The government has ordered an independent review of sharia courts, amid concerns that they could be discriminating against women.
The review will aim to understand the extent to which sharia may be being applied in a way which is incompatible with UK law.
Home secretary Theresa May (pictured) told MPs at a House of Commons home affairs committee meeting last week that there should be one rule of law in the UK - the rule of law set by parliament.
She said: ‘I am very aware of the fact that there is concern about how sharia law, in terms of sharia courts, is operating in some circumstances here in the UK. That is why we will be doing a review of sharia courts.’
The review comes after a counter-extremism strategy noted reports that under sharia law, men and women are charged different fees for the same service; women are unaware of their legal rights to leave violent husbands; and women face lengthier divorce processes than men.
Earlier this month 150 women’s organisations signed a petition calling for the government to ban sharia courts.
Meanwhile a commission chaired by former president of the Family Division, Lady Butler-Sloss, urged the Ministry of Justice to issue guidance to ensure that religious and cultural tribunals comply with UK standards on gender equality and judicial independence.
Nus Ghani, a Conservative member of the home affairs committee, said the organisations that signed the petition see these courts as ‘far-right Islamist movements whose main aim is to restrict and deny rights, particularly those of women and children’.
She added: ‘These sharia courts are not going to be advising in line with the British rule of law and our rule of law trumps any "pop-up" sharia court.’
Lord Ahmad, the minister for countering extremism, said the review will be formally established shortly. An initial report is expected to be issued to the home secretary in 2016.