Government’s responsibility over sharia law

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Source: The Guardian

Sharia courts are a symptom rather than the cause of the problems many Muslim women face (Sharia courts have no place in UK family law, theguardian.com, 14 December). The real problem is that most mosques do not register themselves under the Marriage Act 1949 and imams are willing to perform marriage ceremonies without insisting on the marriage being registered. Muslim wives in particular are usually not aware that their “marriage” has no legal status until the relationship breaks down, and they discover that they are merely cohabitants with few rights and in that circumstance going to a sharia “court” may be the best option they have.

It is a criminal offence to solemnise a marriage that is not registered under the Marriage Act. If the government started enforcing that provision and ensured that all Muslim marriages are properly registered, that would achieve far more for Muslim women than yet another review of sharia courts.
Neil Addison
Barrister, Liverpool

I never thought I’d agree with Norman Tebbit about anything, but his comments about sharia law – as mocked in (Pass notes, G2, 14 December) – are broadly accurate. As the work of One Law for All, the pressure group campaigning against the spread of sharia law, makes clear, sharia councils and courts act as quasi-judicial authorities, and although they have no status under civil law, many Muslims regard their decisions as binding. These decisions in the field of family law are highly discriminatory against women, and children are also at risk because decisions about residence and contact are made without reference to the Children Act. Crimes under the secular law of the state, such as marital rape, domestic abuse and polygamy, are accepted or even actively promoted. Would that all this were just a “popular myth”.
Lorraine Harding
Retired senior lecturer in social policy, Leeds

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2 replies

  1. It should be clear to all that ‘decisions’ of ‘Sharia Courts’ have no legal value or implications. That does not mean that the (so-called) Sharia Courts have no benefit of existence. They serve as ‘advisers’, mainly in family law, before the case goes to the official civil court. I believe that a lot of lawyer fees and court fees can be saved by ‘Sharia Courts’ trying to find a solution before ‘the fight’ goes to the government civil courts.

  2. Regarding polygamy my own view would be: (just to stress, this is my own personal view and not a ‘religious ruling’). that ‘unregistered’ (second and more) marriages should be religiously permitted, it should however be made perfectly clear (even in writing with a signature of both parties that they understand the implications) that while ‘religiously’ the marriage is a marriage for the purpose of Western Civil Law it is ‘only’ a ‘partnership’ and does not grant the additional wife the same privileges. Consequently the ‘husband’ (or legally ‘partner’) will have to make a will in order to balance his financial affairs..

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