Archive for February 6, 2018

Netanyahu visits Golan Heights, near Syrian border, and cautions Israel’s enemies

February 6, 2018

 

by Reuters Tuesday Feb 6, 2018 10:57am The Foreign Desk

Source: Netanyahu visits Golan Heights, near Syrian border, and cautions Israel’s enemies

{I’d take his word for it. – LS}

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a rare visit to the occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday, peering across the nearby border into Syria and warning Israel’s enemies not to “test” its resolve.

Netanyahu has been cautioning against any attempt by Iran to deepen its military foothold in Syria or construct missile factories in neighboring Lebanon.

Lebanon’s top three leaders accused Israel on Tuesday of threatening the stability of the border region between them amid rising tension over territorial and maritime boundaries.

“We seek peace but are prepared for any scenario and I wouldn’t suggest to anyone that they test us,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks during the Golan visit.

He did not mention Iran or its Lebanese militia ally, Hezbollah, both main players in Syria’s civil war, by name.

Netanyahu was accompanied to a hilltop observation point, some three kms (two miles) from a 1974 ceasefire line, by his security cabinet.

They were briefed on the security situation in the area by Israel’s armed forces chief and the military commander of the northern region, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Israeli Special Forces Kill Palestinian Terrorists Behind Murder of Rabbi

February 6, 2018


Relatives and friends carry the body of Israeli Rabbi Raziel Shevach, Hy”d, during his funeral in Chavat Gilad, Wednesday. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

OAN Newsroom UPDATED 7:36 MA PT — Tues. February 6, 2018

Source: Israeli Special Forces Kill Palestinian Terrorists Behind Murder of Rabbi

{You can run, but you can’t hide. – LS}

On Tuesday, Israel’s security service eliminated a top Hamas terrorist for the murder of Rabbi Shevach.

The team hunted down the terror cell in response to a January drive-by shooting, which killed the rabbi near his home.

“Israeli national police, border police and counter terrorism the ‘Yamam’ carried out an operation over night to focus and try to find the terrorists who carried out the deadly attack that murdered Rabbi Shevach just over three weeks ago,” announced Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld. “As a result of the operation the terrorist was shot and killed, there was no injuries to our officers.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the security forces for the “determined and complex operation.”

North Korea ‘months away’ from ability to hit U.S. with nuclear weapon: U.S. envoy

February 6, 2018

Stephanie Nebehay World News February 6, 2018

Source: North Korea ‘months away’ from ability to hit U.S. with nuclear weapon: U.S. envoy

{Things that go boom in the night.  What say you, China?….’crickets’ – LS}

GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea is only months away from obtaining the capability to hit U.S. territory with a nuclear weapon and must be disarmed, a U.S. envoy said on Tuesday, dismissing Pyonyang’s diplomatic thaw with South Korea as a “charm offensive” that fooled no one.

In a diplomatic showdown at a U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, North Korea responded by blaming Washington for escalating confrontation, saying it was deploying nuclear assets including aircraft carriers near the divided peninsula and was considering a pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang.

“North Korea has accelerated its provocative pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities, and expressed explicit threats to use nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies in the region,” U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told the Geneva forum.

“North Korean officials insist that they will not give up nuclear weapons, and North Korea may now be only months away from the capability to strike the United States with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles,” he said.

A new U.S. nuclear policy review outlined last week “reaffirms that North Korea’s illicit nuclear program must be completely, verifiably, and irreversibly eliminated, resulting in a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Asked later what the basis was for the assessment that North Korea would soon be able to hit the United States with a nuclear weapon, he said he had “no new information to share”.

North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, twice last July. In November it tested the Hwasong-15, believed to be capable of reaching the continental United States. It is not yet believed to have the capability to mount a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

North Korea is under tightening U.N. Security Council sanctions for its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But recent weeks have seen a thaw with South Korea, after Pyongyang agreed to send athletes to compete in the Olympic Games opening on Feb. 9 in the south.

“CHARM OFFENSIVE”

“What I would call ‘the charm offensive’ frankly is fooling no one,” Wood told the talks.

He also said arsenals in China and Russia were expanding, drawing rebukes from their respective delegations.

“Russia, China and North Korea are growing their stockpiles, increasing the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies, and – in some cases – pursuing the development of new nuclear capabilities to threaten other peaceful nations,” Wood said.

“We are not going to stick our head in the sand, we are going to respond to these growing challenges,” he later told reporters.

