In my practice as a Muslim woman solicitor in London, I daily handle cases in which clients wish to have their Islamic legal rights recognised under English law.
A common problem is that some Muslim women have never had their marriages registered under English law.
If the Islamic ceremony takes place in the UK, it is essential to also have a civil registration.
Otherwise the woman has no matrimonial rights and is left with the much lesser rights of a ‘cohabitee’.
Although there are moves to increase these rights, at present the view is that marriage should be given a higher status than merely living together.
When my client is a cohabitee, I have to obtain a ‘Declaration of Trust’ from the court, which decides in what shares the couple intended to hold any assets.
This is a complex matter, and it is so much easier to get an equitable settlement under matrimonial rights.
It is surprisingly common for even well-educated Muslim women not to register their marriages, deeming it unnecessary, only to face enormous problems on divorce or death.
We are living as British citizens – if we register our cars, should we not also register our marriage?