“Sharia law itself is inherently positive towards women”, the head of a law firm’s new Sharia division has claimed.
The comment coincides with a Bill before Parliament which seeks to tackle the discrimination suffered by women under Sharia law in England and Wales.
The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill would remove any doubt that sex discrimination law applies to arbitration services.
Aina Khan, head of the Sharia law division at Manchester-based Russell Jones and Walker, says that Sharia law in itself is not the problem.
She said: “Sharia law itself is inherently positive towards women and protects them. The way it’s applied in many Islamic countries is misogynist.”
She says that by offering Islamic and English law services together her firm ensures that those who wish to use Sharia stick to the law of the land.
The Arbitration Bill, which was introduced by Lady Cox last year, has received support from groups including British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the National Secular Society.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who grew up in Pakistan, has also criticized Sharia law.
He said: “People in this country are free to practise whatever faith they have. But at the same time we have a very long tradition of people being equal under the law.
“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.”
And Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, has said that the proposed legislation would give women greater clarification on their rights.
She said: “There is a gap in the system for Muslim women due to the prevalence of Sharia councils.
“They don’t have any legal power and are completely informal so very hard to regulate and they rule on things such as divorce in Muslim communities. We want to educate women so they know what their rights are.”