Civil courts based on Islamic law have been operating in Britain for more than a year.
British Muslims have followed the Jewish example of operating a rabbinical court, or bet din, based on the country’s arbitration law.
The Muslim courts are based on the sharia law, and rule on divorce, financial disputes, inheritance and even domestic violence, as long as both parties agree to accept the authority of the court. Once the parties accept the authority of the court, its rulings can be enforced through the county and high court.
The Islamic courts are classified by British law as arbitration tribunals.
Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunals run the courts, told the Sunday Times that the Arbitration Act “allows disputes to be resolved using alternatives like tribunals. This method is called alternative dispute resolution, which for Muslims is what the sharia courts are.”
Earlier this year the head of the Anglican Church caused a controversy when he suggested that the establishment of Islamic courts “seems unavoidable” in Britain.
Islamic courts in Britain have ruled on approximately 100 cases.
The bet din has operated in Britain for more than a century under a precursor to the Arbitration Act.
Women who might be under pressure to turn to the Islamic court are not treated as equals there, especially on financial issues, the Times reported.