No announcement yet.

[100] Muslim women criticise UK sharia councils inquiry

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • [100] Muslim women criticise UK sharia councils inquiry

    Muslim women criticise UK sharia councils inquiry

    Activists called on Muslim women to not be used as 'political football' during government inquiry into sharia law

    Sharia councils are used primarily to dispute on civil matters relating to divorce and family matters (AFP)

    Tuesday 1 November 2016 11:08 UTC

    Last update: Tuesday 1 November 2016 15:05 UTC

    Show comments

    More than a 100 Muslim women have signed an open letter condemning the British government's probe into Sharia law, alleging the inquiry is using Muslim women as a "political football".

    Signed by women from across Britain and the religious spectrum, the letter was published to coincide with the House of Commons home affairs select committee's hearing on Sharia councils, due to take place later this afternoon.

    Ordered by British Prime Minister Theresa May when she was home secretary, the independent review was established to determine whether sharia law in England and Wales has been used to discriminate against women.

    Other aspects of the inquiry will also assess whether shariah law is compatible with UK laws and whether it is being "misused", May said at the time.

    Aimed at both the government and the parliamentary committee, the letter urged both bodies to prioritise the voices of Muslim women, "as they must be at the forefront of informing the solutions that must work for them."

    Speaking on the BBC this morning, Shaista Gohir, the chair of the Muslim Women's Network UK, said that the inquiries were in danger of patronising Muslim women who were being "treated like children.".

    Faeeza Vaid, executive director for the Muslim Women's Network told Middle East Eye that the organisation is fearful that the voices of Muslim women "are being silenced and that the only voices being heard are anti-faith feminists who call for Sharia councils to be shut down".

    "We are not denying that a lot of work needs to be done on Sharia councils and are fully aware of the difficulties faced by women going through the system, but what we are fearful of is the creation of a vacuum for Muslim women who have not registered their marriages legally if the councils are abolished," said Vaid.

    Speaking about the nature of the inquiry, Vaid also told MEE that Muslim women want to be part of the solution but are being silenced out of the process.

    'Women being silenced'

    "When Muslim women want to be part of the solution, we are being silenced by anti-faith voices and then you get arguments that when you argue for faith, you are an Islamist. This is not fair."

    However, crossbench peer Lady Cox, who has been a longstanding critic of Sharia councils, told the BBC that many women are "suffering" and getting a "raw deal" because of sharia courts in the UK.

    Describing the criticism towards the inquiry as "total rubbish", Lady Cox said: "A lot of the women who support me are muslim women who don't have a voice."

    Labour MP Naz Shah, who sits on the home affairs committee, also said that the councils could never be a replacement for the civil courts.

    "When there is discrination the victims are, by and large, women" said Shah.

    The review was announced last year as part of the government's counter-extremism strategy.

    The use of sharia courts and councils in Britain has increased over the last year, with thousands of Muslims settling disputes before Sharia councils each year.

    Shariah councils have no legal powers in the UK and only deal with civil matters like divorce and family disputes.

    The precise number of sharia courts in the UK are unknown but research done by Reading university estimated that there is a total of about 30.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  • #2
    The UK's Sharia 'courts'

    Sharia, or Muslim religious law, has been highly controversial in the UK. Interpretations of Sharia are associated in other countries with harsh penalties unknown in the UK; campaigners and politicians worry that Muslim women are discriminated against when family disputes are resolved under Sharia.

    UKIP says that: "The law of the land must apply to us all. We oppose any other system of law"; its leader has referred to "80 practising Sharia courts around the United Kingdom".

    Are there 'Sharia courts' in Britain?

    While there are undoubtedly lots of different councils and tribunals dealing with Sharia principles, they aren't courts of law.

    Most are Sharia 'councils' set up to make decisions on purely religious matters, although there are some bodies that mix Sharia principles with legally binding arbitration. But none can overrule the regular courts

    Sharia councils

    Getting married for the purposes of your religion doesn't necessarily mean you are married in the eyes of the state.

    Equally, the paperwork required for a civil divorce needn't be recognised by your religion.

