London (AFP) - The British government on Thursday said it had launched an independent review into possible discriminatory practices against women in informal courts using Sharia law in England and Wales.
"A number of women have reportedly been victims of what appear to be discriminatory decisions taken by Sharia councils, and that is a significant concern," interior minister Theresa May said in a statement.
"There is only one rule of law in our country, which provides rights and security for every citizen."
The government will investigate whether some Sharia councils seek to legitimise forced marriage and issue divorces that are unfair to women.
British media reported there are an estimated 30 Sharia councils in Britain, giving Islamic divorce certificates and advice on other aspects of religious law.
The review is part of the government's Counter-Extremism Strategy launched last year.
The review will be chaired by Islamic studies expert Mona Siddiqui who will lead a panel of academic and religious experts and "will help us better understand whether and the extent to which Sharia law is being misused or exploited and make recommendations to the government on how to address this," May said.
Siddiqui said: "At a time when there is so much focus on Muslims in the UK, this will be a wide ranging, timely and thorough review as to what actually happens in Sharia councils."