The question of Sharia law in the United Kingdom remains a largely unanswered one. And Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, last week waded into the fray; seemingly backing the government’s refusal to accord Islamic law any official status within British society. Indeed, he has gone as far as describing Sharia and British laws as being incompatible with one another given that the latter have “underlying values and assumptions” that come from a clearly Christian tradition. Such views are in stark contrast to that of his predecessor Dr Rowan Williams, who, a decade ago, supported the formal introduction of Sharia into the country in a bid to regulate jurisprudence. Presently, Downing Street remains as deaf to this message as ever. For earlier this month the findings of “The independent review of the application of Sharia law in England and Wales” were published. This inquiry was commissioned by Theresa May back in 2016 in her then capacity as Home Secretary. Two recommendations stand out. Firstly, the call for Muslim couples to enter into a civil marriage in addition to religious ‘ceremonies’. The rationale being that this will adequately protect women before the law. Secondly, the regulating of Sharia councils as well as establishing a code of conduct. The government, however, is only willing to get behind the first one. This has already upset certain Muslim quarters who view this as yet another exclusionary manoeuvre on the part of a hostile state. Though we cannot say that we entirely agree. Meaning that abiding by the law of the land for bureaucratic purposes should be no biggie. Moreover, the fact that Muslim women’s groups support this move should be enough; regardless of what men like the creative director of British Muslim TV have to say. But we do have concerns over the government’s refusal to even entertain the second. Especially considering the review found that nearly all those accessing the 30-85 sharia councils were women. And even more so given that Muslim women’s groups accuse the latter of discriminatory and regressive practices; such a pressuring women to remain in abusive marriages. Yet Downing Street has ruled out any form of regulation on the grounds that Islamic law has no jurisdiction in Britain. It is said to want to discourage presenting these councils as an alternative to UK laws. We understand the point that everyone should face equal treatment before the law; unless of course one is Tony Blair, say. But we fail to grasp why May would have commissioned a report to examine whether or not Sharia law was being misused only to, once in the top job, abandon all plans for possible redress. Maybe this is a question British taxpayers can pose. * Published in Daily Times, February 25th 2018.