North Korea accused the United States of seeking to aggravate the situation on the divided peninsula by “deploying large nuclear assets” nearby, laying the ground for a possible pre-emptive strike against it.

“In view of the nature and scale of U.S. military reinforcements, they are designed to make a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK,” North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Chol told the talks, referring to his country’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“U.S. officials including the defense secretary and the CIA director repeatedly talked about DPRK nuclear and missile threat to justify their argument for a military option and a new concept of a so-called ‘bloody nose’, a limited pre-emptive strike on the DPRK is under consideration within the U.S. administration,” Ju said.

He said President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ doctrine and U.S. nuclear superiority would endanger global peace and security and “trigger off a new nuclear arms race and could bring the whole world close to a horrible catastrophe”.

Versus Putin and Nasrallah: Will US destroyers anchor in Israel? – Walla! news

February 6, 2018

Source: Versus Putin and Nasrallah: Will US destroyers anchor in Israel? – Walla! news

( Translated from Hebrew via Google. – JW )

An intriguing American recommendation calls on the army to permanently deploy two destroyers in Haifa or Ashdod, and to appeal at once to the threatening shadow cast by the square cooperation north of here

The destroyer Ross? In Haifa (temporary licensed photographers, flickr)
The visits became routine. The destroyer “Ross” in Haifa

Retired Admiral James Stavardis is one of the most interesting and productive personalities in the American security community. Grandson of Greek immigrants from Turkish Izmir – they fled from fear of pogroms, a point Staveridis preferred to blur when required for military and diplomatic contacts with Turkey – who was an outstanding officer and scholar in the Navy, the military secretary of the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in George W. Bush administration. Bush, commander of the NATO and European Command forces in the US military and a close friend of Israel. He was considered close to Hillary Clinton, who considered his candidacy for vice president, but when Donald Trump sought a foreign minister, his name was also mentioned on that side of American politics.

The 62-year-old’s ties to Israel are superb. As commander of the UCOAM and NATO, until 2013, he became acquainted with the top echelons of the security forces. Last month, he visited Israel and met old acquaintances alongside standing heads. He published his positive impressions in a position paper on the Bloomberg website.

A year ago, in Time magazine, he encouraged the Special Operations Command, SOCOM, to expand its activities And praised the dismantling of the barriers between the Mossad, Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet security service, which enabled the intelligence community in Israel to advance the separate agencies of the American intelligence on various regional issues.

 Stavoridis is so pleased with Israel that he turned the tables and proposed to translate the commanders’ slogan (he attributes it to the Paratroopers Brigade) after “Follow me.” In fact, the American slogan, which comes from the sculpted mouth of a platoon commander who gestures to the force in his back, captures the imagination of four officers who visited 1954 at the Infantry School in Fort Benning, Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan, Head of the Training Department Yitzhak Rabin, In Washington, Chaim Herzog and Col. Mati Peled returned to Israel, and Dayan gave “After” the official status of a battle call that educates commanders.

James Stavridis testifies to Capitol Hill in Washington March 9, 2017 (AP)

Deterrence and influence of naval power. James Stavridis

This time, when he came home and formulated his ideas, including the use of NATO’s special forces headquarters in Belgium as a framework for Israeli involvement in “exercises, training, and perhaps operations and intelligence,” he seemed to think of his years as a naval officer and especially of his distinction as commander of the ” The US Navy’s legendary commander in the 1950s, Arlei Barak, “The US should consider putting two guided missile destroyers from the Arly Barak class in a home port in Israel,” wrote the admiral. “Their location in the eastern Mediterranean will help to stand against the increased Russian presence there.” The Fifth Fleet of the Soviet Navy, the youngest twin of the American Sixth Fleet, had at its height dozens of vessels, nearly 100 in the inter-bloc crisis of the Yom Kippur War. The Russian outpost in Syria, in the port of Tartus, and in the airbase are far away, and the quality of the tools and the operators has not been proven to be very high. But Stavridis also thinks about the deterrent and influence of naval force,

His proposal to place two destroyers in Haifa (or Ashdod) is not cut off from the resource shortage in the US Navy. There are not enough ships, enough sailors, enough money and enough time for training, especially in the field forces, that is, destroyers. According to a study by the State Comptroller, a Congressional arm, American destroyers spend three-quarters of their time in an administrative movement in the oceans, while those assigned to foreign ports are constantly on patrol, with no adequate time to train and rest enough for the captain, his officers and sailors. The result is wasteful and operational – medium.

