters [online]. 2015.
[5] Muslim Publics Share Concerns about Extremist Groups. [online]. 2013.
[6] Yazidi sex slave escapes Isis to tell her story: 'They took us away like cattle'. The Independent [online]. 2014.
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[18] Islamic Sharia courts in Britain are now 'legally binding'. Mailonline. 2008.
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[23] The application of Shari’ah in the Greek area of Western Thrace: Protecting the religious freedom of the Muslim minority or dismantling the Greek Constitution? [online]. the_Muslim_minority_or_dismantling_the_Greek_Constitution
[24] Sharia law to be adopted into UK legal system for first time, 2014.
[25] UK aims to become centre for Islamic finance. 2013.
[26] Justifying Marital Violence: A German Judge Cites Koran in Divorce Case, Spiegelonline [online]. 2007.
[27] Islamic Law's Foothold in German Legal System, [online]. 2013.
[28] Sharia in Germany? Politician Blasted for Support of Islamic Law. SpiegelOnline [online]. 2012.
[29] Islamic Law's Foothold in German Legal System. [online]. 2013.
[30] The Islamization of Spanish Jurisprudence. [online]. 2013.
[31] The Spanish Encounter with Islamic Family Law: An Approach to Legal Pluralism in Spain, [online].
[32] Netherlands Recognises Polygamous Marriages of Muslims reports Dutch Newspaper. Lifesitenews [online]. 2008.
[33], wikipedia [online].
[34] Atlas des Zones urbaines sensibles. [online].
[35] Sharia patrols. Wikimednia [online]. 2015. [36] Judge BANS Muslim Patrol vigilantes from promoting SHARIA LAW in Britain. Express [online]. 2014.
[37] Anti-gay, anti-alcohol: London's "Sharia patrol". CBS News. 2014.
[38] Les zones de non-droit » dans la République Française, mythe ou réalité ?. DRMCC [online]. 2002.
[39] European 'No-Go' Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 1: France. [online]. 2015.
[40] Scandal: Dutch police paid Salafis to help patrol The Hague during New Year’s Eve. 2015.
[41] Artist survives Copenhagen attack: 'They threw me in a storage room', CNN [online]. 2015.
[42] 10 killed, churches torched in protests over Charlie Hebdo. CNN [online]. 2015.
[43] ISIS Foreign Fighter Recruitment, Social Media Undeterred By New Security Crackdowns. Ibtimes [online]. 2015.
[44] 42% of French people say cartoons that upset Muslims shouldn’t be published, The guardian [online]. 2015.
[45] Charlie Hebdo cartoons banned at Dutch train stations: too dangerous, 10News [online]. 2015.
[46] Jews reluctantly abandon Swedish city amid growing anti-Semitism. Haaretz. 2010.
[47] Denmark: Muslim refugees persecute Christian refugees. Pamelagellar [online]. 2014.
[48] Islam and antisemitism. Wikipedia [online]. 2015.
[49] Trojan Horse: UK Fears Islamic Takeover of Schools. CBN [online]. 2014.
[50] Trojan Horse Original. Scribd [online]. 2014. [51] Trojan horse plot report: 'disturbing' evidence of intolerant Islamic ethos. The Telegraph [online]. 2014.


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