Got Some News For You—-Plastic Bags Help the Environment

Plastic Bags Help the Environment

Banning them provides no benefit other than to let activists lord their preferences over others.

By John Tierney
Feb. 18, 2020 12:54 pm ET

Why do politicians want to take away our plastic bags and straws? This moral panic is intensifying even as evidence mounts that banning plastic is both a waste of money and harmful to the environment. If you want to protect dolphins and sea turtles, you should take special care to place your plastic in the trash, not the recycling bin. And if you’re worried about climate change, you’ll cherish those gossamer grocery bags once you learn the facts about plastic.

During the 1970s, environmentalists wanted to restrict the use of plastic because it was made from petroleum. When the “energy crisis” abated, they denounced plastic for not being biodegradable in landfills. They blamed it for littering the landscape, clogging sewer drains and global warming. Plastic from our “throwaway society” was killing vast numbers of sea creatures, according to a 2017 BBC documentary series. The series prompted Queen Elizabeth II to ban plastic straws and bottles from the royal estates, and it galvanized so many other leaders that greens celebrate what they call the “Blue Planet Effect,” named for the series.

More than 100 countries now restrict single-use plastic bags, and Pope Francis has called for global regulation of plastic. The European Parliament has voted to ban single-use plastic straws, plates and cutlery across the Continent next year. In the U.S., hundreds of municipalities and eight states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont—have outlawed or restricted single-use plastic bags. Greens in California are pushing a referendum to require all plastic packaging and single-use foodware in the state to be recyclable, and the European Union has unveiled a similar plan.

Popular misconceptions have sustained the plastic panic. Environmentalists frequently claim that 80% of plastic in the oceans comes from land-based sources, but a team of scientists from four continents reported in 2018 that more than half the plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” came from fishing boats—mostly discarded nets and other gear. Another study, published last year by Canadian and South African researchers, found that more than 80% of the plastic bottles that had washed up on the shore of Inaccessible Island, an uninhabited extinct volcano in the South Atlantic, originated in China. They must have been tossed off boats from Asia, the greatest source of what researchers call “mismanaged waste.”

Of the plastic carried into oceans by rivers, a 2017 study in Nature Communications estimated, 86% comes from Asia and virtually all the rest from Africa and South America. Some plastic in America is littered on beaches and streets, and winds up in sewer drains. But researchers have found that laws restricting plastic bags and food containers don’t reduce litter. The resources wasted on these anti-plastic campaigns would be better spent on more programs to discourage all kinds of littering.

Another myth—that recycling plastic prevents it from polluting the oceans—stems from the enduring delusion that plastic waste can be profitably turned into other products. But sorting plastic is so labor-intensive, and the resulting materials of so little value, that most municipalities pay extra to get rid of their plastic waste, mostly by shipping it to Asian countries with low labor costs. The chief destination for many years was China, which two years ago banned most imports. It now goes to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Some of the plastic from your recycling bin probably ends up in the ocean because it goes to a country with a high rate of “mismanaged waste.”

Yet single-use plastic bags aren’t the worst environmental choice at the supermarket—they’re the best. High-density polyethylene bags are a marvel of economic, engineering and environmental efficiency. They’re cheap, convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but thin and light enough to make and transport using scant energy, water or other resources. Though they’re called single-use, most people reuse them, typically as trash-can liners. When governments ban them, consumers buy thicker substitutes with a bigger carbon footprint.

Once discarded, they take up little room in landfills. That they aren’t biodegradable is a plus, because they don’t release greenhouse gases like decomposing paper and cotton bags. The plastic bags’ tiny quantity of carbon, extracted from natural gas, goes back underground, where it can be safely sequestered from the atmosphere and ocean in a modern landfill with a sturdy lining.

If the goal is to reduce carbon emissions and plastic pollution, we can take some obvious steps: Repeal misguided plastic-bag bans. Stop exporting plastic waste to countries that allow it to leak into the ocean. Help those countries establish modern systems for collecting and processing their own plastic waste. Send plastic waste straight to landfills and incinerators. Step up enforcement of laws and treaties that restrict nations from polluting the ocean and prohibit mariners from littering the seas.

