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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 23:08 GMT
'I used Sharia law for divorce'
The Archbishop of Canterbury has come under fire after appearing to back the adoption of some aspects of Sharia law in the UK.

Farah, a 45-year-old Muslim woman living in the UK, told the BBC how she used Sharia law in London to divorce her husband, whom she had married outside the country without knowing he had a first wife.

London Central Mosque
The Sharia court recognised this was nonsense and gave me the divorce. The matter was resolved in three weeks. It cost me no money

I travelled to Syria with my male guardian to meet my future husband. You have to go with a guardian if you are travelling on your own and you are an unmarried woman.

I was put in a very nice hotel where I met my future husband, who drove me to a very beautiful place which overlooked Damascus. It was very romantic and I liked him.

Back in the car, he asked me if I would marry him. I accepted.

Later, I got married without knowing I was getting married. I thought we were discussing the dowry and that the Imam spoke Arabic, but he started talking in the Syrian Arabic dialect, which is very difficult to understand.

They started talking about Fatiha - what you say when you are declared married - and when I asked why we were saying Fatiha, I had no answer. It turns out we had the normal Nikah or Islamic marriage ceremony, with two witnesses present.

Two days later, I found out that my husband had another woman. I asked him for a divorce, but he refused.

My guardian left me on my own in Syria. He should have made sure that everything was right, but I found later that he knew that he had another wife but still didn't tell me. I decided to go back to Britain, which was very difficult as I was on my own.

Back in London, I tried to get my Islamic marriage annulled in the mosque, but they refused. I had my Nikah contract translated and found out that it stated only a quarter of the dowry money paid for me, and it said that I was a Syrian resident. These were all lies.

I asked him again three times for the divorce while in Britain, and he refused, so I ended up going to a Sharia court.

I went to the Sharia court at London Central Mosque with another woman as at the time, I didn't trust anyone. Two women heard my case and put it forward.

I think the Archbishop of Canterbury has raised a very important issue by recognising some situations within the Islamic community could be solved by Sharia law much more fairly

They asked me to write to him a letter with the accusations and, that if he didn't reply within weeks, I had to write back.

He did reply, and made an incredible case using e-mails I had written four years ago to a male friend in Mumbai (Bombay).

In his letter, he accused me of "psychological adultery" and asked for me to be stoned publicly and for it to be broadcast by the BBC.

He also wrote to a sheikh in London to argue his case. I was living in a refuge because he threatened to kill me.

The Sharia court finally granted me the divorce. The matter was resolved in three weeks. The process had no cost to either party.

I was lucky, because I didn't have a civil marriage in Syria, which would have been recognised by the British law. I would have had to end that civil marriage in British courts. What would this have cost me through the UK Family Courts in terms of time and money?

I think the Archbishop of Canterbury has raised a very important issue by recognising some situations within the Islamic community could be solved by Sharia law much more fairly and without money involved or any loss of time. I think he just wants some of these situations to be recognised within British laws.

This could mean that if you are a Muslim, you could voluntarily consider using the Sharia law. The Archbishop doesn't want to impose Sharia law, he just wants to help people like me.

There are some good things about Sharia law that could help women. This is not about stoning women, as this is not what Islam is about.

Sharia law is based on the word of God, so there are different interpretations. You might disagree with the interpretations, but that can also happen with the British law.


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