A Scottish law firm has become the first in the country to offer clients advice on Sharia law alongside its conventional legal services.
The controversial service, offered by Glasgow based Hamilton Burns solicitors, allows clients to receive guidance from both a Muslim lawyer fully trained in Scottish law and a Sharia scholar.
The firm offers Islamic guidance on areas of civil law such as divorce and child custody, but opponents of Sharia law have warned it is inherently discriminatory.
Maryam Namazie, spokesperson for the anti-Sharia campaign group One Law for All, said: “It is antithetical to laws that have been fought for and hard won by progressive social movements, particularly in areas of family matters.”
She added: “The civil matters sharia law decides on here are an extension of the criminal matters it decides on in Islamic states, such as stoning, amputations and so on”.
Niall Mickel, managing partner at Hamilton Burns, defended the firm’s decision to offer advice on Islamic law.
He said: “We hope that by incorporating Sharia family jurisprudence against a background of domestic Scottish legislation, we can provide our clients with as much relevant information as possible to assist them in making the right choices.”
And Shaykh Amer Jamil, who will advise clients on Islamic law, said: “Some Muslims want to know what Sharia law says and find that although they can get civil advice, they find it difficult to get Sharia advice, as imams in different mosques say different things.
“We will offer information so they can make an informed decision. It will cut out some of the stress of divorce.”
But Joshua Rozenberg, one of Britain’s best-known legal commentators, has previously warned of the dangers posed by Sharia law.
Mr Rozenberg said: “Under Sharia, a woman is not regarded as equal to a man. There must be a grave risk that women will be treated less favourably by a Sharia council than those claiming maintenance through a secular court.
“Women may also come under pressure from within their own communities to have a one-sided Sharia ruling endorsed by the civil courts.”
In England and Wales Sharia ‘courts’ have been able to rule on civil disputes since the Arbitration Act 1996.
The courts, which usually apply Islamic law in family and financial disputes, can have their rulings upheld by civil courts.