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Baroness Cox introduces bill to curb Sharia tribunals in the UK

Baroness Cox, an independent peer, has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to ensure Sharia tribunals and councils operate within the law and do not form a concurrent legal system within the UK.

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill has been launched by Baroness Cox as she believes that some Sharia tribunals and councils are “going well beyond their legal remit and some Sharia court rulings are being misrepresented as having the force of the UK law.”

Baroness Cox is particularly concerned that women are being discriminated against within Sharia courts and that they are being deprived of their legal rights.

The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal was set up in 2007 and operates under the Arbitration Act 1006. As the Tribunal is set up as a arbitration service under UK law, its decisions are enforceable under UK courts, as the decisions of arbitrators are final. Because of the legally binding nature of arbitration, it can only be used to resolve a dispute if all the parties to the dispute have agreed to it and the rules, for example Sharia law, that will be applied.

Baroness Cox believes that some women are being ‘intimidated’ and ‘coerced’ into going before them, and if they do give their consent, this is often because they are ignorant of their rights under UK law.

In addition, she is concerned that the Sharia Tribunals are moving away from deciding commercial matters and have begun deciding family matters, which was not part of their original purpose.

There are also a number of less formal Sharia councils in the UK. These deal almost exclusively with family issues within the Muslim community. Parties can come before a council and receive a solution to their problem that complies with Sharia law.

Baroness Cox warns that some of these councils are misrepresenting themselves as being able to pass legally binding decisions and that women are often discriminated against in their decisions.

Her new Bill will attempt to ensure that Muslim women are protected against from discrimination and that any attempts by extreme groups to “establish a parallel legal system will be prosecuted as unlawful.”

The Islamic Sharia Council has responded to the Baroness’s Bill. In a statement issued by Secretary Suhaib Hasan, the Council said that it is incorrect for the Baroness to assume that the Council considers its judgements to be superior to those of the English Legal System. The statement said that the Council is only concerned with the religious aspect of the cases that come before it, and that its involvement is “akin to couples having a religious marriage (Nikah) at the mosque and then a civil marriage at their local Registry office.”

Related Links:

Find local family law solicitors throughout the UK (Contact Law)
Find specialist Sharia solicitors in the UK (Contact Law)

2 comments on “Baroness Cox introduces bill to curb Sharia tribunals in the UK

  1. Is Baroness Cox’ bill law yet? It’s been going the House for some time. I’m in he US so I was wondering where it stands. I hope it become law.

    March 2013

  2. The basis of a decision that one makes should be comply with exact information. The steps that need to be taken are as follows before taking any steps:

    Firstly establish the points by visiting the MAT’s (the Shariah Councils) within the UK, whether they are resolving the religious issues.

    Secondly making changes within English Legal System on certain aspects, for example one issue is with regards to a requirement of having to go through a civil ceremony for the marriage to be recognised within the UK, despite the existence of an Islamic marriage contract, the Nikah nama. This issue would need to be discussed thoroughly, as the issue may not need to be addressed by the Shariah Council if the UK Law incorporates just as it allows the Nikah nama to be recognised of an Islamic estate during the divorce process in the English Courts.

    The Muslim women are widely affected by this very issue within the Islamic community. Where is the justice for these women. What financial remedies are they entitled to in the Divorce Courts?

    These Muslim women are vulnerable and many that are residents of the UK rely upon their Nikah nama as being a valid contract within the UK.

    The bill therefore should consist of changes within the English Legal System in light of the issues discussed above.

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