Bridget Prentice, the justice minister, did her best to try to allay fears that sharia law on family disputes was worming itself into English law, or was being given the status of an acceptable parallel system of law. In a written parliamentary answer last week, she stressed that “sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales and there is no intention to change this position. Similarly, we do not accommodate any other religious legal system in this country’s laws.”

This was a wholly correct statement but it did not satisfy her critics. The issue was whether or not a family dispute settled under sharia law – for instance about children – could be recognised under English law. To which Prentice’s answer was: Yes, provided it was formally approved by a family judge applying English family law. “If parties to a judgment in a sharia council wish to have this recognised by English authorities, they are at liberty to draft a consent order embodying the terms of the agreement and submit it to an English court.”


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