As many as 85 Islamic sharia courts are operating in the UK, 17 times higher than previously accepted, a study indicated on Monday, with a recommendation that the Islamic courts should no longer be recognised under British law.
The tribunals, working mainly from mosques, settle financial and family disputes according to religious principles. They lay down judgments which can be given full legal status if approved in national law courts.
However, the sharia courts operate behind doors that are closed to independent observers and their decisions are likely to be unfair to women and backed by intimidation, a report by independent think-tank Civitas said.
It said decisions from sharia tribunals can be presented to a family court judge for approval with no more detail than is necessary to complete a two page form. The sharia courts in the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal are recognised as courts under the Arbitration Act.
The Civitas study said "the Islamic courts should no longer be recognised under British law."
Its director Dr David Green said, "The reality is that for many Muslims, sharia courts are in practice part of an institutionalised atmosphere of intimidation, backed by the ultimate sanction of a death threat."