The Law Society has fanned the flames of controversy after announcing it will run formal training courses in Islamic sharia law.
The course, which will be open to all high-street lawyers across the UK, and is likely to take the form of a one-day summer training event, is to be the forerunner to a series of seminars on sharia law.
A strict interpretation of sharia law, which is the religious regulation by which Islam judges its own people and those outside their religion, has already been condemned by groups such as Amnesty International for its treatment of those it finds guilty, often on spurious grounds.
Within the UK, the law seeks to provide a means for Muslims living in the UK to conduct business and run their estate and trusts.
However, many campaigners have fought against sharia law becoming mainstream, in order to prevent people in the UK from enduring the sort of harsh penalties imposed on so-called lawbreakers in other countries under sharia law.
It has already been documented that quasi-courts based on sharia law have been set up in some mosques in Britain, and many young girls have been forced into marriages because of it, despite the UK national law prohibiting child marriage.
The Law Society stirred up controversy, after it published a series of practice notes for solicitors with regard to sharia-based estate and trusts. Last month’s ET showed how this action created a storm in parliament, with senior officials having to state that sharia law was not being given equal prominence and precedence in the UK judiciary system.
Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said, ‘It is ironic that the Law Society prohibited Christian Concern from holding a colloquium on marriage on its premises, on the basis that it was contrary to its diversity policy, and yet it is promoting sharia law.
‘It’s a reality that sharia courts have been in existence in towns and cities across UK, with the result that many Muslim women living in Britain are unable to get proper access to justice.
‘The freedom and fairness found under English law is being usurped by the very regulatory body that should be upholding the highest standards of legal training for the country’s lawyers, to ensure that vulnerable people — in this case women and girls — are not actively discriminated against by the courts of the land’.