    For this reason, many Sharia councils exist to issue Islamic divorce certificates, and give advice on other aspects of religious law. They're often attached to mosques.

    Family law and Sharia

    Other services related to family issues might be offered by a Sharia council. Family mediation is one example.

    Some campaigners worry about using mediation by religious bodies to work out agreements about children and finances after a marriage breaks down.

    In 2014 Baroness Cox, a member of the House of Lords, tried to introduce a law to ensure that women aren't disadvantaged in mediation by religious bodies, and make clear that they aren't a court.

    But, formally, this is already the case.

    While feuding couples have to at least consider mediation before going to court, it doesn't override family law. A court has to sign off on any agreement made after divorce for it to be legally binding, and won't do so if the judge thinks it's unfair.

    In 2013, the High Court was asked by an Orthodox Jewish couple to accept the ruling of a Jewish religious court on post-divorce family arrangements. The judge said that while the agreement would carry weight, it would be non-binding—neither party could get around English law by agreeing to abide by the decision of another tribunal.

    Rather than open the door to "Sharia divorces", as some newspapers reported, the judgment confirmed that agreements made in a religious form are ultimately subject to English law.

    Sharia arbitration bodies

    The way Sharia might become legally enforceable is where a Sharia organisation is used for arbitration. This means taking a commercial or personal dispute to a neutral forum and agreeing to be bound by what it decides.

    It's up to the people having the dispute who they agree to be the arbiter, and they can even choose to apply rules other than English law to the affair—so long as there is no conflict between the two.

    The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal is an example of this approach. It appoints one qualified lawyer and one expert in Islamic law to each case. In this way, it tries to ensure that the decision reached is in line with both secular and religious law.

    So if both parties agree, arbitral tribunals can decide certain issues by applying religious principles.

    This doesn't make them courts as such. Their legal authority comes from being voluntarily chosen as a decision-maker, and they can't make any decisions that are contrary to national law.

    How many of these Sharia organisations exist?

    From the research that's been done to date, it's not clear how many exist or how many different types there are.

    One piece of research from the University of Reading has identified 30 major councils, and some smaller ones, providing these services.

    An estimate of "85 at least" was given in a 2009 report by the think tank Civitas. It was repeated in an interview in the Telegraph with Baroness Cox in April 2014.

    The UKIP leader Nigel Farage mentioned a figure of 80 on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme in January 2015. UKIP told us that he got his number from the Telegraph article.

    But the Civitas estimate includes online forums and admits that the actual number is "indeterminate".

    So far as we are aware, there are no definitive studies

    Law versus reality

    The coalition government had said that the courts have the powers they need to protect people from coercion and unequal treatment.

    But campaigners like Baroness Cox reply that whatever about the strict legal position, "the power of Sharia councils lies in how they are perceived by their communities".

    Academics tend to be more relaxed, saying that "fears that councils are forming a parallel legal system appear to be unfounded". A new book by a Dutch researcher is reportedly more critical about how women in particular are treated.

    Researchers also stress that we need more information to work out how important Sharia councils are on the ground, and the experiences of people using them.

    Similarly, the government now says that "there is evidence of a problem, but we have an inadequate understanding of all the issues involved". It has commissioned a review into whether Sharia is being "misused or applied in a way which is incompatible with the law", to report in 2017.


    • #3
      allowing sharia in UK is total BS to me...
      Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none; be able for thine enemy rather in power than use; and keep thy friend under thine own life's key; be checked for silence, but never taxed for speech.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Big K View Post
        allowing sharia in UK is total BS to me...
        And your not alone in that mate.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Big K View Post
          allowing sharia in UK is total BS to me...
          It would appear inevitable that at some stage in the not too distant future that sufficient Moslems will be in governmental office to attempt to impose Sharia law on the whole population. Should they achieve this there wil never be a return to democratic government.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Keef View Post
            It would appear inevitable that at some stage in the not too distant future that sufficient Moslems will be in governmental office to attempt to impose Sharia law on the whole population. Should they achieve this there wil never be a return to democratic government.
            And who might you be? Why not introduce yourself?