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Independent review into sharia law launched

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Christian Concern's Islamic Affairs Director, Tim Dieppe, has responded to news that the government has launched an independent review into sharia law in the UK.

The government has finally launched an independent review into sharia law in the UK, after announcing that a review would be carried out last year. The review will be chaired by Professor Mona Siddiqui, a Muslim academic. The government statement acknowledges that "there is evidence some Sharia councils may be working in a discriminatory and unacceptable way, seeking to legitimise forced marriage and issuing divorces that are unfair to women."

The government states that "The terms of reference set out the review’s intention to explore whether, and to what extent, the application of Sharia law may be incompatible with the law in England and Wales." I find it extraordinary that the government could think that such a review may conclude that sharia law is compatible with English law. The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled that "sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy, as set forth in the Convention."

It is well known that sharia law is incompatible with UK law in a number of ways. The following are just a few relating to the treatment of women:

  • Polygamy is allowed in Islam, and not allowed in UK law. Q 4:3
  • A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man. Q 2:282
  • Men inherit twice as much as women. Q 4:11
  • A man may beat his wife. Q 4:34

Additionally, it is well known that divorce is much easier for a man than for a woman in Islam, and this is openly stated on the Islamic Sharia Council website.

It is pleasing to see the government acknowledging that there is evidence of sharia councils acting in a discriminatory way. Recently Machteld Zee has published a book based on her PhD research into sharia councils in the UK which provides substantive evidence of discrimination against women in these councils.

Christian Concern have supported Baroness Cox in her valiant attempts to regulate sharia councils through the introduction of a Bill in parliament. It is partly due to the work that she has done to highlight the discrimination going on that the government has been provoked into initiating a review. The former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, has now also called for substantive regulation of sharia councils.

This review should clearly conclude that sharia law is incompatible with UK law and with basic human rights. Sharia councils which operate on the basis of such a discriminatory system have no place in a free and democratic society. The vital principles of one law for all and equality before the law are based on Judeo-Christian teaching of the equal value of all people before God as made in his image. We hope that the government will agree with the European Court of Human Rights that sharia is incompatible with democracy and should not be allowed to operate in Britain.

Related Links: 
An independent review into the application of Sharia Law in England and Wales has been launched by Home Secretary Theresa May today (GOV UK) 
Sharia in the UK: The courts in the shadow of British law offering rough justice for Muslim women (Independent)
What do British Muslims really think? (Times £)