Bridget Prentice, a junior minister at the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that Sharia councils will have the right to settle disputes between two ‘consensual’ parties, where they relate to money, property and access to children. By the letter of the law, these decisions and ruling will have no legal force. But in practice, where Sharia councils have ruled on a matter, English family courts will be now expected to rubber stamp their decisions.
Nick Herbert and Paul Goodman have both come out in strong opposition to this decision:
Nick Herbert, the shadow justice secretary, said: "There can be no place for parallel legal systems in our country.
"It is vital that in matrimonial disputes where a Sharia council is involved, women’s rights are protected and judgments are non-binding."
Another Conservative spokesman, Paul Goodman, the shadow minister for communities and local government, accused the Government of keeping the public in the dark and warned: "There must be one British law for everyone."
Neither are quoted explaining why Sharia courts should not to be welcomed or why women’s rights should be a concern in them at all. David Green of Civitas is however quoted noting that such courts do not consider the voice of a woman equal to that of a man, nor treat men and women equally under the law.
9.45am: In his speech last month to the Conservative Party Conference, Dominic Grieve made clear the Tory position:
“For all its tough talk on terrorism, the government is dropping the ball on security and radicalisation. Lax on fanatical preachers. Silent on sharia courts. Let me make our position clear. Sharia courts can be given no authority over criminal and family law matters in Britain. Our law must reign supreme. The next Conservative government will make sure it does.”