Bishop supports Bill to restrict Sharia law

Karen Peake
Bill tabled in House of Lords to restrict application of Sharia law where it discriminates against women and non-Muslims

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has lent his support to a Bill tabled in the House of Lords this week to scale back the influence of Sharia law.

Sharia - or Islamic law - is used in around 85 Sharia councils and Muslim arbitration tribunals across the UK.

The Bill, tabled by Baroness Caroline Cox, proposes banning the use of Sharia law where it conflicts with English law in discriminating against women and non-Muslims.

The Bill has arisen over concerns about the discrimination suffered by Muslim women under the Sharia system.

It proposes to protect women by stopping discriminatory rulings that are contrary to UK law and ensuring that Sharia law does not appear to have jurisdiction where it does not.

Introducing the Bill, Baroness Cox said she was "deeply concerned" about the treatment of Muslim women by Sharia courts.

"Equality under the law is a core value of British justice," she said.

"My Bill seeks to stop parallel legal, or ‘quasi-legal’, systems taking root in our nation.

"Cases of criminal law and family law are matters reserved for our English courts alone.

"I want to make it perfectly clear in the law that discrimination against women shall not be allowed.

"We must do all that we can to make sure they are free from any coercion, intimidation or unfairness."

Expressing his support for the Bill in the House of Lords, Bishop Nazir-Ali said Sharia was "inherently unequal".

"Muslims and non-Muslims are treated unequally. Similarly, men and women are treated unequally.

"So if Sharia is recognised in any way in terms of the public law in this country, that introduces a principle of contradiction in the body of the law which will cause problems for the country and for people who will suffer, particularly women," he said.

He warned that equality before the law would be "immediately compromised" if Sharia law were recognised in public law.

Under Sharia law, for example, a man may divorce his wife simply by 'declaring' it three times, while a woman may have to seek permission from her husband, pay money and submit an application to a Sharia ‘court’.

Divorced men may re-marry, while a divorced woman may not, and boys and men are entitled to receive twice the inheritance of girls and women.

The bishop added: "We need to make sure that people have free access to the courts and equal protection from the state, as far as their fundamental rights are concerned."

June 11, 2011, Christianity today

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