Finland: Islamic Justice in Helsinki…….

Islamic courts active in Helsinki
FIC’s Chehab Khodr presiding

Khodr Chehab: You want Islamic sharia justice
come to me, I’ll let you have it!What’s worse, the Helsingin Sanomat ‘soft balls’ the whole issue surrounding these sharia courts, as well as wrongly comparing them with Jewish Beth Din courts or with Christian mediation services. The Helsingin Sanomat shows once again why it can’t be considered as a quality newspaper, it totally blows it where Sharia is concerned, for it’s much, much more than just a benign forum to mediate divorce matters between Muslims.For starters, one would have to ask why jihadists and Islamists everywhere are always fighting for sharia. Not just for Islam, not just for the protection of Muslims, but for the imposition of sharia. The same impulse that drives Islamists in both Somalia, Pakistan etc. and in European countries, is the same ideology, the same laws, the same supremacism. Allowing for sharia in the West is simply to encourage the supremacist impulse that leads to executions of little girls in Somalia etc.Jewish law hasn’t been practiced since the time of Jesus, ever since the Sanhedrin was dissolved, the Mosaic punishments are impossible to mete out. Whereas sharia is put into practice on a daily basis. Beth Din courts NEVER trump state law any more than the settlements meted out between Christians sitting before their pastor.Islamic law, or sharia, not only effects the inter-actions and relations between Muslims themselves, but also between Muslims and non-Muslims as well, something of which that far exceeds both Jewish and Christian doctrines. It’s an all encompassing system that once a portion is granted, the rest will soon to follow.The commenter Kumitonttu brings this to the TT’s attention, with the original (subscription only) article having been republished here for all (who read Finnish) can read for themselves. Here is what Kumitonttu has to say about it.
NOTE: This Imam, Khodr Chehab, leader of the Finnish Islamic Center, is one of the more vocal critics of the Danish Mohamed cartoons, as well as being on record as saying that “a 13 yr old is a good age to get married. He sees no difference in dating and getting married.According to the Finnish Islamic Council’s Imam, Chehab Khodr, the Justice Ministry gave permission for the 14 yr old girl to be wed in 1996. The groom was then 20yrs of age.[…] marriage can begin as an 11yr old, if secular law permits it.”

Kumitonttu: Helsingin Sanomat article is about Sharia courts in Helsinki. They’ve interviewed – not surprisingly – our old friend Khodr Chebab, who admits Sharia has already partially taken the major role over Finnish legislation in the lives of Muslims in Finland.

The article is traditional cultural relativistic in its spirit, as it for instance stating that “there’s nothing wrong with Sharia courts because Finns participate in similar couple therapies and marriage concils. The article is based on a Finnish born European woman, who “lost it” some years ago. There are a few, however, revealing and shocking sentences in the article.

First, wanna-be-Imam Khodr Chebab gives examples, when Sharia is needed. E.g. a husband mistreats the wife or the wife does not obey the man. The woman whose life is referred to says that, she “had to divorce because the man mistreated her and didn’t follow in other areas of living the true rules of Islam.

It is also very scary to see, that honor-murder has landed in Finland. The woman in the article says, that she “needed the divorce by Sharia because otherwise she could not have lived along. Adultry in Islam is a serious crime and will be punished by death penalty. If there’s no execution in this life, one gets it on the “judgement day”. For a humble Muslim this is a very serious case.”

What may make you wonder is the missing logic here. If the husband didn’t follow the mystical true Islam, why was the wife scared of the death penalty? Who knows, if she didn’t know better or if he actually followed the “true Islam”.

Islamic justice in Helsinki Islamilaista oikeutta Helsingissä(Published 2.08.09 Helsingin Sanomat)

