The Home Office has launched an independent review into how Sharia law could be misused or exploited in the UK as part of the government's counterterrorism strategy. Forced marriages and divorce settlements that are unfair to women and contrary to the teachings of Islam are some of the issues which will be examined by the review chaired by Professor Mona Siddiqui, an internationally renowned expert in Islamic and inter-religious studies.
The government's counterterrorism strategy notes that while many people in England and Wales follow religious codes and practices, and benefit from the guidance they offer, there is evidence that some Sharia councils in England and Wales may be working in a "discriminatory and unacceptable way", especially towards women.
The review will look into whether, and to what extent, the application of Sharia law is incompatible with the law in England and Wales or "discriminates against certain groups, undermines shared values and cause social harms".
The panel will be advised by two theological experts – Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Imam Qari Asim – who will make sure the panel has a full understanding of the religious and theological issues relating to Sharia law, and the way it is applied. The panel is expected to complete its review in 2017 and is calling for groups and individuals to help give evidence or contribute to the review.
The Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit a great deal from the guidance they offer. A number of women have reportedly been victims of what appear to be discriminatory decisions taken by Sharia councils, and that is a significant concern. There is only one rule of law in our country, which provides rights and security for every citizen."
"Professor Siddiqui, supported by a panel with a strong balance of academic, religious and legal expertise, will help us better understand whether and the extent to which Sharia law is being misused or exploited and make recommendations to the government on how to address this."
Siddiqui added: "It's a privilege to be asked to chair such an important piece of work. At a time when there is so much focus on Muslims in the UK, this will be a wide ranging, timely and thorough review as to what actually happens in Sharia councils."