Muslim man serves on Jury despite Religious Discomfort
- By Alison Lesley --
- 16 May 2015 --
A Muslim man is forced to serve on jury after judge tells him he has a duty and responsibilities to do so, even if it’s against his religious beliefs.
A Muslim man was given a jury summons to the Old Bailey, which is the Central Criminal Court in England and Wales. He felt that his religious faith made him exempt, based on a sincerely held religious belief against passing judgement on others. He explained his views in a letter to the Old Bailey judge, and the conversation that ensued was perhaps one of the calmest religious discussions. The jury service rules were tightened extensively in the early 2000’s, making it far more difficult for people to become exempt, and even lawyers are required to serve on the jury.
“As a Muslim,” the man wrote, his name has not been given at this time, “I believe you shouldn’t judge anyone and can’t come to any decision regarding another person.” He feels that he can’t handle the responsibility of condemning a person as “innocent or guilty.” He added that his beliefs entail judgement “after our death and I would hate to think an innocent person would suffer because of the evidence and my decision.”
Judge Timothy Pontius QC called the man to argue his case and to determine if they could do anything to accommodate him. In the end, however, he was told that he could not be excused from the service. The Judge explained it to him, saying that many who serve on the jury have had “very deeply held religious beliefs” and in spite of these beliefs, “they discharge their responsibilities consciously and consistent with their religious beliefs.” He added that it was “common for many members of the jury to be practicing Muslims, some hold their religious faith very deeply indeed, and yet are content to sit in judgement of fellow citizens.” He concluded that by using the logic he had presented, he by no means doubted “the strength of [his] religious beliefs” but since other Muslims have not found a problem with it, “I regret I can’t excuse [him] from jury service.”
The man was very understanding. Before he joined those waiting to serve, he said that he lives “in this country and [has] to go by the law, but if you order me to be of service that is my responsibility.”