BBC Panorama finds Sharia councils are a ‘risk’ to women

Women in Britain are being put at risk by some Sharia councils, a BBC Panorama investigation has discovered.

Secrets of Britain’s Sharia Councils was due to air at 8.30 tonight on BBC 1, but following the death of Lady Thatcher it was postponed to a later date.

The programme shows an Islamic scholar telling an undercover reporter that she should only report domestic abuse to the police “as a last resort”.

Enough

Baroness Cox, who has a Bill in Parliament aimed at tackling Sharia councils, warned: “It is time to draw a line in the sand and say ‘enough is enough’.”

In the programme BBC Panorama looked at Leyton Islamic Sharia Council, in East London, and sent an undercover reporter there with a story about an abusive husband.

The Government says domestic violence is a crime that should be reported to the police.

However an Islamic scholar at the council, Dr Suhaib Hasan, asked if the reporter was being beaten severely – to the extent of having bruises.

Last resort

“The police that is a very, very last resort,” he said. “If he becomes so aggressive, starts hitting you, punching you of course you have to report it to the police, that is not allowed”.

Dr Hasan also referred the undercover reporter to his wife – a counsellor at the same council. She too advised against involving the police.

Both suggested she should ask if the violence was due to her own actions.

Ridiculous

The BBC then showed the footage to Nazir Afzal, the Chief Crown prosecutor for the North West, who is a Muslim and has spearheaded opposition to so-called honour-based domestic violence.

Mr Afzal said he was “disappointed but not surprised”.

Speaking about the Sharia councils, he added: “Most of them are absolutely fine but there are some – clearly like this one – who are putting women at risk.

“And doing so for ridiculous reasons, namely that they are somehow responsible for the abuse they are suffering.”

Values

Baroness Cox, whose Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill is currently in the House of Lords, expressed concern.

She warned against a system which, “in its gender discrimination causing women such suffering, is utterly incompatible with our country’s values”.