Three senior judges are to rule on the legality of an arranged marriage conducted in the UK under sharia law, a judgment that could have profound consequences for British Muslims.
Last week, as Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared it was 'inevitable' that certain parts of Islamic law would be introduced into Britain, the Court of Appeal was told how a 26-year-old British Muslim with learning difficulties was married over the telephone to a woman in Bangladesh. It was arranged by the man's father and deemed lawful under sharia law.
Lord Justice Thorpe, Lord Justice Hall and Lady Justice Hallett were asked by the man's family to reject an earlier decision that, because the groom was unable to give his consent, the marriage was unlawful. Mr Justice Wood said that the true test into the validity of the marriage was 'whether the marriage is so offensive to the conscience of the English court that it should refuse to recognise and give effect to the proper foreign law'.
The judge added that the long-standing British policy to recognise sharia marriages conducted abroad should be offset by the understanding that 'there are occasions when such a marriage cannot be recognised in England, for example where to do so would be repugnant to public policy'.