Plastic bans are a modern version of medieval sumptuary laws, which forbade merchants and other commoners to wear clothes or use products that offended the sensibilities of aristocrats and clergymen. Green activists have the power to impose their preferences now that environmentalism is essentially the state religion in progressive strongholds. They can lord it over the modern merchant class and corporations desperately trying to curry social favor. The plastic panic gives politicians and greens the leverage to shake down companies afraid that they’ll be regulated out of business.

Most important, the plastic panic gives today’s elites a renewed sense of moral superiority. No matter how much fuel politicians and environmentalists burn on their flights to international climate conferences, they can still feel virtuous as they issue their edicts to grocery shoppers.

Mr. Tierney is a contributing editor of City Journal, from whose winter issue this was adapted.

Quick Economic Global Look

From Moody’s Investor Services

Global Macro Outlook 2020-21 (February 2020 Update)

Coronavirus clouds growth outlook just as the economy showed signs of stabilization


» Coronavirus outbreak has diminished optimism about prospects of an incipient stabilization of global growth this year. With the virus continuing to spread, it is still too early to make a final assessment of the impact on China (A1 stable) and the global economy. We have revised our global GDP growth forecast down, and we now expect G-20 economies to collectively grow 2.4% in 2020, a softer rate than last year, followed by a pickup to 2.8% in 2021. We have reduced our growth forecast for China to 5.2% in 2020 and maintain our expectation of 5.7% growth in 2021.

We have also lowered our real GDP growth forecast for Australia (Aaa stable), Korea (Aa2 stable) and Japan (A1 stable) on account of the coronavirus. Additionally, we have reduced our growth projections for India (Baa2 negative), Mexico (A3 negative) and South Africa (Baa3 negative), a reflection of domestic challenges in those countries rather than external factors.

» Our baseline assumes the outbreak will cause disruption in Q1 economic activity. Under our baseline forecast, the spread of the coronavirus will be contained by the end of Q1, allowing for resumption of normal economic activity in Q2. At present, China’s economy is by far the worst affected. However, the rest of the world also has exposure as a result of a hit to global tourism in the first half of this year and short-term disruptions to supply chains. The effects on the global economy could compound if the rate of infection does not abate and the death toll continues to rise, because supply chain disruptions in manufacturing would become more acute the longer it takes to restore normalcy.

» Pause in US-China trade tensions does not materially change our assessment
of global growth prospects. The “phase one” trade deal reduces risk of near-term escalation of the trade battle between the US (Aaa stable) and China, but uncertainty has not gone away. The adverse economic consequences of the coronavirus will make it even more challenging for China to meet its import commitments under the agreement. Moreover, US tariffs on $370 billion of imports from China remain in place, while US tariffs on steel and aluminum are also still in effect. Trade risks stemming from other disputes also remain elevated. For example, the US threat of 25% tariffs on auto and auto parts imports, which would primarily affect large auto-producing countries such as Germany (Aaa stable) and Japan, remains on the table. And 2020 being a US presidential election year, uncertainty over US trade policy will likely stay elevated.

Now , Forgive Me But Did I Just Hear —-

That the RCMP have ‘offered’ to leave the Watsuwat’en territory ?


So said the Public Safety Minister Bill Blair as reported by CBC.

Now do you want me to believe :

The Pope is Pentecostal?

That our PM was not found guilty of law breaking five times?

That he did not obstruct justice in badgering his Minister of Justice and Attorney General?

That the RCMP have not had a lot of problems?? You know Mark Norman and all that?

That the Federal Liberal Party and Government are not the masters of the ‘ wink and the nod?’

This organized ‘offer’ is right out of the Liberal Play Book . Engineered right out of the PM’s war room.

Can I prove it. No , that’s the point : masters of deception seldom get caught.

Track record ?

Oh , yes . It’s all there from the 1980’s when they lied to me and the Newfoundland and Labrador Government . The Sponsorship Scandal, etc——

And right up to today : shutting down Parliamentary Committees, having certain witnesses off limits on the Judy Wilson Raybold affair, and now just recently in their clandestine operation for judicial appointments.

But we are not to talk about that now.

Gosh , I forgot.

Banished in Beijing

Banished in Beijing

China expels three WSJ reporters to deflect from its coronavirus woes.

