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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 17:35 GMT
Puzzled voices among Bradford's Muslims
By Danny Savage
BBC News

London mosque
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been criticised for his remarks
Bradford's Muslims generally seemed puzzled by the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion that Sharia laws should be adopted in Britain.

Stand on any one of the hills overlooking Bradford and across the skyline you can see the domes of mosques.

About 75,000 Muslims live here and many of them have been following the reaction to the comments by Dr Rowan Williams.

But the view over the mosques tells its own story. The people who attend each place of worship believe in their own interpretation of Sharia Law.

What one group believe to be Sharia is likely to be disputed by others just down the road.

The president of one mosque on Leeds Road in the city, Dr Bary Malik, is also a magistrate.

Shortly before Friday prayers he explained that he could foresee problems with the Archbishop's suggestion.

We are striving for integration but I'm worrying that something like this will breed division rather than integration
Maria Ahmad

"There are so many different sects in Islam, which version of Sharia Law are we going to have?" he said.

"If we introduce some sort of Sharia Law in this country and if it clashes with the British legal system, how do we resolve that issue? The British legal system, for me, already addresses most of the things that are in Sharia."

There are already informal Sharia councils in Bradford, who advise people on issues of marriages and finance. It seems this is a system which works here and is accepted by those who approach the councils.

If Sharia was to be formalised, this is one city where the effects would be widespread.

But I found it impossible to find anyone who advocates such a move. In Canada similar proposals were abandoned following protests that women's rights would be affected.

So what do Muslim women in West Yorkshire think?

Rihana Basharat, a mosque welfare secretary, said: "To me Islam, as we've been taught, is equal in divorce for women and men. Bringing it into this legal system is going to be totally confusing for everyone."

Her friend Maria Ahmad told me: "We are striving for integration but I'm worrying that something like this will breed division rather than integration."

Dr Williams has said the adoption of Sharia law in some circumstances "seems unavoidable" if social cohesion is to be maintained.

In Bradford, the idea seems to be creating anything but social cohesion with the reaction from Muslims in the city being bemusement over how any such arrangement could ever be integrated into English law.


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