A Labour Muslim minister has warned that Islamic law is too unsophisticated for Britain. Sadiq Khan said women could be ‘ abused’ by sharia courts, which may give unequal bargaining power to the sexes. He said: ‘The burden is on those who want to open up these courts to persuade us why they should.’ Mr Khan, who was made a community cohesion minister in this month’s Government reshuffle, rejected the argument that the courts could operate in the same way as the Jewish Beth Din courts. He said Muslim life in Britain was not advanced enough to run a similar religious legal system.
The MP for Tooting in South London added: ‘I would be very concerned about sharia courts applying in the UK. ‘I don’t think there is that level of sophistication that there is in Jewish law.’ He also said that sharia courts would discourage Muslims from developing links with other cultural and ethnic groups. In February Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave his support for the courts in Britain, saying that the legal recognition of them ‘seems unavoidable’. Mr Khan, who is a human rights lawyer and one of only a handful of Muslim MPs, said: ‘The requirement to learn English is not colonial. English is a passport to participation in mainstream society – jobs, education and even being able to use health services. ‘Having poor English creates multiple barriers to work,’ he writes in the pamphlet for the left-of-centre Fabian Society.
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