By The Editorial Board —Wall Street Journal

Feb. 19, 2020 7:18 pm ET

President Xi Jinping says China deserves to be treated as a great power, but on Wednesday his country expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters over a headline. Yes, a headline. Or at least that was the official justification. The truth is that Beijing’s rulers are punishing our reporters so they can change the subject from the Chinese public’s anger about the government’s management of the coronavirus scourge.

“China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia” was the headline over Walter Russell Mead’s Feb. 3 column in the Journal. Mr. Mead, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for us. He did not write the headline. Anyone who reads the piece can see it describes the problems in Chinese governance exposed by the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Beijing has since sacked Wuhan province officials, proving Mr. Mead’s point.

As for that headline, we have heard from thoughtful people that to Chinese ears the “sick man” reference echoes in insensitive fashion the West’s exploitation of China in the mid-19th century during the opium wars. Others say it refers to Japan’s 20th-century invasion of China. We take the point, and we were happy to run letters to the editor criticizing the headline.

Most Americans, however, understand the phrase in the context of the dying Ottoman Empire as “the sick man of Europe.” That was our historical analogy. These days the “sick man” phrase is used to describe many countries, most notably the Philippines as the sick man of Asia. The Financial Times, the Economist and the Guardian all referred to Britain as “the sick man of Europe” in the throes of Brexit.

The Global Times, a publication that expresses Chinese government views, republished a Reuters article in 2016 whose lead sentence referred to Egypt as the “sick man of the Middle East.” In 2011 Foreign Affairs used the headline “The Sick Man of Asia: China’s Health Crisis” over an article by Yanzhong Huang, a professor who grew up in China and graduated from Fudan University.

In any event, Mr. Mead’s column and headline were never published in China. That’s because the Journal is banned there. Our website has been shut down since 2014. Our reporters can cover China for the rest of the world but not for Chinese readers.

That didn’t stop the Chinese government from starting a public campaign against the headline. A Foreign Ministry spokesman denounced the column, and several Chinese propaganda organs spread the same theme. “Racism worse enemy than epidemic,” read a headline in Xinhua lumping Mr. Mead’s article with one from Der Spiegel.

Our email inbox was soon flooded with complaints about the headline, all containing remarkably similar language and demanding an apology. A campaign was orchestrated to get Mr. Mead barred from Twitter. If you think this was spontaneous outrage, you don’t understand how China’s government works to influence public opinion at home and abroad. Beijing knows how to exploit America’s identity politics to charge “racism” in service of its censorship.

And now China has escalated to ban our three reporters, who had nothing to do with the headline or Mr. Mead’s column. As our readers know, and as we have explained to Chinese officials for years, our news and opinion departments are run independently and have separate reporting lines to the publisher.

The Chinese understand this but choose to ignore it when it suits their propaganda purposes. In August they refused to renew the press credentials of a Journal reporter who wrote about the business interests of Mr. Xi’s cousin in Australia. This week the excuse for expulsion is an opinion headline. Soon enough it might be a news story about China’s internment camps for Uighurs in Xinjiang or an editorial about Hong Kong.

What Chinese officials don’t understand is that a free press would have helped them better cope with the virus fallout. Democracies are resilient because a free media sends signals and information that allow an outlet for grievances and alert leaders to problems before they become crises.

The Chinese also don’t seem to understand that their bullying reduces the shrinking number of allies they still have in the U.S. These columns have supported China’s overall trading relationship with the U.S. even as we criticize some of its trading practices. In the days before Mr. Mead’s column, we ran an editorial (“Wuhan Wilbur Ross”) criticizing the U.S. Commerce Secretary for saying the coronavirus would be an economic benefit for the U.S. Mr. Ross’s point of view will find more American support the more China steals American secrets and banishes reporters.

China’s expulsions are so extreme that they surely have more to do with its domestic politics than American opinion. Perhaps they are also in part a response to the State Department’s decision Tuesday to identify the U.S. operations of state-run Chinese media as foreign missions, which subjects them to the same restrictions as embassies.

The coronavirus is a seismic political event that undermines Mr. Xi’s promise to his citizens about a rising China and the competence of the Communist Party. The government’s default defense is to play the nationalist card and blame foreigners for its home-grown troubles. That’s why it censors public complaints on Chinese social media, gins up a furor over a headline—and banishes the best reporters in the world from covering China.