Mosque mediators settle disputes weekly , and divorce according to Islamic principles. Many Muslims prefer to request assistance from an Imam than from the authorities.At the end of 2006, Aisha from Helsinki, decided that she had cried, hoped, prayed and waited enough. She no longer wanted to live in the marriage with her African husband.Thirty year old Aisha is from a Finnish background, but turned to – or returning to, as the Muslims say – (converting) to Islam quite young, before meeting her husband. Islam seemed logical as a religion, and answered her spiritual needs.The marriage was conducted in the early 2000’s, only in Islamic settings. Aisha had not seen the need to go, in addition, to have it legalized by the Finnish state, to Finnish married, which would have meant the Islamic Association registering it with the magistrate.Now, Aisha, however, wants a divorce, even though a Muslim is permitted it, and what the Koran says, the God hates the most. Aisha was sick of how the man could care less of what marriage should be like according to Islam.The matter however, was not that simple. The man did not want a divorce, and a Muslim woman is not in a situation to´just sign a few papers and walked out of a marriage. The divorce needed the help of a mosque.And above all: the matter had to be first negotiated.Friday afternoon Imam Abdirazak Sugulle Mohamed sighs in the rear room of the Helsinki Islamic Center. Thereare so many things to take care of. Sugulle tends the largest Muslim society in Finland. It includes nearly 1 600 members, most of whom are Somalis.As with Christian families, there are arguments and divorces. Unlike Lutherans, devout Muslims however, often seek the Mosque’s assistance in settling disputes.”People enquire a lot,” Sugulle says.
The bearded man looks dignified in the mat covered chair, with a stack of papers and books in his lap.
The back room door is closed, but voices can be heard on the other side of the hall.There, men are sitting on the floor covered throughout with oriental carpets. Women come in all the time in, and the children chasing each other around.
The Mosque is also a lively in a way that is not visible to visitors. Lately, the disagreements of the mosque’s attendants to be settled, have accumulated to the point of overload. Helsinki Islamic Center manages a permanent arbitration panel, which includes Sugulle, a second imam and three other older community members, with a good knowledge of Islam. If necessary, they are asking for advice on religious issues familiar abroad.Mediation usually works like this: Either party to the conflict contacts the mosque, and he’s invited to tell his own side of the story. Then the other party is invited to speak. When both have been consulted, they are called, together with the front panel, if necessary, many times.”Sometimes mediation can take weeks, months.”Sugulle estimates that the mediators will meet an average of two times per week. In addition, issues are settled by the telephone.
The don’t get paid.”This is done because of Allah, is part of the religious obligations.”
The panel mostly arbitrates between spouses. Often, this is a situation in which a woman wants to divorce.
“Evidence is requested for accusations. If they aren’t any, they are asked to swear by Allah that they’re are telling the truth. It is a big thing if there is lying in the matter.”
If necessary, the parties can be supported by others. For example, Somalis in the place can be called one of the two clans. They help to clarify matters and testify at a later date, when appropriate, what the panel has said.Mediators are the absence.Conflicts also employ other major mosques in Finland.”The man does not treat the woman well, the woman is not obeying the man, there is a disagreement on the children’s upbringing,” the list goes on says Khodr Chehab, Imam of the Finnish Islamic community’s mosque on Lönnrotin street in Helsinki.Sometimes the issues is relating to parent and child or between the financial conflicts.”Who has the right to receive what, or who should pay for something.”Certain persons mediate in the community, but the plan is for a permanent four-person panel.Acting as an arbitrator, Mahammed Hussein, describes the process thus:”We report on what the Koran and the prophet will say what is right and what is wrong, what is forbidden and what is ok. People know that if you do evil, it becomes a ruling of the Court. We report, what are the responsibilities of the woman and the man. The man’s role is to pay for the food, medicines, clothes, all that the family needs. The woman belongs to the man’s property. Children’s education is part of the both of them, and each has a duty to be honest.”Following the instructions of the panel is up to them. Chehab says always ask first of all, whether the parties will undertake to respect his decisions. If the answer is no, he does not consider that an issue to take over.Sometimes Chehab has delegated to a prestigious panel for a decision. The nearest are located elsewhere in Europe. It could have been, for example, a custody issue, which has a particular need for familiarity. Although the issue has been a government decision in Finland, parents stll wanted to hear the Islamic position.Divorce applicant Aishan mediation process began when the woman approached the mosque. Aisha and her husband were invited to be heard separately, then together.
Aisha took two woman as a ‘wali’. A Wali is a sort of trustee, who acts as the Muslim woman’s agent when a marriage contract is signed. Usually, it’s a relative, but since Aisha’s relatives are not Muslim, her wali is a friend.
Her husband had two friends accompanying.There were three arbitrators.
The group gathered on one evening during the week, in the mosque’s prayer room and sat together on the floor.
“We discussed their views and both of our thinking and behavior. We had the opportunity to talk to each other. Our relationship was so inflamed, we were not able to talk about anything with each other at that stage.”
The panel had previously heard from the man’s relatives. Aisha’s friends told of their own understandings.
In addition to the married couple, eight others plus the a number of man’s relatives picked over the marriage’s problems. Wouldn’t that strike a Finn as strange?
Aisha admitted that she has thought about how it would feel to stumble upon the arbitrators on the street. However, she points out that it has more to do with cultural differences than with religion. The opinion of to whom family matters belong, is in many cultures, broader than in Finland.
Aisha cried, sometimes uncontrollably during the one hour running meeting, but the mood remained calm. “They are, however, older religious people who have read much more than we have. In such an environment, you have to be able to discuss properly, because you can’t be disrespectful.”
Absolute impartiality belongs to Islamic mediation. Aisha felt that the panel did not side with either party.
“They took the stories from both sides objectively, and there was no guilt in either direction.”
Pair should have come before the panel a second time, but the man did not show up. The arbitrators decided that they had better divorce.
