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Khola Hasan writes, in response to The Independent’s headline story ‘Sharia courts: the inside story’:

On 05-12-2015, the Independent carried an article on its front page entitled “Sharia courts: the inside story”. The article by Senay Boztas was based on the research of Machteld Zee, a Dutch PhD student who sat in the Islamic Sharia Council (ISC) office for two afternoons in 2013 and then proceeded to write a book called “Choosing Sharia? Multiculturalism, Islamic Fundamentalism and British Sharia Councils”.

… The article claims that the ISC ‘condemns women to marital captivity.’ This  is an absurd and false claim. Muslim women come to the ISC because they are trapped in religious marriages from which they cannot escape. In many cases the husbands refuse to grant a religious divorce because they wish to make their wives suffer. In other cases, the husband may wish to save the marriage because he truly believes the couple can have a future together. We therefore offer a mediation service that is governed by strict rules of procedure to ensure that both parties get a chance to have their say in a safe atmosphere. But Islamic law is very clear that if one party does not wish to stay in the marriage, they cannot be forced to stay by outside forces. For this reason, 98% of women who apply for a divorce will obtain a religious divorce. The remaining 2% are cases where the couple decided to reconcile or the case was closed due to fraudulent behaviour. Dee implies that women leave in tears because they do not get the divorce. This is a false allegation as the success rate of divorce applications is high. We do not hand out divorce certificates like confetti, but we follow strict rules of procedure in the interests of justice.

… The issue of domestic violence is taken very seriously by the Council. We do not permit DV, we do not justify it, we do not take it lightly, and we certainly do not ignore it. It is very rare that victims of DV who come to the office have not already reported it to the police. The vast majority of such clients will have already been to the police and will have taken the necessary steps to protect themselves. Non-molestation orders are very commonly held by our clients; in these cases we do not attempt reconciliation, but will speak to both parties if there are outstanding debts that need to be paid. A man who has been violent to his wife will be called into the office to see a scholar, if only to warn him of the evil of his behaviour. An Islamic scholar is in a position of religious authority and can use this to encourage high Islamic values and behaviour within the community. If a woman has not reported DV to the police, she will be encouraged to seek appropriate help in order to protect herself. We actively encourage women from contacting authorities such as the police or social services. It is very rare that a client who is the victim of marital violence will not have contacted the police in the first instance. When we see such cases, we insist that they speak with the police. If they wish to speak with police officers in the safety of the office building, we arrange for that as well.

click here.

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