Jody Wilson-Raybold’s Ideas

Judy Wilson Raybold’s Ideas

The former Attorney General for Canada spoke in the House of Commons last night , Tuesday, February 18..

This Aboriginal Leader’s ideas should be carefully examined. Why? Because she is likely speaking for a lot of Aboriginals in this country .

One needs to know just what is being sought in this present crisis.

First, she says the PM has to lead . Well, a lot of people have been waiting for that for a long time. She says he needs to sit down with the Aboriginal leaders.

Second, the UN Declaration of the Rights Of Aboriginal Peoples , adopted by Trudeau and his Government , needs to be given legislative sanction——this is big—-because it sweeps away the process of Court interpretation of Section 35 of the Constitution—it leapfrogs over that process —-in one legislative action. Aboriginal groups will not have to prove whether the tests established to gain title over land can be met but rather many , if not all, aboriginal groups with traditional claims on land are likely to be provided some sort of title. How the boundaries will be drawn , what type of Government will be established, etc , just what powers will be provided are not defined by Raybold but it seems pretty clear that it is done this path that she is going ——and of course the Federal Government will be on the hook , financially.

Third, she talks of cooling off period Of course, the pipeline is under construction and money is being spent every day. She even talks of some route change to the pipeline —but this was considered and other routes considered had more environmental problems and would add hundreds of millions of dollars . She hints that Government would pick up this cost.

Fourth, she talks of the RCMP leaving the scene and that the Aboriginal Leaders must be ready to talk. Of course, I suspect they would ready to talk if all the above were agreed to .

Implementing these ideas will see a radical change in the nature of this country.

I am unsure whether Canadians really understand the fundamental ideas they are now on the table . They should pay attention—-and real quick.

Iran elections to be dominated by hard-liners as young people refuse to vote: ‘It’s a joke’

From: The Foundation For The Defence Of Democracies

Iran elections to be dominated by hard-liners as young people refuse to vote: ‘It’s a joke’


Natasha Turak

This week will see 7,148 candidates vetted by Iran’s unelected religious and legal authorities compete for 290 seats across 31 provinces.

Much of the country’s youth, particularly in the capital Tehran, plan to stay at home, foreshadowing what’s expected to be the lowest voter turnout in years.


Iran is holding its parliamentary elections Friday, and one thing seems all but certain: It will be a major victory for the country’s conservative hard-liners.

This week will see 7,148 candidates vetted by Iran’s unelected religious and legal authorities compete for 290 seats across 31 provinces. But much of the country’s youth, particularly in the capital Tehran, plan to stay at home, foreshadowing what’s expected to be the lowest voter turnout in years.

“I’m not going to vote, and none of my friends are going to vote too,” Mehdi, a business owner in his 20s living in Tehran, told CNBC. “Nothing is going to change with or without us voting. … They decided everything for the country, without considering the Parliament,” he said, referring to the ruling regime.

“So it’s a joke to even have a Parliament. We’re protesting against them by not participating in the elections.”

‘Least competitive’ election in years

Iranian activists and country experts point to the sheer lack of competition manufactured by the regime’s ruling lawmakers: 7,296 of 15,000 people who applied to run for parliament were disqualified by the Guardian Council, a 12-person board of experts in constitutional and Islamic law largely appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that wields significant power in Iranian politics.

“These will be the least competitive parliamentary elections in Iran since 2004 when reformists and incumbents were also disqualified en masse,” Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told CNBC. “If history repeats itself, a conservative will also be elected president in 2021.”

The Guardian Council oversees the elections, decides who can run and has veto power over the parliament’s legislation, making it more influential than the popularly elected body, and its highly conservative nature has led it to frequently ban reformist candidates from running for public office.

Calls for an election boycott

This year, the council also banned 80 sitting reformist lawmakers from running again.

“With the exception of the first post-revolutionary parliamentary elections in 1980, the Islamic Republic’s parliament has only ever allowed a narrow range of politicians to run for office,” said Arash Azizi, an Iranian historian and analyst, in a report last week. “But this time the Guardian Council has gone much further, effectively expelling the reformist faction of the regime from the political realm.”

