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Christian legal expert defends Sharia law

Fri 02 Feb 2018
By Eno Adeogun

A Christian retired judge has defended the use of Sharia law in the UK.

While Sir Mark Hedley sat on a panel which recommended the government regulate Sharia councils amid concerns they sometimes discriminate against women, he said they weren't bad for Muslim women.

He told Premier: "All Muslim women's organisations we spoke to wanted us not to interfere with the presence of Sharia councils because they provide the only way in which a woman can obtain a religious divorce.

 

"If they haven't registered their marriage then the only way of getting a divorce is through the Sharia council if you're a member of the Sunni community - it's only the Sunni community that this relates to and the vast majority of English Muslim women are members of the Sunni community."

The review by academics and lawyers urged minsters to establish a body which would allow self-regulation by Islamic religious councils.

But the Home Office has ruled that out, citing British laws and traditions.

A Home Office statement said: "Sharia law has no jurisdiction in the UK and we would not facilitate or endorse regulation, which could present councils as an alternative to UK laws.

"In Britain we have a long tradition of freedom of worship and religious tolerance, where many people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices and benefit from their guidance.

"The Government has no intention of changing this position."

The review panel suggested regulating Sharia councils would help ensure the Muslim bodies handle divorce cases fairly.

Diocese of Liverpool

 

Sir Hedley told Premier the panel had found cases of women who felt pressured into making concessions over things like how much money they received in a settlement.

However, he said he understands the Government's decision.

"You can understand why a government might choose to take that view because Roman Catholics have their tribunals - the government don't interfere with those.

"The Jewish communities have the beth din - the government doesn't interfere with those."

There are thought to be up to 85 Sharia courts or councils in England or Wales practicing Sharia law, an Islamic legal system.

Listen to Sir Mark Hedley speaking with Premier's Tola Mbakwe:

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