The Islamic Sharia Council has launched a scathing attack on a new Bill which aims to tackle the problems caused by Sharia courts operating in England and Wales.
The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill would make it clear in law that discrimination against women within arbitration tribunals is illegal.
The proposed legislation, which is being backed by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, would make it a criminal offence for Sharia courts to falsely claim legal jurisdiction over criminal or family law.
However, the Islamic Sharia Council has released a statement claiming that Lady Cox has “regurgitated common myths about the role of women in Islam”.
The statement, issued by the Islamic Sharia Council’s Secretary Dr Suhaib Hasan, says: “It is indeed a crime that Lady Cox has made no attempt to understand the workings of the shariah councils.”
The Council also suggested that Sharia courts already operate within the confines of current legislation.
But last week Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester who grew up in Pakistan 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.
“So if Sharia is recognised in any way in terms of the public law in this country, that introduces a principle of contradiction in the body of the law which will cause problems for the country and for people who will suffer, particularly women.”
The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill was introduced to the House of Lords last week by Christian and humanitarian campaigner, Lady Cox.
Andrew Brown, writing on the Guardian website, called the Bill “a thoroughly good thing, and a skilled piece of politics.”
He said it was creditable that “Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society appeared next to an American Christian missionary at the launch of the bill”.
The Bill does not interfere in the internal theological affairs of religious groups.