Iranians within and outside the country, including imprisoned activist Narges Mohammadi and former minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, have openly called for a boycott of the elections. The hashtags #BoycottIranShamElections and #MyVoteRegimeChange are being widely tweeted by activists.

Meanwhile, Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are urging voters to go to the polls. “Participation in the election is a stamp of support for the ways of the regime and will thus lead to security,” the supreme leader recently announced. “I beg you not to be passive,” Rouhani said last week.

Many Iranians are questioning the purpose of voting, “particularly when voting doesn’t really result in policy changes that help ordinary Iranians,” said Sanam Vakil, deputy head of Chatham House’s MENA Program. “It’s really just about legitimizing the Islamic Republic as part of a public relations stunt rather than having a policy impact.”

“And maybe by not voting, they are making as much of a point as if they were voting,” she said. “It’s a protest in itself.”

Severe economic pain

Much has changed since Iran’s last parliamentary elections in 2016, which were considered a substantial victory for Iran’s reformists and came amid a swell of popular optimism for a more open country and economy.

The 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, or JCPOA (Join Comprehensive Plan of Action) had just been signed by multiple countries including the U.S. and European Union states, and Iran’s economic growth for the year was projected to be as high as 6%. Many of Iran’s voters looked to reformist candidates’ promises of a more open Iran and better economic prospects stemming from the nuclear deal, which lifted international sanctions.

Those elections saw a reported 62% turnout, just above the prior historical average for parliamentary elections of 60.5%. Turnout on Friday is expected to be significantly lower than in several past elections, suggesting a loss of faith in the Islamic Republic’s electoral system and severe pessimism under a buckling economy.

The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, sweeping reimposition of sanctions, and continued corruption and mismanagement within the country have wrought severe economic pain on the Islamic Republic, particularly impacting ordinary Iranians, regional experts say.

The IMF estimated a staggering 9.5% contraction for Iran’s economy in 2019, and unemployment and inflation are soaring. A poll conducted by Tehran University reportedly predicted a mere 25% turnout in the capital city, while others are expecting around 50% nationwide of the country’s roughly 60 million eligible voters.

The Iranians who spoke to CNBC also expressed their anger over the hundreds of civilians killed by security forces during protests in November and January. The November protests were triggered by a 300% hike in fuel prices, and the latter after Iranian forces admitted to unintentionally shooting down a passenger jet with 176 people on board — the majority Iranian citizens. The downing came amid a retaliatory attack on U.S. troops in Iraq after the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani on Jan. 3.

Is Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy to blame?

Regional analysts have long warned that a more hard-line government was a major risk of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy on Iran. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have skyrocketed amid a series of escalatory moves from both sides over the last year and a half in particular.

“In response to max pressure, Tehran is looking to consolidate elites, with uber hardliners filling every major institution,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told CNBC. This is especially critical as Khamenei is now in his early 80s.

But he argued that Trump is not primarily to blame, noting that Iran’s clerical establishment was restricting reformist politics and cracking down on dissent long before the current U.S. administration. “It’s the Islamic Republic that’s been narrowing its political spectrum ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.”

Vakil sees the current political forecast as a clear consequence of maximum pressure. “It’s ironic,” she said, “because the Trump administration sought to alter the behavior of the Islamic Republic and instead it’s empowering that behavior.”

UK Court Rules Islamic Marriage Contract Not Valid Under English Law

by Soeren Kern
February 19, 2020 at 5:00 am


“We sought to inform the Court of Appeal that many minority women, especially Muslim women, are deceived or coerced by abusive husbands into only having a religious marriage, which deprives them of their financial rights when the marriage breaks down….” — Southall Black Sisters, an advocacy group for South Asian women, February 14, 2020.

In February 2018, an independent review of the application of Sharia law in England and Wales…recommended changes to the Marriage Act 1949 and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that would require Muslims to conduct civil marriages before or at the same time as the nikah ceremony. This would bring Islamic marriage in line with Christian and Jewish marriage in the eyes of British law.

“The Assembly is concerned that the rulings of the Sharia councils clearly discriminate against women in divorce and inheritance cases.” — Council of Europe (COE), January 2019.

