In the following debate Baroness Flather, also an honorary associate of the NSS, asked for the Government’s “assessment of the impact of Sharia law in the United Kingdom, particularly on women.”
Baroness Flather noted that there were now more than 80 Sharia councils in the UK, and argued that “they are not trained lawyers” and raised concerns that the councils do not keep proper records and make “ad hoc” judgements. Citing the retired Bishop of Rochester, Lady Flather argued that “Sharia is discriminatory against women, not only in relation to marriage and children, but in most aspects.”
Baroness Warsi began her comments by urging Lady Flather to “read back the speech that she just made.” Lady Warsi questioned whether the peers were “debating a series of headlines which regularly appear in the Daily Mail.” Lady Flather responded that “there is so much evidence which has been collected by various researchers and taken from women. These are their own stories and views; this is not about headlines.”
Lady Warsi continued, arguing that there was a difference between “Sharia and Sharia law” and that “Sharia exists in the United Kingdom in our multicultural society.” Lady Warsi raised the example of Sharia-compliant financial bonds and student loans, as well as halal food and circumcision.
Addressing the issue of Muslim women left without rights in unrecognised nikah Islamic ‘marriages’, Lady Warsi suggested that the Government might formally recognise Islamic religious ‘marriages’ so that men with multiple wives could be charged with bigamy.
Baroness Cox then drew attention to the situation of women trapped in Islamic ‘marriages’, and discussed a new report on that subject (covered by the NSS earlier this week). The report detailed the concerns that Lady Flather raised, that women in Islamic ‘marriages’ are left without legal protection in the event of a ‘divorce’ and that many Muslim women are unaware of their legal rights.