Date: 24 October, 2016
Venue: Committee Room 1, House of Lords
Attendance: Approximately 50 guests

Chaired by Baroness Cox

Baroness Cox read out a statement from Shaista Gohir (OBE), Chair of the Muslim Women’s Network, on Sharia Councils:

We would like to thank Ahlam Akram and Basira for giving us an opportunity to contribute with our perspective.  We thank Basira for recognising that the debate on the issue of Shariah Councils and the treatment of Muslim women, has become polarized and all points of view must be heard.  Both secular and faith based Muslim feminists agree that for too long Shariah Councils have been discriminating against Muslim women.  However, where we differ is in the handling of the discussion and the solutions to this problem.  This is where the debate has become polarized.

“We too at Muslim Women’s Network UK are raising exactly the same concerns and have written the most comprehensive report on this issue, which can be found on our website ( under the resources section and is titled: ‘Information and Guidance on Muslim Marriage and Divorce in Britain.’  However, in our handling of this issue, we are taking into account the voices of Muslim women from across the religious spectrum and not only those who hold secular views. The diversity of Muslim women must be included in this debate. These Muslim women should be at the heart of this debate in also determining the solutions and not just be used for their bad experiences of Shariah Councils.

“If we truly want to help Muslim women then we must all put our agendas to one side and work on solutions that will work for the vast majority of Muslim women and not have solutions imposed on them that they do not want.  After consultation the current consensus amongst Muslim women (including by those who have used Shariah divorce services) is that they at the moment do not want Shariah Councils to be shut down and want them to raise their standards and want accountability. They also want the government to strengthen civil law so that Muslim women are less reliant on Shariah Councils.  This could make Shariah Councils redundant in the future.

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