From a human point of view, mediation may be a lot of good. Many marriages saved or at least given an extension. Sometimes avoiding a court trial.
Over all, the system is not even very far away from the traditional ways of the Finns. After all, we have marriage councillors and family advisers.
In Islamic mediation, however, there is also s more formal side. It is a Muslim woman’s only way to get a divorce if the man does not allow it. A Muslim male can get a divorce, if he tells the woman in front of two witnesses present.
A divorce is granted to a woman in a settlement, even though the man did not come before the panel. If the pair had also married according to Finnish Law, the arbitrators would issue an Islamic divorce when the divorce was obtained in a district court. Aisha saw getting an Islamic divorce as an important.
“If I wouldn’t have gotten it, it would have prevented me from continuing life. Being with someone else in a union while being married is a crime. It is a death sentence in Islam.”
According to Islam, the penalty will be on Judgement Day, if it does not come in this life. For pious Muslims it’s a serious matter.
In arbitration, there are more practical distinctions between things. If a woman wanted to get divorced, they are demanded to return the dowry. They are a man’s gift to the wife when the union is signed.
According to Mosque goers, the dowry in Finland is often small.
“1 000 Euros, 2 000 Euros, a gold ring,” Sugulle lists as examples.
Aisha received back then, 300 euros worth of gold, but the man did not want it back.
If a man wants a divorce, a woman may keep dowry.
Mediators settle mostly cases in which Finnish law does not take a position. If you take (TT: Finnish justice system), According to Sugulle, the arbitrators exhort to comply with the law. For an example, in the context of divorce, arbitrators will discuss about child custody, but do not resolve the dispute, because it belongs to the district court.
We preach that the man is still to provide for their children and their mother should respect the father’s right to meet with them. Sometimes a man has been given visiting rights. Then we say that we can not intervene. It is Finnish law,” Sugulle says. Also, in Aisha’s settlement a couple of children were discussed. When the matter came into dispute, the mosque offered to help meet the practical arrangements.
In Britain, arbitration has a partly official status. Britain admitted last year to five Islamic courts the right to arbitrate in civil cases. Their ruling is final, if the parties so agree in advance. Jewish Beth Din-courts have long been a comparable position in Britain.
The official status has not pleased everyone. It has raised suspicions that the women may be treated unequally. Traditionally, Islam does not, for example, have a clear equal inheritance rights. It has been known in Britain about an incident in which five siblings, two brothers got two times higher an inheritance than their three sisters.
Some of the men who are perpetrators of domestic violence are prescribed by the mosque elders to an anger management course. They have avoided other punishments, because the women have retracted their complaints.
Sugulle says that in Pasila (TT: a suburb of Helsinki) there hasn’t been any decisions made on inheritance.
“The people have nothing to leave for an inheritance.” If there should be, according to Sugulle, the case would be solved by Islamic law. It could lead to a different solution that departs from regular Finnish practice. Sugulle is sure to point out that in Islamic law, there are also cases where even the woman is allowed to inherit more than the man.
If domestic violence is discussed during the arbitration, the panel says that Islam does not accept it. The rest is left for the police, if a complaint is registered. In Finland, the victim could not, as in Britain, suspend the process, because even in a case of slight abuse, domestic violence is a formal accusation of criminal offence.
Aisha recalls that immigrant Muslims are often suspicious of authorities.
“Many who are born Muslims have really extreme thoughts that Finnish society is trying to separate them from Islam.” Arbitrators may at some lower level be between the authorities and immigrants in directing assistance to the applicant looking for help, if necessary, to move things forward. Imam Khodr Chehab says that in such situations is often a case of violence.
“If it sounds serious, I have consulted to file charges.” Aisha is now thinking that she and her spouse should have gone to arbitration before. Back then the relations would not have been allowed to have become so bad. She does not believe, however, that the divorce would have been prevented, because he had distanced himself from Islam. Arbitration was for her a useful experience. It’s easy to conjure up an image of the panel as a bunch of strict bearded men handing out judgements here and in the afterlife, but Aisha experienced their talk like ordinary people, who knew how she felt. Aisha had previously experienced, not enough understanding arose from her countryman for her spouse. “No it was not just that everything is the Finnish women’s fault and that the woman is the family honor and the rest is to cover up the man’s failure and others. But a lot of time.”
In mediation, thre was not such an attitude. “It became a real humane consolation, in addition to that there was a religious aspect. That they understand and are concerned about what had happened, was wrong. It was wonderful and positive.”

NOTE: In Islam the antithesis between the individual and the state or the government is not recognised, and no need is therefore felt to reconcile and abolish this antithesis. Islam knows no distinction between state and church. … In Islam there is no doctrine of the temporal end which alone belongs to the state and the eternal end which belongs to, and is the prerogative of, the church; no balance between the two; each equal to the other when acting in its own sphere; each equally dependent on the other when acting in the sphere of the other and no tension between the historic community and the church as custodian of the universal common elements in human existence.

The state is ”given”, and it is not limited by the existence of an association claiming to be its equal or superior, to which it can leave the preaching of morality and the finding of sanctions for its truth. It has itself to repress evil and show the way to righteousness; there is no clear-cut boundary between morality and legality. In practice, temporal power was often usurped and there was a de facto separation between the spiritual and the temporal but there was no ideological separation; no ruler, however much he may have violated the law, challenged the principle of its universal application.

The lack of any formal doctrine of a separation of such powers had important consequences in the field of individual freedom. It contributed to, if it was not actually responsible for, the creation of a situation in which power was arbitrary and exercised by the last despot who had usurped it. It also had important consequences for the attitude towards civil war and internal disturbances.

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