English courts should be able to issue Islamic divorces, an academic claims.
In written evidence which will be presented to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Zurich University Associate Professor in Middle East studies Elham Manea will argue for a specialist unit to be set up for this purpose. She will also urge the government to make civil marriage mandatory any time a couple enters an Islamic one.
While Muslim men can divorce their wives simply by reciting the Arabic phrases ‘ant taliq (you are now divorced) or tallaqtuki (I now divorce you) three times, the process is more difficult and costly for women. In order to obtain a religious divorce, wives must go to a judge in a specialised Sharia court. After four years of research focused on the UK’s Sharia councils, Manea called this system “inherently discriminatory”.
She will tell the Committee that most of the Muslim women who attend these councils have not had their marriage recognised by English law so they can often suffer financially when they divorce. In order to correct this problem, she argues, civil and religious marriages must be linked like they are in such countries as Tunisia and Morocco.
Manea will also call for a national campaign to officially register all Islamic marriages in the country, a move she claims is likely to reveal many cases of polygamy.
Conservative MP Nus Ghani sits on the Committee and initially pushed for an inquiry on the subject of Islamic marriage. She said that under the Sharia system “men are in charge and women are treated as their property”. The British government cannot advocate “equality for women on one hand and but on the other [overlook] a whole section of society – vulnerable women who happen to be Muslim” the Wealdon MP declared.
Last year, a Dutch legal scholar claimed the British Sharia courts system kept Muslim women in “marital captivity”.