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The Sunday Times today reported that the government has "quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence".

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

The decision has been welcomed by Inayat Bunglawala, the Muslim Council of Britain assistant secretary-general known for his past support and praise for Osama Bin Laden and the 1993 World Trade Centre bombers. But moves towards ‘voluntary’ sharia dispute resolution have been condemned by moderates as coercive, on grounds that anyone who decides against Islamic courts when they are made available risks being labeled an ‘apostate’. Muslim women who rejected the sharia system – under which a man’s testimony is valued twice as highly as a woman’s – would risk being exiled from their communities, and violence.

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Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary has today challenged the legal right of British courts to recognise the rulings of sharia courts:

"If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful."

"British law is absolute and must remain so."

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