Investigation Finds Women at Risk in Sharia Courts

London: A Crown Prosecution Service investigation of a number of Sharia courts operating in mosques across the UK found that these courts may be risking the safety of women by ruling in favor of possibly abusive husbands. The Sharia courts deal mostly with family law, issuing decisions on divorces, custody battles (though Sharia courts are legally prohibited from interfering in issues of child custody), and visitation rights. Though these courts operate beyond the bounds of British law and issue rulings that are not legally binding, many who submit cases to these courts feel pressured by religious sentiment to accept the outcomes. The findings of the Crown Prosecution Service appear to be supported by the evidence uncovered in a new BBC Panorama documentary called “Secrets of Britain’s Sharia Councils.” The documentary, which was aired recently on BBC One, investigates the Leyton Islamic Sharia Council, the oldest Islamic council in Britain, and finds that some women are being pressured to stay in abusive relationships in the name of reconciliation. The documentary further reveals that many of the women interviewed, though ruled against in the Sharia courts, do not blame the Sharia code for putting them at risk. Rather, they find fault with the way in which the laws are often applied by the courts, and call for an investigation into those courts which are found to jeopardize the safety of women.

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