As of now, neither the British government nor the British Parliament has introduced legislation that would require Muslims to conduct civil marriages before or at the same time as the nikah ceremony…[but] The court’s decision effectively reaffirms the principle that immigrants who settle in Britain must conform to British law, rather than the other way around.


The Court of Appeal, the second-highest court in England and Wales after the Supreme Court, has ruled that the Islamic marriage contract, known as nikah in Arabic, is not valid under English law. Pictured: The Royal Courts of Justice in London, seat of the Court of Appeal. (Image source: Anthony M/Wikimedia Commons)
The Court of Appeal, the second-highest court in England and Wales after the Supreme Court, has ruled that the Islamic marriage contract, known as nikah in Arabic, is not valid under English law.

The landmark ruling has far-reaching implications. On the one hand, the decision strikes a blow against efforts to enshrine this aspect of Sharia law into the British legal system. On the other hand, it leaves potentially thousands of Muslim women in Britain without legal recourse in the case of divorce.

The case involves an estranged couple, Nasreen Akhter and Mohammed Shabaz Khan, both of Pakistani heritage, who took part in a nikah ceremony officiated by an imam in front of 150 guests at a restaurant in London in December 1998.

In November 2016, Akhter, a 48-year-old attorney, filed for a divorce, allegedly because Khan wanted to take a second wife. Khan, a 48-year-old property developer, tried to block Akhter’s divorce application on the basis that they were not legally married under English law. Khan said that they were married “under Sharia law only” and sued to prevent Akhtar from claiming money or property from him in the same way a legally married spouse could.

Akhter said that the couple, who have four children, intended to follow the nikah with a civil marriage ceremony that would be compliant with English law. No civil ceremony ever took place, however, because, according to Akhter, Khan refused.

On July 31, 2018, the London-based Family Division of the High Court ruled that the nikah fell within the scope of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which establishes three categories of marriage: valid, void and non-marriage. Valid marriages may be ended by a decree of divorce; void marriages may be ended by a decree of nullity; non-marriages cannot be legally ended because legally the marriage never existed.

The high court determined that the Akhter-Khan marriage was a “void marriage” because it had been “entered into in disregard of certain requirements as to the formation of marriage.” It ruled that Akhtar was therefore entitled to a “decree of nullity of marriage.”

The Attorney General, on behalf of the British government, filed an appeal on the basis that it was wrong to recognize the marriage as being “void” rather than a “non-marriage.”

On February 14, 2020, the London-based Court of Appeals overturned the High Court’s decision and ruled that nikah marriages are “non-marriages” within the scope of English law. In its ruling, the court explained:

“The Court of Appeal finds that the December 1998 nikah ceremony did not create a void marriage because it was a non-qualifying ceremony. The parties were not marrying ‘under the provisions’ of English law (Part II of the Marriage Act 1949). The ceremony was not performed in a registered building. Moreover, no notice had been given to the superintendent registrar, no certificates had been issued, and no registrar or authorized person was present at the ceremony. Further, the parties knew that the ceremony had no legal effect and that they would need to undertake another ceremony that did comply with the relevant requirements in order to be validly married. The determination of whether a marriage is void or not cannot, in the Court’s view, be dependent on future events, such as the intention to undertake another ceremony or whether there are children.

“There is no justification for treating the civil ceremony, which the parties intended to undertake, as having in fact taken place, when it never did. This might result in a party being married even if they change their mind part way through the process of formalizing the marriage. That would be inconsistent with the abolition of the right to sue for breach of an agreement to marry by Section 1 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970. The parties’ intentions cannot change what would otherwise be a non-qualifying ceremony into one which is within the scope of the Marriage Act 1949.”

The Court of Appeals added: “It is not difficult for parties who want to be legally married to achieve that status.”

The ruling, which Akhter presumably will appeal at the Supreme Court, has been greeted with outrage by activists who argue that thousands of Muslim women in Britain now have no legal rights when it comes to divorce.

In a press release, Southall Black Sisters, an advocacy group for South Asian women, said:

“We sought to inform the Court of Appeal that many minority women, especially Muslim women, are deceived or coerced by abusive husbands into only having a religious marriage, which deprives them of their financial rights when the marriage breaks down….

