A leading evangelical bishop, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester who now leads the Oxford centre for training, research and advocacy, has warned that a British Government inquiry into Sharia law in Britain is “deeply flawed” and will fail. He also warns that the review is wrong to emphasize how Sharia is applied.
Instead, MPs (members of parliament) should be investigating the nature and content of Sharia law itself.
In Britain, there is a “very long tradition” of people being equal under the law, says Nazir-Ali.
“The problem with Sharia is that it is inherently unequal for certain kinds of people. Muslims and non-Muslims are treated unequally. Similarly, men and women are treated unequally.”
The Home Affairs Committee is looking at how Sharia councils work in Britain, such as in resolving family and divorce disputes. The committee is also looking at how Sharia fits into the secular British legal system.
In his written evidence to the inquiry, Nazir-Ali warns: “If Sharia is recognised in anyway in terms of the public law, it will introduce a principle of contradiction in the body of the law, which will cause enormous problems.”
He says the review is deeply flawed because “the terms of reference disproportionately emphasise the application of Sharia law, as opposed to its nature and content.”
He also condemns the panel for failing to include a human rights lawyer and any non-Muslim experts on Islam.
Sharia law covers politics, finance, war, personal, and social issues and contains three fundamental inequalities.
Muslims and non-Muslims are not treated equally. For example, non-Muslims cannot inherit from Muslims.
Men and women are not treated equally in divorce and the custody of children, and nor are slaves and free people.
“Western law, by contrast, embraces the fundamental principle of equality of all people before the law.”
While accepting that Muslims should be free to practice Sharia in their private lives, Nazir-Ali argues it should not be recognised in public law in this country and warns that if it is, communities will be further segregated.
“We appear to be accepting modern Islamist interpretations as the official Islamic position. In this way, we may end up with a more powerful form of Sharia law here in this country than exists in many Islamic countries.”
Nazir-Ali raises concerns about the age of consent under Sharia, which is understood by Islamists to be the age of physical puberty.
Baroness Caroline Cox, also a committed Christian, says in her evidence to the inquiry: “There are increasing concerns that many women and girls in this country today are suffering from systematic religiously-sanctioned gender discrimination, with particular reference to the application of Sharia law operating as a parallel quasi-legal system.”
Cox adds: “In a free society, individuals must be able to organise their affairs according to their own principles, whether religious or otherwise. However, we cannot condone situations where rulings are applied which are fundamentally incompatible with our country’s laws, values, principles and policies.
Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary, warned: “There is evidence of women being ‘divorced’ under Sharia law and left in penury, wives who are forced to return to abusive relationships because Sharia councils say a husband has a right to ‘chastise’, and Sharia councils giving the testimony of a woman only half the weight of the testimony of a man.”