London

Estranged couple's Islamic marriage ruled valid by judge

The Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand, London
Image caption A lawyer said the ruling could have a wider implication for other faiths

A High Court judge has ruled that an estranged couple's Islamic faith marriage falls within the scope of English matrimonial law.

Nasreen Akhter and Mohammed Shabaz Khan held an Islamic wedding ceremony in a west London restaurant in 1998.

Mr Khan, 46, wanted to block a divorce application on the basis that they are not legally married under English law.

But Mrs Akhter, 46, said the Islamic faith marriage was valid as was her application for divorce.

Mr Justice Williams analysed the couple's dispute at a recent trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London and announced his decision in a written ruling.

Businessman Mr Khan had wanted to stop solicitor Ms Akhter staging a fight over money.

It was ruled that the marriage falls within the scope of the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act, despite Mr Khan arguing the marriage was "under Sharia law only".

The judge decided that the marriage was "entered into in disregard of certain requirements as to the formation of marriage".

He said Mrs Akhter was therefore entitled to a decree of nullity.

Expert review

Barrister Paula Rhone-Adrien, who led Mr Khan's legal team, had told the judge that the case could have implications for people of a number of faiths.

An experts' review into the application of Sharia law was published in February after being commissioned by the Home Office.

Prime Minister Theresa May had asked for a review when she was Home Secretary.

She wanted to explore whether Sharia law was being applied in a way that was incompatible with domestic legislation.

A panel of experts, which included an academic and lawyers, said Muslim couples should be required to undergo civil marriages in addition to Muslim ceremonies to bring Islamic marriage legally into line with Christian and Jewish marriage.

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