Home Secretary Theresa May has launched the promised independent review into sharia law in England and Wales. The review will be chaired by Professor Mona Siddiqui, OBE FRSE, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She will lead a panel that includes Sir Mark Hedley, Chancellor of the Diocese of Liverpool and a former High Court judge, family law barrister Sam Momtaz and specialist family lawyer Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE QC (hon), a partner with Dawson Cornwell solicitors. The panel will be advised by two religious and theological experts: Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Imam Qari Asim.
The panel’s terms of reference are to explore whether, and to what extent, the application of sharia may be incompatible with the law of England and Wales. It will examine the ways in which sharia may be being misused or exploited to discriminate against certain groups, undermine shared values and cause social harm. The review will also seek examples of best practice among sharia councils.
The Home Secretary committed to an independent review of the application of sharia as part of the Government’s counter-extremism strategy, amid concerns that some sharia councils might be operating in a discriminatory and unacceptable way, seeking to legitimise forced marriage and issuing divorces that were unfair to women and contrary to the teachings of Islam.
The panel will begin work immediately and is expected to complete its review in 2017. It is expected to issue a call for evidence to provide an opportunity for groups and individuals to contribute to the review.