My brush with Islamic justice was swift and fair


Junior Member
My brush with Islamic justice was swift and fair

Martin Fletcher
As one who has been hauled in front of a Sharia court I would like to risk having my hand — or head — chopped off a second time by suggesting that the Archbishop of Canterbury just might have a point.

My brush with Islamic justice occurred in December 2006 in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. A popular movement called the Islamic Courts Council (ICC) had recently seized control of the country, expelling feuding warlords who had made it a byword for terror over the previous 15 years.

One afternoon Richard Mills, The Times photographer, and I were driving away from the infamous Bakara arms market. In a narrow, rutted sidestreet our way was blocked by an approaching vehicle. Neither driver would give way.

A furious argument flared up, and our bodyguards drew their guns. Happily, ICC policemen arrived in the nick of time and escorted us all to the nearest Sharia court.

We waited in the yard of an old police station. An alleged drug dealer lay on the ground on his stomach, his hands and legs bound together behind his back. Several wretched faces stared out from the dark interiors of cells with barred windows. A bunch of women engaged in some sort of domestic dispute arrived and waited patiently behind us.

Finally the drivers, still arguing furiously, were each told to make their case to a couple of religious elders. They had barely begun before the court adjourned to a nearby carpet for sunset prayers.

When it resumed, and both drivers had had their say, the court pronounced. The two men were ordered to apologise to each other and we were all dismissed.

The court performed its duty with admirable dispatch and minimal fuss and everyone went away happy. It was quicker, cheaper and just as effective as a British magistrates’ court.

The ICC is no more. Washington accused it of turning Somalia into a terrorist haven. It was replaced by a deeply unpopular Government of former warlords.