Theresa May's sharia courts review branded a 'whitewash' by human rights campaigners

Posted On: 
10th July 2016

More than 200 individuals and human rights group have branded Theresa May's review of sharia courts a “whitewash” before it has even begun.

The Home Secretary's review into sharia courts will begin taking evidence this month
PA Images

The Centre for Secular Space, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party, are among those calling for the review's panel to be overhauled.

They claim its ability to make an impartial assessment of how religious arbitration harms women's rights will be compromised since it has an Islamic scholar as chair and two imams in advisory roles.

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And they argue the “narrow remit” of the review, which begins this month, seeks to establish best practice in sharia courts rather than questioning whether they should function in Britain at all.

In a letter published on the Open Democracy website, the critics write:

“We are now dismayed to learn that far from examining the key connections between religious fundamentalism and women’s rights, the narrow remit of the inquiry will render it a whitewash; and instead of human rights experts and campaigners, it is to be chaired and advised by theologians.

“The danger is that the inquiry is setting out with a pre-determined objective that will approve the expansion of the role of Sharia and religious arbitration forums and their jurisdiction over family matters in minority communities, albeit with a little tweaking to make it more palatable to the state.”

The Home Secretary's review into sharia courts is part of government efforts to crack down on religious extremism in Britain.