In the News: Sharīʿa Courts in the UK

A recent article in The Huffington Post profiled Dr. Amra Bone, the first female “sharīʿa court” judge in the UK. As a member of the Sharia Council at Birmingham Central Mosque, Dr. Bone hears divorce cases from Muslim couples seeking to get divorced in accordance with their religious traditions (in 2016, she and her colleagues heard over 400 such cases). The article explains that Muslim Arbitration Tribunals, as they are formally known, have existed in the UK since 1996, “when the Arbitration Act started to allow for different religious laws to be applied in cases such as divorce.” There are now an estimated 85 of these “courts” throughout the country. “Though allowed by the Arbitration Act,” the article continues, “the courts’ rulings are not recognized by the UK legal system. But the scholars’ judgments carry the required moral and cultural weight to grant a divorce before God, according to Sharia law.”

Women scholars were the topic of a 2016 online symposium hosted by SHARIAsource called, “The Legal Basis of Female Clerics Among Chinese Muslims.” The symposium highlighted mosques in China that are led by women, and the contributors—including two female clerics, a male cleric, and an anthropologist—discussed how these mosques are perceived in modern Chinese culture.

UK Sharia Councils have also been previously discussed on the SHARIAsourceBlog. Guest contributor Hadeer Soliman critically examined claims made by a member of the House of Lords that stereotyped Islamic marriages as being contrary to women’s rights. In addition, South Asia Editor Jeff Redding examined the controversy, both in the UK and India, over whether “sharīʿa courts” are actually “courts.” The SHARIAsourceBlog also featured some reflections on a February 2018 report by the UK Home Department (which is in charge of immigration and security policy) about whether Sharia Councils should be regulated by the government.