An independent review into the application of Sharia Law in England and Wales has been launched by Home Secretary Theresa May today (26 May 2016).
The review will be chaired by Professor Mona Siddiqui
, an internationally renowned expert in Islamic and inter-religious studies who was appointed OBE for her services to inter-faith relations. Professor Siddiqui will lead a panel of experts that includes experienced family law barrister Sam Momtaz
, retired High Court judge Sir Mark Hedley and specialist family law lawyer Anne Marie Hutchinson OBE, QC
The panel will be advised by two religious and theological experts – Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi
and Imam Qari Asim
. They will ensure the panel has a full and thorough understanding of the religious and theological issues relating to specific aspects of Sharia Law, and the way it is applied.
The Home Secretary committed to an independent review of the application of Sharia Law as part of the government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy. The strategy notes that many people in England and Wales follow religious codes and practices, and benefit from the guidance they offer. However, there is evidence some Sharia councils may be working in a discriminatory and unacceptable way, seeking to legitimise forced marriage and issuing divorces that are unfair to women, contrary to the teachings of Islam. It will also seek out examples of best practice among Sharia councils.
The terms of reference set out the review’s intention to explore whether, and to what extent, the application of Sharia law may be incompatible with the law in England and Wales. It will examine the ways in which Sharia may be being misused, or exploited, in a way that may discriminate against certain groups, undermine shared values and cause social harms.