In the Sixth Fleet, which is subordinate to the Yokom in Stuttgart through the headquarters of the naval forces in Europe and Africa in Naples, the destroyer bases are in Spain and Italy The annual cost of holding each destroyer in a foreign port is estimated at $ 55 million, Thus, more than $ 100 million per year.

Order of Honor by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael J. Mullen, to the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi at the Pentagon, November 2010 (IDF Spokesperson)

The hostility has softened long ago. Malan and Ashkenazi (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

The traditional hostility of the US Navy to Israel, the result of dependence on Arab oil to propel the ships and the Liberty incident, has softened in recent decades. In addition to Stavidis, Admiral Michael Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also expressed sympathy for Israel and personal friendship with their counterparts, such as Gabi Ashkenazi, and at the NATO summit in Strasbourg in 2009, Mullen and Ashkenazi met in one of the city’s hotels. Downstairs, a red-haired Colonel, James Pogo, Malan’s assistant, casually turned. Today, Pogo is also a four-star admiral, commander of the naval forces of the UCU, and he certainly will not object in principle if the Pentagon suggests that he advance the destroyers eastward, from the Spanish port of Rota to Haifa.

The close relations between the naval forces and the regular visits of commanders and vessels were launched with the Israeli-Egyptian peace in 1979. Joint maneuvers were held, sometimes with other fleets (Turkey, Greece, Germany). In certain years, 40-50 American ships visited Haifa, to the delight of locals and locals. The celebration calmed down at the end of the Cold War, with the dilution of the Sixth Fleet, and was settled after the Cole destroyer, of the same class, was severely damaged in the attack in Aden in 2000. No security officer dared to sign that a port was secure enough from terrorist attacks.

The visits were reset and returned only in 2008. Now they are routine. Some destroyers (“Ross,” “Porter,” “Lavon”) visit Haifa, or participate in missile-intercepting exercises, more than others. A spokesman for the Sixth Fleet was pleased to report that during one of Ross’ last visits last May, Malchia was sent to two community activities – gardening and maintenance for the women’s shelter “Ofek Nashi” and feeding and cleaning the residents of Haifa Zoo.

Good business for hosts

If Ross and one of her sisters are stationed in Israel, two alternatives will be examined: the families of the crews (nearly 300 officers and sailors in each destroyer, but many junior high school students) in nearby quarters and crew teams flying every six months, as is customary in nuclear submarines. In addition, there are auxiliary forces for supply and maintenance. Either way, it’s a good business for hosts.

In Haifa and in Ashdod, there are piers and docks (and dock and shipyard services) that can be used for the destroyers, armed with sea-to-sea missiles, sea-coasts (such as a barrage fired last spring) and air-to-air missiles. The destroyers, as on all bases, will defend Iron Dome. The former commander of the navy, Major General Ram Rotberg, examined the issue at the time and ruled: There is no problem. Only a political decision is needed.

Such a decision is not simple. About five years ago, the US Navy commissioned from its research institute, CNN, an analysis of the relationship between the two fleets, looking to the future and especially taking into account the Indian Ocean arena. According to the article, the American admirals have noticed an increase in the activity of the Israeli navy there, above and below the water. Dov Zakheim, a former senior official in the Pentagon during the dispute over the Lavi, whose financing has damaged the Navy’s fleet of submarines and submarines, and whose cancellation has helped revive this program, Lahav-Dolphin, was asked by CNN to analyze the needs and prospects for deepening cooperation between The IDF has learned from the former commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Eliezer (Mari) Marom, that Israeli vessels are indeed conducting presence patrols in the Indian Ocean and that Israel enjoys the friendship of India, wrote Zackheim, The American Sea, especially since at the end of the last century, an experiment was conducted in the Indian Ocean by launching a cruise missile from an Israeli submarine.

Launch of a Patriot missile in Tel Aviv, February 1991 (Government Press Office, Natan Alpert)

The Gulf War precedent. Patriot batteries in Israel (Photo: Natan Alpert, AM)
Israeli policy, which has been dictated for decades by ministers, officers and spokesmen, denies the will in an American military presence. Weapons and Money Yes, political support Certainly, forces are not – this is the regular refrain. The IDF will defend, American boys will not shed blood for Israel.

