A crossbench Peer has called on the Government to “respond urgently” to a review on sharia councils by legislating to protect vulnerable women.
Baroness Cox, a patron of The Christian Institute, joined with other members of the House of Lords to call for action to back up the verbal assurances already given by the Government.
Earlier this year the Home Secretary said sharia councils – which critics say discriminate against women – would not be given state backing, following the review.
In the House of Lords on Thursday, Peers questioned whether ministers were moving forward with sufficient pace on the issue.
Lord Elton, a Conservative, said the problem of sharia councils “seems to me bigger and more urgent than Her Majesty’s Government are giving it credit for”.
Crossbencher Baroness Flather accused Whitehall of not taking the issue seriously.
And Lady Cox, who opened the debate, asked whether the Government “will make it a priority to respond urgently with appropriate legislation”.
Responding for the Government, Baroness Manzoor stressed that officials were working towards a solution.
She restated that the Government does “take this issue very seriously” and that “UK law has primacy and sharia law does not”.
Following the debate, Lady Cox told The Christian Institute she was “cautiously optimistic” about the response.
But she urged ministers to “proceed as quickly as possible to alleviate the tragic predicament of many Muslim women”.
In the review on sharia, it was found that the councils are almost exclusively used by women – 90 per cent of the time for divorce.
Concerning practices included women being treated unequally, “inappropriate” questioning and some council members having a poor grasp of English.
The Christian Institute welcomed the Home Secretary’s assertion that the councils would not receive official sanctioning.
“Muslims have the same legal rights as everyone else in this country. They shouldn’t be denied those rights by some kind of UK-sanctioned system of sharia courts”, Deputy Director Simon Calvert said.