What does it actually look like inside a sharia court? You would think, given the frequency of alarming headlines about the spread of Islamic tribunals in the UK, that journalists had long been sitting in and watching proceedings. But that's far from the case.

In fact sharia courts – now operating in cities around England and Scotland – have remained remarkably closed. In the meantime they have enjoyed an almost universally bad press. Ever since Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William's 2008 comment that "the application of sharia in certain circumstances…seems unavoidable", the red-tops frequently sound warnings about Islamic law "taking over".

In 2009 think-tank Civitas published a report claiming that sharia courts had crossed the proper limits of their jurisdiction and were regularly giving illegal advice on marriage and divorce and there have been regular controversies ever since.

Read the complete original version of this item...