These statements originated in the 1950s. They reflected recognition of the separatist nature of the American public, which might be deterred if it finds out that Israel is weak, dependent and needs to be assured that its price is lethal. Since 1967, the definition of the term “Israel” has been too vague – will the Americans participate in the defense of the state only on armistice lines or secure its occupation? And will they accept a military initiative, a preemptive strike, or demand seizing first and a counter-attack, and even then – to where?

Operation “Kadesh” helped protect the skies and coasts of the country, mainly French and British air forces. An old Israeli destroyer manufactured by Britain participated in the capture of an old-fashioned Egyptian destroyer manufactured in Britain. But it was a secret, one-time, and the public and the legislators of the weakening powers in Europe were not asked what they thought. America is a different story: everything is open and requires broad support, whether in a defense pact – which would limit Israel’s freedom of maneuver and decision – or by supplying weapons, what is free, and certainly by deploying vulnerable forces. It was no small matter when the risks were realized, for example, in the bombing of the Marines headquarters at the Beirut airport, with 241 casualties – an attack that drove the Sixth Fleet from the Lebanese coast . The American battalion in the multinational force in Sinai is also like this: 35 years of risk – a casual and sunbathing face, now real, because of Da’ash – in order to separate Egypt from Israel.

The Patriot batteries for their soldiers, called for intercepting Iraqi Scud missiles during the 1991 war, set a precedent, albeit temporary: American forces with a finger on the trigger, the danger of Iraqi missiles being hit and the need to distribute work with the IAF’s control system. It was found that there is no reciprocity: the Americans are completely immune here, the Israelis and others who are not in the NATO alliance are only partially immune, because the administration is authorized to ask local authorities to give up To guests for arrest and trial, but can not impose it on them. From Boston to Houston, if a policeman or a judge insists, Major A or Corporal B. will be in jail. Israel decided to restrain itself and hope for the best.

Deterrence, but also a goal

There are already Americans in uniform (or contractors) in the radar facility overlooking the Negev towards Iran, even though the names of the places – Mount Keren and Mashabei Sadeh – have been made public, and this has become a distant and largely remote area. From Lebanon and Ashdod from Gaza: a focused effort will be required to avoid hitting naval bases there.

Faced with the Russians in Syria, the benefit to the Americans in the presence of a little south is clear. In contrast to Hezbollah , American destroyers in Haifa may provide deterrence, but they may also be targets. Moreover, it is tempting for Iran to instruct Hassan Nasrallah to direct the fire at the Americans, hoping to smuggle them out, and not only into the sea until the tension is over, but when they are between their legs.

Admiral Stavridis, who wrote his doctorate on NATO, is aware of all these nuances, and knows that Congress will not want to harm the local income of countries and towns that host the destroyers on the Atlantic coast, at most from Spain or Italy. And his conversations with senior security officials here suggest that Israel wants to see how the idea will be accepted, without commitment and without embarrassment, and would sink like a stone in the Mediterranean.

If Stavridis finds a sympathetic ear in his retired colleague, Defense Secretary James Matisse, who was his counterpart in the Inter-Agency Force Command when Stavoridis headed the Southern Command (Latin America) and Central Command of CENTCOM (Middle East and Afghanistan) NATO, the destroyers may still dock in front of the Carmel, or – just not on Saturday – in Ashdod.

(First update: 13:27, 02.02

Bombshell: UK Govt Review into Sharia Admits Systemic Discrimination Against Women, Unknown Number of ‘Councils’, Forced Marriage Victim Made to Appear with Abusers

February 6, 2018

by Raheem Kassam 5 Feb 2018

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2018/02/05/bombshell-review-sharia-systemic-discrimination-women-unknown-number/

Rachel Megawhat/Breitbart London

A controversial review into the state of Sharia law in the United Kingdom and the bodies administering it has revealed the British government to be unaware of exactly how many of the Islamic law councils are operating in the country, an admission of systemic discrimination against women, including the victim of forced marriage being asked to appear alongside her family, with an “inappropriate” adoption of civil legal terms used.

The document — entitled ‘The independent review into the application of sharia law in England and Wales’ — was criticised for taking a theological approach to the issue after Islamic theologian Mona Siddique OBE, as well as Imam Qari Muhammad Asim MBE and Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, were appointed to the panel and advisory board. Other members included Sam Momtaz QC, Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE QC (Hon), and Sir Mark Hedley DL.

Described as having an “inappropriate theological approach” by women’s rights groups, the report recommends the recognition of Islamic marriage in civil law, and vice versa, so that Muslim women do not necessarily feel their only option for divorce is through Sharia councils. The sole focus of the report appears to be divorce, despite an admission that a smaller amount of Sharia councils’ works are not in this area.

