'Is Britain heading straight for disaster?" George Bernard Shaw once began a BBC radio talk. "That is a question I can easily answer. Britain is not heading straight for anything." The reply works for the question: "Is Britain heading straight for sharia law?" It's heading that way - but by a winding path.

News reports this week have given a much stronger impression. They allege that sharia got a legal OK from the government and is already being enforced. A Muslim college in the English Midlands supposedly runs a sharia court that has so far decided more than 100 civil disputes.

In fact, that "court" made its rulings legally binding by a clever dodge: being accepted as a "voluntary arbitration tribunal."

Under British law, any two people can agree to take their dispute to such a tribunal rather than to court; the tribunal's decision is then binding on them. It can even be enforced by the official courts and the police.

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