Muslim doctor loses appeal court bid to strip ex-wife of settlement

It has been reported in the last few days that the English court has rejected an appeal from a Dr Zaid Al-Saffar to overturn the financial order made in her favour. Dr al-Saffar is a consultant rheumatologist at Scarborough Hospital in North Yorkshire, and the head of the town’s Islamic society. He married Hanan Al-Saffar in April 2000 and the couple had two children before separating in 2008.

As part of the order, the doctor was to pay spousal maintenance. He refused to do so, citing various reasons, including that his wife had signed away her rights on her marriage, that to pay her was contrary to Islamic law and that, in the alternative, she had come into some money by way of inheritance. Following a successful enforcement application by the wife, the doctor appealed, acting as a litigant in person.

But Lord Justice Ward dismissed his appeal, upholding a previous finding that the doctor was “determined not to pay” because “he felt the payments were illegitimate or illegal according to Islamic culture.” Doctor al-Saffar came out of court stating that English law was biased against Muslim people. This decision has reignited the debate regarding the relevance of Sharia Law, whereby Muslims wish their cultural traditions to be upheld in English divorces, as is the case with the Beth Bin and Jewish marriage breakdown. It is clear that the courts in this country are firmly against this extension to the English law.

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© Punam Denley, July 2012

Blanchards Law is a niche family law practice with divorce solicitors, mediators and collaborative lawyers. Please contact us on 0845 658 6639 or by email at pd@blanchards.co.uk