Sharia Academic: ‘Inherently Discriminatory’ Sharia Councils Have No Place in Britain

Sharia courts should be abolished in Britain, and British courts handed legal powers to adjudicate on Islamic divorce, an expert in Sharia has advised a government committee. In written evidence to be submitted to the Home Office Select Committee’s inquiry into Sharia councils in the UK, Elham Manea, associate professor in Middle East studies at Zurich University, argues that making it mandatory for Islamic marriage ceremonies to be accompanied by a civil marriage will nullify the need for Sharia councils in the UK, as they are overwhelmingly used by women seeking a divorce. Under Islamic law, men can divorce their wives simply by saying “talaq” (“I divorce you”) three times. But women must gain a judicial decree, or forgo all financial rights, in order to obtain a divorce from a sharia judge, in a process which costs £400. Many women report having been pressured by the council into staying with their husbands under the guise of taking part in mediation. In her evidence, Manea says the vast majority of women attending the courts – which may be as informal as “an imam in the living room,” according to the think-tank Civitas, – are women who have not formalised their religious