CAIRO - A new proposal to introduce Islamic Shari`ah courts to Australia Victorian government legal system similar to the Koori courts for Aboriginal offenders has been dismissed again, offending the growing calls from the Muslim community.
"There are many ways the Australian legal system can engage with issues of Islamic law," Ikebal Patel, the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, told The Australian on Sunday, December 04.
"My comments about legal pluralism and Shari`ah law were taken out of context: people thought we were talking about an eye for an eye, having your hands being chopped off and all the rest of it.
"You don't want to have systems which are not operating within the greater Australian legal system."
Australian Muslim have been urging recognition of the Shari`ah Islamic law to boost integration and assimilation.
The latest proposal was forwarded by the Somali Community of Victoria president Abdurahman Osman.
Under his suggestion, Osman proposed running Islamic Shari`ah courts in which a jury of elders from the same background as the defendant would rule on an appropriate sentence.
A spokesman for Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark rejected the proposal without giving reasons for the move.
While the Baillieu government refused to give its reasons for rejecting the proposal, but prominent Melbourne defence lawyer Rob Stary said there was no realistic prospect of separate courts for Muslims.
"I don't see it in the foreseeable future," Stary said, speaking on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria's criminal law division.
"One of the reasons why Koori courts were set up is there was such a high rate of recidivism amongst Aboriginal offenders.
They were significantly disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system."
The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils said the proposal was to include Islamic laws related to community service and financial compensation when deciding in cases between Muslims.
"It has to be accepted by the legal system within Australia and within common law," Patel said.
"The Koori system seems to be working okay."
Yet, Stary said members of any community already had the opportunity to advise magistrates on appropriate sentences, but warned any moves to introduce Shari`ah law principles would fail.
"The Koori courts don't impose Aboriginal customary law, he said.
"They provide mentoring programs, they provide other forms of treatment and rehabilitative programs.
"Victorian and Australian law is applied."
The new suggestion of an Islamic court "absolutely" fitted with a call Patel made earlier this year for legal pluralism.
Supporters cited the federal Government promotion for development of Islamic finance and Halal meat production, governed by the Australian Government Muslim Slaughter Program.
But, Patel's submission sparked controversy and prompted Attorney-General Robert McClelland to rule out any changes that would introduce aspects of Shari`ah law in Australia.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.