It's a frightening situation, and one I certainly wasn't aware of, and presumably most people were not, either, given that the paper has seen fit to publish the fact as a news story.
It says the British government has "quietly sanctioned" the powers of these "courts" so that "sharia judges [can] rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence".
Rulings issued by any of the five sharia courts are enforceable "with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court". The paper goes on:
Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.
It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Now you might argue that there's nothing to worry about, since they're just arbitration assemblies, and sharia "courts" are able to set themselves up as such under the Arbitration Act of 1996, which Muslims have taken advantage of.
But what happens when one of these kangaroo "courts" decides to "try" a case involving homosexuals or women? And we all know what Muslims think of homosexuals and women. OK, so it won't be possible for them to order a gay man to be thrown off a cliff or for a woman who has dared to have sex with someone not her husband to be stoned to death. But are the High Court and County Courts going to allow "judgments" from these bodies that disfavour gays and women to be legally binding in British law?
Dominic Grieve, the Tories' shadow Home Secretary, tells the paper, "If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so."
And Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said, "I think it’s appalling. I don’t think arbitration that is done by sharia should ever be endorsed or enforced by the British state."
The Sunday Times story says, "There are concerns that women who agree to go to tribunal courts are getting worse deals because Islamic law favours men."
The paper allows comments beneath the story, and Janice of Witney sums up the flavour of most comments when she writes:
Democracy? A whole new system of civil courts "agreed" with no vote in Parliament? To hell with New Labour. I am very relieved that Dominic Grieve is opposing this: the Tories are generally so compliant with Labour's changes. NO. This gives hard line clerics the chill factor to control their women.
Another comment, from Brendon of London, reads:
This is absolutely appalling. Why can Muslim's [sic] not live by the laws that everyone else in this country has to abide to? I find it disgusting that we are bending to the demands of a minority whose views on religion/sexuality/life in general is so backward and damaging to our beliefs & values.
I'm not the first and won't be the last to predict that this creeping Islamisation will lead to more than mere finger-wagging by politicians and strong comments in newspapers' blogs and comment sections. But will the PC brigade among our politicians, civil servants and public bodies act now and prevent the possible violence that no one – except, possibly, Nazis and the more pugnacious racists – wishes to see in our streets again?
No, of course they won't. The mantra of multiculturalism is still being chanted, even though it just can't work.