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Government to investigate use of Islamic law

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The government is to launch an independent review into the use of sharia law in the UK, it was confirmed today (Monday 20 Oct). 
The investigation will focus on arbitration panels that use Islamic legal principles to address financial and family disputes.  
Although these sharia councils have no direct legal powers, concerns have been raised that they have become a quasi-legal system.
Evidence suggests that, in some Muslim communities, individuals face cultural pressure to submit to sharia councils and are either unaware of, or reluctant to use, protections afforded them under English law.
The treatment of women under sharia law is of particular concern, campaigners say.  
The investigation was confirmed in the government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy, published this morning. 
There is evidence that sharia law is "being misused and applied in a way which is incompatible with the law", the document says.
It suggests that some women are “unaware of their legal right to leave violent husbands” and that men and women are being charged different fees for access to the same service.
The strategy goes on to promise an “independent review” of the extent of the problem, with an initial report expected in 2016.
It also underlines the government’s commitment to the principle of one law for all, saying:
“There is only one rule of law in our country, which provides rights and security for every citizen. We will never countenance allowing an alternative, informal system of law, informed by religious principles, to operate in competition with it.”
But Christian Concern’s Chief Executive Andrea Williams has cautioned the government against unnecessary delay.
"The government must not kick this issue into the long grass. The investigation needs to happen quickly, and decisive action needs to follow", she said.
Publication of the strategy comes as the House of Lords prepares to debate a bill on Friday (23 Oct) that is concerned with the same issue.
Baroness Cox’s Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill challenges the development of a parallel legal system based on sharia law and places particular emphasis on protecting women from discrimination. 
The government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy has proved controversial, with widespread concern expressed over unnecessary restrictions on freedom of expression and religion. 
Andrea Williams said that the overall strategy “betrays a dangerous blindness to the Christian basis of 'British values' and a naivety about the nature of Islamic radicalisation.”

Related News:
Police to record 'anti-Muslim hate crime'  
PM launches 'counter-extremism' forum
Government's extremism plans a 'disaster', warn Christian leaders

Related Coverage:
Counter-Extremism Strategy (Gov UK)