London, Asharq Al-Awsat- For many years the Shariah Council in Tottenham, North London, was headed by Omar Bakri, the leader of the UK-based Islamist organization al Muhajiroun [disbanded in 2004] and the founder of the extremist group al Ghurabaa. Bakri left London for Beirut after the July 7 London bombings in 2005.
On a weekly basis, the council used to operate quietly, holding evening sessions that consider Khul' divorce cases [whereby a couple can divorce against the husband's will if all the wife's financial rights are relinquished], in addition to regular divorce and inheritance cases. Most of the visitors of this court are adherents of the fundamentalist trend (Londonistan: pejorative term for trend), or are women seeking Khul' divorce or 'brothers' who want to divorce their wives and marry other women under Shariah law and in accordance with the Sunnah practices.
The media was denied entry into the small courtroom, which also had other branches in local cities, such as Birmingham, Bradford and in Leyton, East London. However, what remains of these councils, evidence proves over 10 exist in Britain, only came into the spotlight after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, made a statement calling for an "accommodation" with parts of the Islamic legal code in Britain last month.
His words were met by anger and widespread condemnation and many politicians criticized his position, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. British law does not recognize the provisions of Shariah, which is why the government did not waste time to remind the Archbishop that civil law is what prevails in the country.