A groundbreaking new study has compiled evidence of how Sharia courts discriminate against women whilst operating “in the shadow of the law” in Britain.
According to The Independent newspaper, Machteld Zee, of Leiden University, has conducted the “most detailed and informed analysis of the workings of British sharia courts ever undertaken by an independent researcher”.
The legal academic was able to attend 15 hours of hearings at two Sharia councils, scrutinise more than a dozen cases and interview nine Islamic judges.
After conducting her research and witnessing several individual cases, Zee concluded that Sharia law degrades women and is incompatible with human rights legislation.
In one instance, Zee reports that a woman who complained about her physically and verbally abusive husband was asked by a “laughing” judge: “Why did you marry such a person?”
In another, a woman told the court that she had been interrogated “alone for quite some time about her sexual activities” by two male judges.
The full findings will be unveiled at Parliament next month.
There are aspects of sharia law and the way the sharia courts operate which are fundamentally incompatible with the laws, values, principles and policies of this country…Baroness Cox
Zee’s research comes as the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill is set to reach committee stage in the House of Lords tomorrow.
The Private Member’s Bill, brought by Baroness Caroline Cox, would make it illegal for Sharia councils to claim to act as legal courts.
Responding to Machteld Zee’s findings, Baroness Cox said: “I think there is a real problem in the way that they are currently operating, in that it is a kind of parallel legal system”.
“There are aspects of sharia law and the way the sharia courts operate which are fundamentally incompatible with the laws, values, principles and policies of this country and which represent a threat to the fundamental principle of one law for all”.
Home Secretary Theresa May has pledged to carry out an investigation into Sharia courts, but a timescale for the project is not yet known.
According to the Home Office, Muslim women who have attended Sharia courts have been forced to return to abusive husbands or have been left in penury.