Excerpt:

On a freezing, rainswept Sunday in a conference room in Birmingham Central mosque, a young woman in a black padded jacket is crying quietly. Her name is Zaynab and as she lifts up her glasses to rub at her eyes, one of the three religious scholars sitting opposite her starts to speak.

"The panel is in agreement, this marriage is to be dissolved today, Zaynab," says Dr Amra Bone, one of the only female sharia council judges in the country. "It doesn't have the ingredients of an Islamic marriage; there is no love, trust, compassion or respect. You have an iddah [waiting] period of three menstrual cycles and you are then free to marry again."

As Zaynab collects her paperwork, Bone's colleague, Shaykh Talha Bukhari, an elderly man with a white beard, turns to me. "Marriage is not for shedding tears," he says quietly, "but here they are rolling down."


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