UK

Sharia law review to focus on fairness to UK women - Theresa May

Woman with a covered face Image copyright Getty Images

An independent review will establish whether Sharia law in England and Wales has been used to discriminate against women, the home secretary has said.

It will look at whether Sharia law - Islamic religious law - is compatible with UK laws and whether it is being "misused", Theresa May added.

Some Sharia councils had sought to "legitimise" forced marriage and issue unfair divorces to women, she said.

The review will be completed next year and seek best practice among councils.

It will be led by Professor Mona Siddiqui, an expert in Islamic and inter-religious studies from the University of Edinburgh.

What is Sharia and how is it applied?

The review was announced last year, as part of the government's counter-extremism strategy.

The use of Sharia in Britain has increased over the last few years, with thousands of Muslims settling disputes before Sharia councils each year.

Councils have no legal powers in the UK and only deal with civil matters.

However, the home secretary said there was evidence some Sharia councils might be working "in a discriminatory and unacceptable way".

'Wide-ranging' review

In a written statement to MPs, Ms May said it would be a "full, independent review" to explore "whether, and to what extent, the application of Sharia law may be incompatible with the law in England and Wales".

Image copyright PA

She said: "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 said it would be a "wide-ranging, timely and thorough review" into "what actually happens in Sharia councils".

The review panel will also include family law barrister Sam Momtaz, retired High Court judge Sir Mark Hedley and specialist family law lawyer Anne Marie Hutchinson QC.

They will be advised by two religious and theological experts - Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Imam Qari Asim.

The panel will begin work immediately and is expected to complete its review in 2017, the Home Office announced.

More on this story