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Justice: Sharia Law

Volume 699: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have received any representations as to elements of Sharia law which should be recognised in United Kingdom law; and, if so, what is their response to those representations; and [HL1934]

Whether they will extend to marriages under Sharia law the power contained in section 10A of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to refuse a decree absolute if steps are not taken to dissolve a religious marriage.[HL1935]

The Government have not received any representations. Sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales. There are, however, a number of Sharia councils in England and Wales which, on a private basis where the parties consent, deal with the mediation and resolution of personal and contractual disputes. These councils are not part of the court system. In all cases, parties will always have recourse to the national courts.

The Divorce (Religious Marriages) Act 2002, which amended the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, allows a court to refuse a decree absolute until a religious divorce is granted. It applies to members of the Jewish faith or to any other prescribed religious group, including Islam. The option does, however, depend on the religious community itself deciding to make use of the provisions of the Act and then asking the Lord Chancellor to prescribe the religious group for that purpose. No application has been received from any Islamic group requesting such recognition.