Waltham Forest Muslims welcome Williams’ lecture

Members of mosques across the borough have condemned the way people reacted to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments on Sharia law. The Waltham Forest Council of Mosques said its members welcomed the Archbishop’s thoughtful lecture and wanted to thank him for stimulating a debate that would be beneficial for long-term community cohesion. And they said the fall-out from some quarters was a “hysterical, knee-jerk reaction”.

The council, representing eight local mosques, said Muslims in the borough wanted to live in harmony with the wider community and did not seek to impose their beliefs on anyone else. But they want to have the option to apply Sharia judgements in issues like marriage, divorce, inheritance and financial agreements and abide by the tenets of their faith.

A Sharia court in Francis Road, Leyton, has been doing just that for Muslims across London and the south east since the 1980s. An advisor at the council, Usama Hasan, who is also a Leyton Imam, said the Islamic Sharia Council gets between 50 and 100 new enquiries a week, mainly from British-born Muslims wanting advice about divorce.

He added that the council exists primarily to help Muslim women trapped in marriage. Although they can apply to divorce legally under English law, under Islam they cannot remarry unless the man agrees to a divorce under Sharia, or a Sharia court rules them divorced. Dr Hasan highlighted that a similar condition in Jewish law has already been incorporated into English law and that far from increasing repression as some critics have claimed, they were doing the opposite.

Waltham Forest Guardian, 13 February 2008