Sharia law is 'not fit for the UK', says a Labour Muslim MP
Message: Labour MP Sadiq Khan said all Muslims should learn English - 'the passport to participation in mainstream society'
A Labour Muslim minister has warned that Islamic law is too unsophisticated for Britain.
Sadiq Khan said women could be ' abused' by sharia courts, which may give unequal bargaining power to the sexes.
He said: 'The burden is on those who want to open up these courts to persuade us why they should.'
Mr Khan, who was made a community cohesion minister in this month's Government reshuffle, rejected the argument that the courts could operate in the same way as the Jewish Beth Din courts.
He said Muslim life in Britain was not advanced enough to run a similar religious legal system.
The MP for Tooting in South London added: 'I would be very concerned about sharia courts applying in the UK.
'I don't think there is that level of sophistication that there is in Jewish law.'
He also said that sharia courts would discourage Muslims from developing links with other cultural and ethnic groups.
In February Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave his support for the courts in Britain, saying that the legal recognition of them 'seems unavoidable'.
Mr Khan, who is a human rights lawyer and one of only a handful of Muslim MPs, said: 'The requirement to learn English is not colonial. English is a passport to participation in mainstream society - jobs, education and even being able to use health services.
'Having poor English creates multiple barriers to work,' he writes in the pamphlet for the left-of-centre Fabian Society.
But the pamphlet also contains suggestions likely to prove controversial.
Mr Khan, recently at the centre of a bugging scandal, when his prison visits to a constituent accused of terrorism were secretly recorded by police, said a law against discrimination should be extended to religion.
The forthcoming Single Equality Act, which could force public bodies to actively promote equality on grounds of gender, race and disability, must also tackle religion.
There should be an end to 'Islamophobia in the workplace', he suggested.
Other controversial proposals included increased 'support' from Government for larger families.
Mr Khan suggested this even though it might lead to Pakistani and Bangladeshi families, often larger than the British average, receiving 'disproportionate' levels of help.
Meanwhile, it is important for integration that Muslims rejected the narrative that Western foreign policy is a 'war on Islam', he believes.
Mr Khan, usually seen as a defender of Muslim rights, also said sending children to Koranic studies lessons after school for two hours a day 'must have some impact on educational standards'.
He concludes: 'I challenge British Muslims to accept that as strongly as they feel about Iraq or counter-terror measures, poverty and inequality have the biggest impact on the lives of the majority of British Muslims.'
Tory spokesman for community cohesion, Baroness Warsi, said: 'This is a welcome, if belated, acknowledgement of just how important English is, in allowing people to play a full and active role in British life.'
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