The much awaited programme on a serious subject turned out to be most disappointing. It was a poorly disguised attempt at investigative journalism. The so-called investigation that it carried out was confined to one Shariah Council and even that was edited and presented in the most one sided and unbalanced manner. Only the negativities relating to that Council were highlighted. None of the positive work done in the many decades of its existence was even alluded to.It was clearly a predetermined agenda that drove the programme. The agenda appeared to be to create fear and misapprehension amongst viewers that Muslims are running and following a parallel legal system. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shariah Councils are not courts and have no legal basis for their existence. They have no powers of enforcement of their conclusions or recommendations. They operate by agreement of parties and an unhappy party can withdraw from the process at any time. His or her rights under the law of the UK are not compromised in any way. So what, may we ask, is the basis for the allegation or assertion that Shariah Councils are a legal system that is running parallel to the UK law on family matters, property disputes and children’s rights etc. Such suggestions are peddled in the hope that if you tell lies enough times, it may be believed as the truth. But that will not happen, as the overwhelming majority of our society is composed of reasonable, tolerant and fair minded people.
Shariah Councils perform a essential role for our communities for whom religious basis for entering into or ceasing a matrimonial relationship is of paramount importance. The Councils provide that service on a voluntary basis by consent of parties concerned. They do not or cannot impose their will or jurisdiction on any person.
Of course we recognise as a minority community our institutions need to be centers of excellence.. We are aware of the problems of good governance and standardization in the work that the Councils do.
We are committed to make improvements and to have a system of self regulation for the Councils on the same or similar method as we have for member mosques of the MINAB. The MINAB will continue to encourage Muslim women to get their marriages registered under UK civil law. It will work alongside the Shariah Councils to get more mosques registered to carry out marriages under the civil laws.
The BBC as a public service broadcaster has done itself no favours by televising a programme which was clearly dishonest and misguided. Panorama is supposed to be a flagship programme of the BBC and one would have expected there to have been more careful scrutiny of the contents of this programme before it was televised.