05 December 2015

Sharia in the UK: The courts in the shadow of British law offering rough justice for Muslim women

Inside drab terraced housing, with a plentiful supply of tea and biscuits, a parallel British legal system is in operation.

This is the view of Machteld Zee, a Dutch researcher who gained unprecedented access to sharia courts in London and Birmingham that she believes conduct their work “in the shadow of the law”.

Ms Zee, who describes herself as “an atheist – like 70 per cent of the Dutch” – decided that the topic of her law PhD at Leiden University would be on how legal systems in different states interact with religion.

The 31-year-old from Gorinchem in the Netherlands was looking for a case study for her thesis, and heard about the sharia system in Britain.

An estimated 30 sharia councils exist today in the UK, giving Islamic divorce certificates and advice on other aspects of religious law. They have garnered fierce criticism, particularly for their treatment of women seeking religious divorces, who make up the core clientele. [The Independent] Read more