8. Vulnerable situation of women and converts
54. As identified in many of the Special Rapporteur’s reports, women and converts seem to be in a vulnerable position worldwide. Also with regard to the situation in schools in the United Kingdom, the Special Rapporteur was informed that young Muslim girls have been targeted in certain neighbourhoods by leaflets with extreme religious positions, for example stating that girls should not attend school because school education was not important for them. Furthermore, social peer pressure has reportedly been exercised on the girls to wear specific religious symbols, both at school and when walking in the streets.
55. The Special Rapporteur has also received reports of informal matrimonial courts operating within the Muslim community based on sharia law, for example granting divorces under religious law. Although sharia councils are not legally recognized by the authorities in the United Kingdom, the Islamic divorce certificates are perceived to have some impact, for example in cases where a couple had an Islamic marriage only and did not have a civil registration.
56. Conversion usually poses a problem only from the perspective of the community that the individual wants to leave. The Special Rapporteur received allegations that Asian families who converted from Islam to Christianity in the United Kingdom have been subjected to abuse, threats and violent attacks from members of their former religious community. Conversion may also be an important issue in asylum claims especially when the genuineness of the conversion is called into question. The Special Rapporteur was informed that adjudicators asked faith-testing questions with doubtful validity, for example when asylum-seekers were interrogated about the number of books in the Bible or how to prepare a turkey for Christmas.