Sharia courts degrade women. They are incompatible with European human rights legislation. Sharia law legitimises law breaking. If we let it thrive this law breaking will grow beyond the mere abuse of women.
Sharia courts cannot continue as a parallel Judiciary. They cannot be allowed to provide marriage and divorce certificates. We cannot allow rulings which are incompatible with laws, values, principles and policies of our country. Sharia does not operate within the framework of the English legal system. It has its own legal system which continues to oppress women. The only way to end discrimination against women in the Muslim community is to make Sharia courts illegal.
I believe the ongoing select committee enquiry into Sharia law is a sham. It is designed to give the impression of probity, but is avoiding any useful investigation in case its findings would prove to be politically inconvenient.
During my recent visit to give evidence to the select committee, I was the only one out of about 25 women who had been invited who was in support of banning Sharia law in the UK. Indeed, I felt 'ambushed' by the whole thing. Some of those I spoke to were in favour of regulation. But you cannot regulate something that is unseen. The UK Board of Sharia councils stated last November that they themselves have no idea how many Sharia courts currently operate in the UK.
I was also shocked at the lack of incisive questioning on 1st November 2016 at the Select Committee at which 3 panels were convened to answer questions about Sharia courts, or as they would prefer to term them, ‘councils’, in the UK.
In particular, the testimony of the third panel, comprising the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the UK Board of Sharia Councils and a member of the Islamic Sharia Council, was remarkable in its level of disingenuousness and contradiction, which was totally unchallenged by the select committee.
Some of the nonsense which was unchallenged by the committee:
The Vice Chairman of UK Board of Sharia Councils said “if Sharia Councils are banned … we will have back street and not transparent” Sharia councils.
The Chairman of the UK Board of Sharia Councils said “we don’t know how many Sharia Councils there are.” “some people talk about 80, some people talk about 30, or 50, I don’t know. There are no records for this and no studies”
He went on to say “small shops, who are doing the marriage and divorce, maybe hidden in the basement or somewhere”.
This total contradiction was UNCHALLENGED
The Vice Chairman said “We can regularise and standardise” Sharia councils.
The Chairman said "we cannot force the Sharia councils to be members”
This was UNCHALLENGED
The Vice Chairman stated “None of the Sharia councils are overstepping the mark” “Sharia councils train people to know the law of the land”
The Chairman said “we don’t know how many Sharia Councils there are”
Khola Hasan of the Islamic Sharia Council said "we are a religious organisation that is answerable to God, nobody else”
But then she also stated “We know that English law takes precedence”
This was UNCHALLENGED
Then she said "As far as polygamy is concerned.....they are actually not guilty of bigamy because the marriage is not registered in the civil legal system. There is no bigamy going on. It’s the same as a man having a mistress”.
It was then stated “if you have a wife in Pakistan and a wife in the UK potentially you could be arrested for bigamy”
Another contradiction UNCHALLENGED!
Indeed, the Chairman of the Select Committee appeared to want to move on when anything controversial was being said!
In closing, I would like to repeat that Sharia law prescribes punishments such as beheading, flogging and stoning. In comparison there are less worrying aspects of Sharia law, such as that which allows a man to grant himself a divorce by saying the words “I divorce you” three times, whilst a woman has to jump through hoops and over obstacles designed to keep her firmly in her second class citizen status. However, I believe we are at the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. If we allow Sharia law to fester and spread its influence, in years to come we could find ourselves in a position where serious crimes are no longer tried by UK law because the perpetrator is able to cite his religion and be heard in a Sharia court.