A NATIONAL newspaper has accused leading Dewsbury Muslims of running an Islamic court that operates outside British law.
The Daily Express alleged on Monday that the Sharee council – headed by Savile Town resident Sheikeh Yaqub Munshi – operates a Muslim judiciary from the backroom of an Islamic school in Thornhill Road, Thornhill Lees.
It says that the court has been set up to "impose Islamic law and enable Muslims to shun the legitimate British legal system".
The paper suggests trials are held every other weekend with the court – the former White Hart pub which is now a madressah – hearing up to 10 cases a day.
It continues: "Four Muslim scholars, who have spent their life studying and preaching the Koran, sit in judgement on an array of cases alongside a Muslim solicitor whose role is to advise on the implications of their rulings in British law."
Speaking to the Reporter, an unnamed source with close links to Dewsbury's Muslim community described Mr Munshi, father of Dewsbury South Labour local election candidate Abdul Munshi, as a "radical cleric".
The source said: "He came to England wanting to make it a Muslim country.
"He advocates women should be veiled and that children should have a good Islamic education."
But in a letter to the Daily Express, Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Inayat Bunglawala branded the article a sham.
He said Sharia courts that exist in the UK deal entirely with civil matters such as marriage and divorce.
The letter states: "Under English law people are free to devise their own way to settle a dispute before an agreed third party. The Sharia courts do not – at all – deal with criminal issues which are a matter for the British courts."
Former Dewsbury South councillor Imtiaz Ameen, himself a Muslim who lives in Savile Town, confirmed the court existed primarily to help vulnerable women.
He said: "In marriage where a man refuses to divorce his wife what is she to do?
" If a woman can't obtain a divorce the court provides the documents to allow her to be divorced. But then she still has to go through court under British rule to get a decree nisi."
Mr Ameen added that where Islamic law operates, and does not clash with the UK law, it could not be described as a different legal system. "Muslims are not trying to create a separate legal system," he said.
But the story has sparked fears that the Muslim-only nature of the courts means radical Sharia law could spread throughout the British Muslim population.
In many Muslim countries, hard-line interpretations of Islamic law allow people to be stoned to death, beheaded or have their limbs amputated.
The Daily Express alleges courts such as the one in Dewsbury have been set up in many major towns and cities across the UK.
Yacub Munshi was not available for comment this week but a spokesman for the Sharee council said they would be releasing a statement on the matter shortly.