“The Court found that ‘it is not difficult for parties who want to be legally married to achieve that status.’ But this disregards the accounts of many minority women, who have great difficulty in obtaining that status in the context of domestic abuse, patriarchal family dynamics and considerable power imbalances….

“Today’s judgment will force Muslim and other women to turn to Sharia ‘courts’ that already cause significant harm to women and children for remedies because they are now locked out of the civil justice system.”

In November 2017, a survey carried out for a Channel 4 documentary — The Truth About Muslim Marriage — found that nearly all married Muslim women in Britain have had a nikah, but more than 60% had not gone through a separate civil ceremony which would make the marriage legal under British law.

In February 2018, an independent review of the application of Sharia law in England and Wales, commissioned by Theresa May in May 2016 when she was home secretary, recommended changes to the Marriage Act 1949 and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that would require Muslims to conduct civil marriages before or at the same time as the nikah ceremony. This would bring Islamic marriage in line with Christian and Jewish marriage in the eyes of British law. The report stated:

“By linking Islamic marriage to civil marriage, it ensures that a greater number of women will have the full protection afforded to them in family law and the right to a civil divorce, lessening the need to attend and simplifying the decision process of Sharia councils.”

The review added:

“The panel’s opinion is that the evidence shows that cultural change is required within Muslim communities so that communities acknowledge women’s rights in civil law, especially in areas of marriage and divorce. Awareness campaigns, educational programs and other similar measures should be put in place to educate and inform women of their rights and responsibilities, including the need to highlight the legal protection civilly registered marriages provide.”

Finally, the panel recommended that the government create a new agency to regulate Sharia courts and thus legitimize them:

“That body would design a code of practice for Sharia councils to accept and implement. There would, of course, be a one-off cost to the government of establishing this body but subsequently the system would be self-regulatory.”

In March 2018, then Secretary of State Sajid Javid, in a Green Paper titled, “Integrated Communities Strategy,” responded:

“We welcome the independent review into the application of Sharia law in England and Wales. Couples from faith communities have long been able to enter a legally recognized marriage through a religious ceremony if the requirements of the law are met.

“However, we share the concern raised in the review that some couples may marry in a way that does not give them the legal protections available to others in a civilly registered marriage. We are also concerned by reports of women being discriminated against and treated unfairly by some religious councils.

“The government is supportive in principle of the requirement that civil marriages are conducted before or at the same time as religious ceremonies. Therefore, the government will explore the legal and practical challenges of limited reform relating to the law on marriage and religious weddings.

“The government considers that the review’s proposal to create a state-facilitated or endorsed regulation scheme for Sharia councils would confer upon them legitimacy as alternative forms of dispute resolution. The government does not consider there to be a role for the state to act in this way.”

In January 2019, the Council of Europe (COE), the continent’s leading human rights organization, raised concerns about the role of Sharia courts in family, inheritance and commercial law in Britain. It called for the government to remove obstacles that stop Muslim women from accessing justice:

“Although they are not considered part of the British legal system, Sharia councils attempt to provide a form of alternative dispute resolution, whereby members of the Muslim community, sometimes voluntarily, often under considerable social pressure, accept their religious jurisdiction mainly in marital issues and Islamic divorce proceedings but also in matters relating to inheritance and Islamic commercial contracts. The Assembly is concerned that the rulings of the Sharia councils clearly discriminate against women in divorce and inheritance cases.”

The COE also set a deadline of June 2020 for the UK to report back on reviewing the Marriage Act, which would make it a legal requirement for Muslim couples to undergo civil marriages — which is currently required for Christian and Jewish marriages.

A Home Office spokesperson responded to the COE resolution:

“Sharia law does not form any part of the law in England and Wales. Regardless of religious belief, we are all equal before the law. Where Sharia councils exist, they must abide by the law.

“Laws are in place to protect the rights of women and prevent discrimination, and we will work with the appropriate authorities to ensure these laws are being enforced fully and effectively.”

As of now, neither the British government, nor the British Parliament has introduced legislation that would require Muslims to conduct civil marriages before or at the same time as the nikah ceremony.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling does, however, put a brake on the further encroachment of Sharia law into the British legal system. The court’s decision effectively reaffirms the principle that immigrants who settle in Britain must conform to British law, rather than the other way around.

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.