UK Investigates Sharia Courts For Discrimination Against Women

REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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British Home Secretary Theresa May announced Thursday an investigation has been launched into whether Sharia law — Islamic religious law — is used to discriminate against women in England and Wales.

The Islamic Sharia Council (ISC) provides advice and legal rulings to Muslims in the United Kingdom. It is divided into four branches with different schools of thought and primarily handles divorces and financial disputes. The practice has been under much scrutiny, and members of parliament have tried to ban the practice.

May said some courts have abused their power to “legitimize” forced marriages and favor men in divorce procedures.

“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,” May said in a letter to members of parliament. “There is only one rule of law in our country, which provides rights and security for every citizen.”

Thousands of British Muslims have settled disputes in Sharia courts over the past few years. The councils have no legal power and only deal with civil matters. May said the purpose of the investigation is determine if the councils have stepped overstepped their borders “in a discriminatory and unacceptable way.”

The review is part of the government’s counter-extremism strategy. It will be carried out by a panel that includes two imams and a number of religious scholars. The findings will be presented in 2017.

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