The report stunningly admits:

The exact number of sharia councils operating in England and Wales is unknown. Academic and anecdotal estimates vary from 30 to 85. The review has identified 10 councils operating with an online presence. The sharia councils identified by the review were mostly in urban centres with significant Muslim populations, such as London, Birmingham, Bradford and Dewsbury.

The investigators also concede they were not actually privy to any Sharia council processes and did not witness their active work:

The review panel did not observe first hand either the councils’ process for obtaining information from the individuals seeking their assistance or the decision-making process used by the councils.

There was — as the report’s methodology states — a public call for evidence on July 4th, 2016, with closed, oral evidence sessions with users of Sharia councils, women’s rights groups, academics, and lawyers, as well as other interested parties.

One of the primary recommendations of the investigation is the idea of “linking Islamic marriage to civil marriage” to ensure “that a greater number of women will have the full protection afforded to them in family law and they will face less discriminatory practices. This will be a positive move aimed at giving women maximum rights should the marriage end in divorce”.

This would require alterations to the Marriage Act 1949 and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, “to ensure that civil marriages are conducted before or at the same time as the Islamic marriage ceremony, bringing Islamic marriage in line with Christian and Jewish marriage in the eyes of the law”.

Despite numerous admissions that men have an upper hand in Sharia councils, the report concludes the system should not only remain in place, but should be self-regulated by imams:

  1. It could invite, encourage or even urge sharia councils to adopt a system of uniform self-regulation.

  2. The state could provide a system of regulation for sharia councils to adopt and then to self-regulate.

  3. It could impose such a system and provide an enforcement agency similar to OFSTED. However, proportionality is not the only issue. Just as the state does not confer legitimacy on the Beth Din or on Catholic tribunals by seeking to regulate them, the state may be reluctant to regulate sharia councils. That raises a dilemma: either the state withholds further intervention or it risks intervention being perceived as conferring legitimacy upon sharia councils and thereby creating a parallel legal system.

Despite the difficulties, we have concluded that intervention/regulation carries more advantage than no intervention.

Men are revealed to have an advantage in Sharia councils because of the ease of routes to divorce offered to them ahead of women. The report appears to want to ease this problem, rather than eradicate it, and lend the legitimacy of the British state to Sharia law.

Men seeking an Islamic divorce have the option of ‘talaq’, a form of unilateral divorce that they can issue themselves. Women do not have this option, unless inserted as a term in the marriage contract (which varies from school to school) and therefore have to seek a ‘khula’ or ‘faskh’ from a sharia council.

The review also heard evidence “that in some instances, during khula divorces, women were asked to make some financial concessions to their husband in order to secure the divorce”.

Rather than a condemnation of such practices, the review seeks to create “a body by the state with a code of practice for sharia councils to accept and implement. This body would include both sharia council panel members and specialist family lawyers. This body could go on to monitor and audit compliance of the code of practice.”

The report also contains an unassailable admission — historically rejected or even ridiculed by left-wing politicians and campaigners — that “[t]he primary and underlying principle of sharia councils is the application of sharia law”, and that this is indeed taking place in Britain, and to an extent that the government is unaware.

https://twitter.com/RaheemKassam/status/960369808712839168/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.breitbart.com%2Flondon%2F2018%2F02%2F05%2Fbombshell-review-sharia-systemic-discrimination-women-unknown-number%2F

The most well established sharia councils in England and Wales have been in existence since the 1980s. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the numbers of sharia councils in England and Wales has increased in the last 10 years.

The review also wrestles with the idea of [in effect giving] a quasi-legal status to the councils:

Such regulation will indeed endorse and add legitimacy to the perception of the existence of a parallel legal system whilst the outcomes of the sharia council processes in terms of religious divorces have no standing in civil law.

Another problem arising from such an endorsement is the fact the review revealed a misinterpretation of British law:

The sharia councils that were visited all had a very loose definition of mediation. In all cases there appeared to be confusion between mediation and what is in effect reconciliation counselling. All councils visited within the context of the review made provision for reconciliation counselling at the commencement of the process. The reconciliation was invariably described as ‘mediation’ when it is clearly not.

Save for one individual, the review found that those conducting the mediation at sharia councils have not received mainstream training from the recognised mediation organisations, nor was there any evidence of accreditation. The sharia councils appear to use the term mediation in a much looser sense than that of the highly trained and accredited mediators practicing in family law.

