Personally, I wasn’t surprised watching the Panorama on ‘Secrets of Sharia Councils in the UK’ broadcast on the BBC last week. I am aware of these dangerous practices by similar courts adopting the same Islamic constitution elsewhere outside the UK.

However, the main issues to be addressed here aren’t only the discriminatory nature and inequality of these councils, but also the broader context of the failed integration polices of the current government. The failure to integrate migrants and refugees and the government’s pro-faith agenda has resulted in the demand and justification for such parallel systems to fulfil the needs of those who feel they are ‘different’.

There is a common argument that a right to Sharia councils are part of an individual’s rights to their own religion and beliefs. It is important here to link the establishment of Sharia councils in the UK with the rise of Islamism internationally. Muslims have lived in the UK and Europe for centuries and didn’t need an Islamic court to provide them permission to adopt, worship or practice their religion.

The rise of political Islam

However since the early eighties, political Islam rose following the Iranian Revolution and the spread of  Wahhabism sponsored by millions of dollars of Saudi oil money. Political Islam then spread to take on state power in a number of east Asian, Middle-Eastern and some African countries.

As a result, a demand for Islam in power has grown in the UK and Sharia tribunals have been established. Sharia courts, which are wrongly perceived to be part of a Muslim’s ‘right to religion’, are in actual fact part of the political battle and fight for power by Islamists.

A major concern here is the government’s role in ensuring accessibility of public service to everyone. It is highly questionable that these bodies should be responsible for providing mediation services while the legislation they rely on (Sharia law), is fundamentally gender biased.