Sharia In The UK

Revealed: UK's first official sharia courts. Hmm. It doesn't sound unreasonable. The courts are courts of arbitration:

Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996.

Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.

Siddiqi said: “We realised that under the Arbitration Act we can make rulings which can be enforced by county and high courts. The act allows disputes to be resolved using alternatives like tribunals. This method is called alternative dispute resolution, which for Muslims is what the sharia courts are.”

I'd like to know what steps are taken to ensure women know they don't have to agree to sharia, however. And I'd like to know whether the courts have the power to recognize polygamous marriages. Smells like the abandonment of women and of the principle of equality before the law...although I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise.