It is estimated that around 20 to 30 Sharia councils operate across Britain, which settle disputes using an Islamic religious law. Today the influential Home Affairs Select Committee in Westminster will begin its parliamentary inquiry into these councils, providing a unique view into their little-known operations.
There has been support for the Sharia councils by Labour MP Naz Shah who aid some of her constituents viewed the discussion around Sharia councils as ‘Islamophobic and racist’. Moreover Shaista Ghoir, chair of the charity that works to improve social justice and equality for Muslim women, said that Muslim women “do not want Sharia councils shut down” and doing so would only force them to operate illegally. To gain a better idea of what Sharia councils do a group of councils have a website with plenty of information about their aims and how they try to help Muslims in Britain.
With the other point of view the Daily Telegraph wrote in 2013 about a Panorama documentary about the Secrets of Sharia Councils which showed women being failed by the councils. The British government’s view is that Sharia law is not law in England and Wales. If decisions made by these councils conflicts with national law, then national law will always prevail. The women interviewed by the Telegraph believe that it is not the Islamic code that is at fault but the way Sharia councils interpret it, and they want them investigated and held accountable. ‘Sonia, Cara and Ayesha eventually freed themselves from their unhappy marriages – but they believe that many other women in Britain are being condemned by Sharia councils to miserable lives.’