Sharia has become a shadow legal system within Australia, endorsing polygamous and underage marriages that are outlawed under the Marriage Act, reports Chris Merritt, the Legal affairs editor in The Australian, 20 July 2011.
According to new research by legal academics Ann Black and Kerrie Sadiq to be published in the University of NSW Law Journal, a system of "legal pluralism" based on sharia law "abounds" in Australia, he reports.
The researchers say that some Muslims rely on religious ceremonies only to validate polygamous unions. (Apart from this research, we have seen that a small number even want Australia to join an international theocratic constitutional republic, a caliphate.)
Mr. Merrit reports that the findings come soon after Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, triggered a backlash inside the Islamic community when he called for Australia to compromise with Islam and embrace legal pluralism. Mr Patel later said he supported secular law and it had been a mistake to even mention legal pluralism.
While polygamy is unlawful, the legal academics make this finding:
"Valid Muslim polygynist marriages, lawfully entered into overseas, are recognised, with second and third wives and their children able to claim welfare and other benefits… a second wife can be validly married under Islamic law . . . and be a defacto wife under Australian law with the same legal entitlements as any other de facto relationship," they write.
They point to 2008 research which fount that 90 per cent of Muslims did not want to change Australian law.
They write that many Muslims support the protection of human rights and had come to Australia because of practices such as genital mutilation and honour killings in countries ruled by unreformed versions of sharia.