Monday, May 06, 2019

British Parliament Debates Sharia Councils

On May 2, Britain's House of Commons debated the operation of Sharia Councils in the United Kingdom. (full text of debate). MP John Howell said in part:
Sharia councils provide a form of alternative dispute resolution.... Members of the Muslim community voluntarily consent to accept the religious jurisdiction of sharia councils. Marital issues and the granting of Islamic marriage divorces account for about 90% of their work. They also advise in matters ​of law, including issues of inheritance, probate and wills and Islamic commercial law contracts, and they provide mediation, counselling and religious ruling services.
Sharia councils are not considered part of the British legal system. They are not courts and their decisions are not legally binding. However, despite having no judicial authority, some councils see themselves as authoritative on religious issues, and the power of sharia councils lies in how they are perceived by their communities.
A significant number of Muslims do not have a marriage recognised under British law.... [S]ome Muslim women therefore have no option of obtaining a civil divorce. Some women may have no other option but to obtain a religious divorce, for which the judgment of a sharia council is normally required.
Law & Religion UK has a more extensive summary of the debate.