A local MP is supporting a Bill that wants to stop parallel legal or quasi-legal systems, such as Sharia Courts, taking root in the UK.
Shipley MP Philip Davies is among a group of cross party MPs and Lords urging government to support an attempt by Baroness Cox to end Muslim women being treated as second class citizens compared to men. The MPs fear some Muslim women are oppressed by religiously sanctioned gender discrimination, especially in relation to polygamy, divorce, inheritance provisions and domestic violence.
The Bill is supported by organisations including the Muslim Women’s Advisory Council, Karma Nirvana, and the National Secular Society.
Mr Davies said: “Muslim women in the UK must adhere to UK law and are also covered by our law. They need to know that we take equality before the law very seriously and it is cornerstone to our democracy. A Muslim woman should not be treated differently to a Muslim man. We have a situation whereby women’s testimonies in arbitration tribunals are only given half the weight of men’s.”
The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill would tackle the discrimination suffered by women within the Sharia court system.
Home Secretary Theresa May ordered an independent inquiry into UK Sharia courts after growing concerns the courts were operating a parallel justice system, at the detriment of women in Muslim communities.
Mr Davies added: “The issues are complex and too often people fear of speaking out in case they offend communities but I want true equality. No one should be coerced or intimidated and that is why I want government to introduce this law to stop women being treated this way. We should just have one legal system in the UK and everyone should be treated equally under it. Sharia Courts are unacceptable and should be closed down.”
Setting out her Bill in the House of Lords, Baroness Cox said: “One Muslim woman phoned me this week to tell me that literally thousands of Muslim women are supporting this.”