January 18, 2012
The BBC reports that the use of sharia -- Islamic law -- is growing in Britain, with thousands of Muslims using it to settle family, financial and commercial disputes each year. The principles of sharia, derived from the Quran, the Hadith (Muhammad's writings) and fatwas (rulings of Islamic scholars), govern all aspects of a Muslim's life, and sharia has been operating in the UK in parallel to the British legal system since 1982. There are thought to be as many as 85 sharia councils in Britain, and now some British law firms are beginning to tap into the growing market as well, launching sharia departments to satisfy both the British and Islamic legal systems "all under one place," according to Muslim lawyer Aina Khan. However, some groups are objecting, arguing that the practice of sharia discriminates against women. Male-dominated sharia councils are "not providing [women] with the justice they seek," said Diana Nammi of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organization (IKWRO). A bill has been introduced in the House of Lords to begin regulating sharia organizations in the UK, but groups like IKWRO don't think the bill goes far enough. "We think there shouldn't be any religious law practicing in Britain," Nammi said. "All sharia bodies should be banned."