The Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments have triggered widespread confusion about the current status of the Islamic legal system.
In Britain, Muslims can already choose to have disputes settled privately under Sharia law. The government also recognises some Sharia-compliant investment and banking products, such as mortgages, and allows meat to be slaughtered according to strict Islamic practices.
The government has not, however, authorised the establishment of formal Sharia courts to deal with criminal law proceedings
Under the Archbishop’s proposals, Muslim groups would be expected to follow the precedent set by Beth Din, the Jewish court, which legally arbitrates marital and financial disputes between Orthodox Jews.
Family lawyers said this might mean establishment of local Sharia councils, which could deal with Muslim marriages and divorces, among other civil matters. It would not allow for the creation of a “parallel” legal system.