Home Secretary Theresa May has launched an independent review of Sharia Law as part of a Counter-Extremism Strategy. The review aims to investigate evidence of “misuse” of Islamic law to subjugate or discriminate against Muslim women.
Sharia Law is the Islamic legal system that informs how Muslims lead all aspects of their lives. Sharia can be translated as, “the clear, well-trodden path to water.” It can entail harsh penalties, such as death by stoning, but it is important to note that not all Muslim countries enforce such penalties, and that the attitudes of individual Muslims toward Sharia Law vary considerably.
There is a possibility that Sharia Law is being used to legitimise forced marriages or approve divorces that are unfair to women, noted Family Law. The review will explore whether the applications of Sharia Law are in fact contrary to English and Welsh law, as well as locate examples of good practice in Sharia councils.
An estimated 100 Sharia Law courts operating outside the legal justice system exist in the UK, reported Express. There are concerns that these informal courts stand between some women and the justice they deserve.
Professor Mona Siddiqui (pictured), an expert in Islamic and inter-religious studies, will chair the review. Her panel will include a family law barrister, a retired High Court Judge and a family law lawyer. They will be advised by two theological experts who will ensure that various aspects of Sharia Law will be fully understood.
Theresa May said of the review:
“Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit a great deal from the guidance they offer. A number of women have reportedly been victims of what appear to be discriminatory decisions taken by Sharia councils, and that is a significant concern. There is only one rule of law in our country, which provides rights and security for every citizen. Professor Siddiqui, supported by a panel with a strong balance of academic, religious and legal expertise, will help us better understand whether and the extent to which Sharia law is being misused or exploited and make recommendations to the government on how to address this.”
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