Skip to main content

Counter-Extremism Strategy

Volume 611: debated on Thursday 26 May 2016

Many people in this country of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit from the guidance they offer. Religious communities also operate arbitration councils and boards to resolve disputes. The overriding principle is that these rules, practices and bodies must operate within the rule of law in the UK. However, there is evidence some Sharia councils may not follow this principle and so, through the Government’s counter-extremism strategy, I committed to commissioning an independent review to understand whether, and the extent to which, Sharia is being misused or applied in way that is incompatible with the law.

I am pleased to announce Professor Mona Siddiqui’s appointment as chair of the review, the terms of reference, and the appointment of the panel.

Professor Mona Siddiqui OBE is a highly respected professor at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in classical Islamic law, juristic arguments, and contemporary ethical issues, who was appointed OBE for services to inter-faith relations. Professor Siddiqui will be supported by a review panel consisting of Sir Mark Hedley, Sam Momtaz and Anne Marie Hutchinson OBE QC. Imam Sayed Razawi and Imam Qari Asim will serve as advisers to the chair and panel. Together these individuals represent a wide range of experience and expertise.

Sharia law review terms of reference

Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit from the guidance they offer. Some religious communities also operate arbitration councils and boards which seek to resolve disputes. There is, however, some evidence that Sharia councils may be working in a discriminatory manner.

This review will be a full, independent review to explore whether, and to what extent, the application of Sharia law may be incompatible with the law in England and Wales, such as legislation around equality. The review will also examine the ways in which Sharia may be being misused, or exploited, in a way that may discriminate against certain groups, undermine shared values or cause social harms. It will not be a review of the totality of Sharia law, which is a source of guidance for many Muslims in the UK.

This review will focus on issues including:

the ways that Sharia may be being used which may cause harm in communities;

the role of particular groups and Islamic authorities in England and Wales;

the role of Sharia councils and Muslim arbitration tribunals;

the treatment of women—particularly in divorce, domestic violence and custody cases; and

seeking out examples of best practice in relation to governance, transparency, and assuring compliance and compatibility with UK law.