Excerpt:

After being beaten repeatedly by her husband – who had also threatened to kill her – Jameela turned to her local Sharia council in a desperate bid for a way out of her marriage. Today she discovers the verdict. Playing nervously with her hands, the young mother-of-three listens as the panel of judges discuss whether they should grant her a divorce.

The council meets once a month at the Birmingham Central Mosque. Many of the cases relate to divorce and involve the husbands and wives entering the room separately to make their appeals.

In an airless room in the bowels of the mosque, Jameela is asked to explain why she wants a divorce. She replies that her husband spends most of his time with his second wife – Islamic law allows men to have up to four wives – but complains he is abusive whenever he returns to her home.

Across the desk, Dr Mohammed Naseem, chair of the mosque's Sharia council, sits alongside Talha Bokhari, a white-robed imam, and Amra Bone, the only woman sitting on an Islamic court in this country.


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