Sharia Councils and Sexual Abuse in Britain

by Khadija Khan, GATESTONE INSTITUTE

  • As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce – allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.
  • If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not.
  • The UK-based NGO, Muslim Women’s Network, penned an open letter — with 100 signatories — to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law. In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be “Islamophobic” and accused the Muslim Women’s Network of being an anti-Muslim organization.
  • It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.

The most recent scandal surrounding the sexual exploitation of Muslim women by Islamic religious leaders in the UK is yet further proof of the way in which Britain is turning a blind eye to horrific practices going on right under its nose.

A BBC investigation into “halala” — a ritual enabling a divorced Muslim woman to remarry her husband by first wedding someone else, consummating the union, and then being divorced by him — revealed that imams in Britain are not only encouraging this, but profiting financially from it. This depravity has led to many such women being held hostage, literally and figuratively, to men paid to become their second husbands.

This ritual, which is considered a misinterpretation of Islamic sharia law even by extremist Shi’ites and Saudi-style Salafists, is practiced by certain Islamic sects, such as Hanafis, Barelvis and Deobandis. When a husband repeats the Arabic word for divorce — talaq — three times to his wife, these sects consider a Muslim marriage null and void. For such a woman to be allowed to return to the husband who banished her, she must first marry someone else — and have sex with him — before the second husband divorces her.

These divorce rites, despite the laws of the land, are common in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Asian countries, where a majority of the people belong to the Hanafi, Barelvi or Deobandi sects. Nevertheless, local seminaries, mosques and online services openly advertise and promote halala with impunity; it is accepted by society and rarely monitored by state authorities.

In Britain, halala has emerged as a booming business, with websites and social media sites offering to provide women with second husbands for exorbitant sums of money. As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce — allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.

One Muslim woman, who changed her mind about going through with halala after looking into the process, told the BBC that she knew others who did undergo the process, and ended up being sexually abused for months by the second husbands paid to marry them. According to a report in The Guardian, the Sharia Council of Britain says it deals with hundreds of divorce cases annually.

This infamous council is indirectly responsible for what essentially has become a rape pandemic, since it does nothing to stop or refute halala. In fact, it declares that the practice is completely legal under sharia law. The only caveat, the council states, is that the imams presiding over it are not following the proper guidelines, according to which the second marriage and divorce should not be premeditated, but rather happen naturally.

If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not. But young Muslims in the UK are discouraged by their communities from marrying through the British system, and are told to have imams perform their weddings and sharia councils register their marriages. Couples who comply end up being at the mercy of Islamic authorities in family matters, including divorce.

Due to its often unethical practices conducted in the name of religious law, the Sharia Council has come under scrutiny a number of times. Last November, for instance, the UK-based NGO, Muslim Women’s Network, penned an open letter — with 100 signatories — to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law.

In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be “Islamophobic” and accused the Muslim Women’s Network of being an anti-Muslim organization. In addition, Labour MP Naz Shah jumped to the defense of the Sharia Council, rejecting the idea of an inquiry, on the grounds that shutting down such councils could mean that more women would be stuck in abusive marriages.

While acknowledging that these councils could be used as a tool to deny women their rights, Shah said that they also serve as valuable arbitrators in marital disputes.

Her claims are totally baseless. It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen.

Had the British government addressed Sharia Council malpractice when it was first revealed, we would not be facing this pandemic today. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.

It is time for the British government to wake up and take a tough stand on such unethical, and probably illegal, system. And the sooner the better, lest the whole sharia council system go “underground” and out of reach to protect thousands of women from abuse.

Khadija Khan is a Pakistan-based journalist and commentator.

April 14, 2017 | Comments Off on Sharia Councils and Sexual Abuse in Britain | 68 views

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3 Comments / 0 Comments

  1. what is the purpose of halala? why would some guy buy seconds when he can to the local chicken ranch for a 1 nighter, no commitment.

  2. It always bothers me why the UK Government turns a blind eye to this. They cannot honestly say that they are not aware of this.I think that someone should,without further delay, bring this up in the next Commons debate.

  3. Muslims in the West are not asking for Sharia to be the law of the land. The Law of the land is the only law applicable and executable in affairs of the individuals.

    All they are seeking is to let Sharia be available as an alternative to resolve their spousal and contractual disputes between two individuals. That is their prerogative. Indeed, every human, no matter who it is, goes first to their family members and friends for seeking solutions to their problem some will go to their clergy (all religions) and some will appoint a mediator.

    When Muslims go to their clergy, he or she will look up similar situations in the past and guide the couple or business partners to find a solution, since the immigrant Muslims are familiar with the Sharia laws, they may accept it, and if they do, that is good for them.

    The problem is that of trust – when the parties agree to the terms per their Imam/clergy, and don’t abide by it, there is no way the aggrieved party can seek damages for the violations. This is what Muslims are asking, to make that binding.

    Indeed, it would be binding if they go to the judge and say, we have agreed to these terms and conditions per our religious conviction, and seek the judge to sign the order and the court order becomes executable. The judge looks to it as mediator resolved decision and signs it and it will become executable. The right wing Americans are downright stupid and making a bid deal about this, as if Sharia will become the law of the land.

    What Muslims have is Personal Sharia, that is a private relationship between the individual and God. How they pray, worship, fast, pay zakat, how they bury their individuals, marry per the requirement as a religious rite. All of that is a private matter and does not need any regulation or execution.

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