Sharia law is inherently discriminatory and is causing women in Britain to suffer, a prominent humanitarian campaigner has warned.
Listen to the debate here
Baroness Cox was speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about her Bill which is designed to curb the problems caused by Sharia courts operating in England and Wales.
She decided to table the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill after hearing the “heartbreaking” stories of women who have gone through Sharia courts.
She explained how the Bill is designed to stop a parallel legal system taking root, and how it also aims to ensure equality before the law for women.
Baroness Cox also refuted the suggestion that her Bill was anti-Islamic pointing out that it “doesn’t mention Sharia law at all”.
She continued: “It is anti-discrimination and Sharia is essentially discriminatory, that’s my concern, and women are suffering, and that is my fundamental concern.”
Her comments were echoed by Diana Nammi, director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, who warned that some Muslim women may not be aware of their rights to civil law.
However Aina Khan, a family law solicitor who specialises in Islamic family law, said that in her experience most women are aware of their rights under civil law.
She also disagreed that Sharia law was leading women to suffer saying: “I totally disagree. I think that women can gain from their Islamic rights and they must know their Islamic rights and enforce them.”
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester who grew up in Pakistan has previously expressed his support for Baroness Cox’s Bill.
He said: “The problem with Sharia is that it is inherently unequal for certain kinds of people. Muslims and non-Muslims are treated unequally. Similarly, men and women are treated unequally.”