Overdue Recognition: Investigating Shariah Courts in the UK

British MPs and Peers may now have abandoned Parliament to campaign in our impending elections, but in doing so, they left one rather gaping hole in terms of public policy on counter-extremism.

The Parliamentary session was supposed to have broken with a new counter-extremism strategy having been published. It was to be put in place in order to ensure that the new government and Parliament will have a template on how to deal with one of the key issues of our time.

However, there have been a series of frustrating delays, and the full strategy is yet to be launched. This week, a key part was finally revealed. A cursory examination of this shows it encompasses many of those things which a counter-terrorism strategy really has to cover. But it crucially also included the proposal of something potentially more contentious: launching an investigation into the activities of sharia courts in the UK.

Hitherto the UK government has focused primarily on the violence problem. Yet now, a significant shift has occurred so that officials must also consider the extent to that there is also a non-violent problem. Women in the UK in the 21st century being subjected to sharia law is now to be appraised as part of the problem. People being taught to live segregated lives is now a criteria to consider as part of the problem. It has taken a long time to acknowledge this.

For years the presumption has been that stopping bombs is the role of counter extremism but that stopping the emergence of a divided and parallel society within our society is not. But violent extremists do not come from nowhere. They come from a place which encourages their us-and-them mindset, a mindset which portions of society have not only tolerated but even encouraged.

There are many fights left to win and many problems which remain to be addressed. Fortunately we now have one fewer to contend with.