Inside Britain's secretive sharia courts

In British sharia courts, 90 per cent of the petitioners are female and almost all cases involve divorce.

According to the Home Office, there are many reasons for this. About 100,000 British Muslim couples — more than 60 per cent of the total — are not legally married, since they have only undergone an Islamic wedding, or nikah, and failed to register their marriages civilly.

In many cases, this is because they and their families only attach importance to the religious ceremony and see no point in solemnising the union for £46 at a register office.

Some Muslim husbands also reject the idea of a civil marriage, because it gives their wives more legal rights.