A landmark divorce ruling has recognised Sharia Law for the first time in British courts. This could change the way in which Islamic marriage and divorces operate within the UK.
Sharia Law is a broadly defined, religious system for Muslims. It regulates both private and public affairs, including divorce, marriage and financial concerns. Until now, Sharia has had no legally binding authority under civil law. However, this ruling puts Sharia at risk of undermining the ruling of law.
In the High Court case, Mr Khan wanted to block the divorce application on the basis that they were not legally married under English Law. Ms Akhter asserted that the Islamic faith marriage was valid and that her application for divorce needed to be recognised. The judge ruled in her favour, stating that the marriage falls within the scope of the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act.
Sharia Law is a widely controversial practice within in the UK and has been criticised for discriminating against women. Under Sharia Law, women appeal to Sharia councils, largely comprised of male scholars, to be released from their union, while men are not obligated to do the same.
In 2016, Theresa May commissioned a report to investigate whether Sharia is compatible with existing laws and whether it is being misused. May expressed her concerns about women in Islamic marriages being unaware of their legal protection under UK law. In addition to campaigns and education programmes informing women of their rights to a civil divorce, the report recommends that Muslim couples should be legally required to register their marriage before or during their Islamic ceremony.
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