The authors add:

The creation of state endorsed regulation sends the message that certain groups have separate and distinct needs and further that sharia councils are an appropriate forum for resolution of their family law disputes. In short it would perpetuate the myth of separateness of certain groups. The acceptance of the premise that sharia councils only deal with, engage in or touch upon the dissolution of the religious marriage aspect of the dispute is naïve and unrealistic. In any family law or relationship dispute the issues are multi-faceted. Ancillary outcomes which arise out of the ‘mediation and other functions’ that sharia councils undoubtedly perform may be given legitimacy. Those functions where they deal with dowry forfeiture (or return) financial remedies, arrangements for children and issues regarding future behaviour and conduct will impact on the civil rights of those to whom they relate.

While the report praised some “good practice” in the Sharia councils, these are arguably overshadowed by the “bad practice” revelations.

Examples of “good practice” according to the authors included:

  • reporting of family violence and child protection issues to the police;
  • women unable to pay fees have them lowered/no payment taken;
  • religious divorce granted as formality upon civil divorce;
  • councils’ signposting to civil remedies, such as civil courts for child arrangements;
  • little evidence of women being asked to reconcile relationships rather than obtain divorce;
  • councils declining to deal with any ancillary issues and referring users to civil courts;
  • in practically every case where a woman was seeking divorce, a divorce was granted;
  • some councils had women panel members;
  • some councils said they have safeguarding policies in relation to children and domestic violence.

Evidence of bad practice however included:

  • inappropriate and unnecessary questioning in regards to personal relationship matters;
  • a forced marriage victim was asked to attend the sharia council at the same time as her family;
  • insistence on any form of mediation as a necessary preliminary;
  • women being invited to make concessions to their husbands in order to secure a divorce (men are never asked to make these concessions). For example in khula agreements, husbands may demand excessive financial concessions from the wife;
  • lengthy process so that while divorces are very rarely refused they can be drawn out;
  • inconsistency across council decisions and processes;
  • no safeguarding policies and/or the recognition for the need of safeguarding policies;
  • no clear signposting to the legal options available for civil divorce;
  • even with a decree absolute a religious divorce is not always a straightforward process and the council will consider all the evidence again;
  • adopting civil legal terms inappropriately, leading to confusion for applicants over the legality of council decisions;
  • very few women as panel members;
  • panel members sitting on sharia councils who have only recently moved to the UK, and who do not have the required language skills and/or wider understanding of UK society;
  • varying and conflicting interpretations of Islamic law which may lead to inconsistencies.

Addressing the calls to ban Sharia in the UK, the authors note (emphasis added): “Th[e] demand [for Sharia councils] will not end if the sharia councils are banned and closed down and could lead to councils going ‘underground’, making it even harder to ensure good practice and the prospect of discriminatory practices and greater financial costs more likely and harder to detect. It could also result in women needing to travel overseas to obtain divorces, putting themselves at further risk. We consider the closure of sharia councils is not a viable option. However, given the recommendations also proposed in this report include the registration of all Islamic marriages as well as awareness campaigns it is hoped that the demand for religious divorces from sharia councils will gradually reduce over time.”

Critics from across the political spectrum noted of the review: “It is evident from the limited terms of reference and the makeup of the review panel that the review is in danger of becoming seriously compromised and as such, we fear that it will command little or no confidence”, citing the make-up of the panel:

Although some of those appointed to the panel come from judicial and family/ children law backgrounds, two Islamic ‘scholars’ have been appointed as advisers to the chair, Mona Siddiqui who is herself a theologian. This is cause for alarm: the government has constituted a panel more suited to a discussion of theology than one which serves the needs of victims and is capable of investigating the full range of harms caused by sharia councils and tribunals, particularly for women.

They called for the government to “[d]rop the inappropriate theological approach, and appoint experts with knowledge of women’s human rights, those who can properly and independently examine how sharia systems of arbitration in family matters contravene key human rights principles of equality before the law, duty of care, due diligence and the rule of law. The inquiry must be clearly framed as a human rights investigation not a theological one.”

Supporters of the review included Iman Abou Atta — a director at the discredited TellMAMA group that seeks to shut down criticism of Islam, as well as Labour Party councillor Neghat Khan, the extremist-linked East London mosque’s manager Sufia Alam, and Guardian journalist Alia Waheed.