In a shabby converted sweetshop in Leyton, East London, a group of burka-clad Muslim women sit in a waiting room. They have an appointment with Dr Suhaib Hasan at his twice-weekly surgery.

The women look worried. There is no talking in the airless reception area - the only sound is a fan purring quietly in the corner as temperatures outside exceed 80F.

Inside, the atmosphere is just as stifling. There are no magazines, television or other diversions. The beige walls are bare except for a flow-chart depicting the process of securing a Muslim divorce, and a picture of Mecca.

This is no GP's surgery or Citizens Advice Bureau. Within these non-descript walls lies the nerve centre of sharia law in Britain, the headquarters of the Islamic Sharia Council, which oversees the growing number of Muslim courts operating in Britain.

For the first time, the Islamic Sharia Council has granted access to a newspaper to observe the entire sharia legal process in Britain. Over several weeks, I was allowed to witness the filing of complaints, individual testimony hearings and the monthly meeting of imams, or judges, where rulings are handed down.

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