Sharia Rulings 'Can Go to Courts'

October 25, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: BBC News

Decisions made under Islamic sharia law can be accepted by English and Welsh family courts, a minister has confirmed.

Sharia, a set of principles governing the way many Muslims believe they should live, is not legally binding.

But rulings passed on separating couples by a sharia council can be "rubber stamped" by the courts, said justice minister Bridget Prentice.

Conservatives argue that parallel legal systems have "no place" in the country.

Critics fear women could be disadvantaged by sharia processes, which they say traditionally favour men.

Ms Prentice clarified the situation in a written answer to MPs, stressing that English family law would still apply.

She said parties in a dispute dealing with money or children could draft a consent order embodying the terms of the sharia judgement for submission to a formal court.

"This allows English judges to scrutinise it to ensure that it complies with English legal tenets," said Ms Prentice.

The court can approve the order - creating a legal contract - if it decides the agreement is fair.

However, if it is unhappy with the consent order, the court may ask for more information or for the couple to attend a hearing.