London, Oct 12 : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's new minister for race relations has attacked Sharia courts, insisting that the Muslim community in Britain is not "advanced" enough to have its own legal system.
Sadiq Khan, whose comments will have added impact because he is a Muslim himself, has also warned that the growing number of tribunals based on Islamic codes could entrench discrimination against women, The Times reported.
Khan, who became minister for community cohesion in the government reshuffle this month, said: "The burden is on those who want to open up these courts to persuade us why they should do it."
His comments contrast with those of figures such as Lord Phillips, the lord Chief Justice, who said in July that Islamic law could be used to settle marital and financial disputes.
In a wide-ranging interview on race and immigration, Khan, 38, the Labour MP for Tooting, south London, also warned that an economic downturn could fuel ethnic tensions.
He demanded an increase in benefits for immigrants with larger families, and admitted that government anti-terror laws had caused "problems" in race relations.
Khan called on public bodies to cut translation services to encourage immigrants to learn English.
Khan's outspoken remarks on Sharia courts are likely to cause the most controversy.
The Sunday Times last month revealed that the government had quietly sanctioned a network of sharia judges, empowering them to issue legally binding rulings on disputes including finance, divorce, inheritance and domestic violence.
Khan said he was aware such blunt criticism of his own community would lead to controversy, but he insisted: "Mass migration (among Asian Muslims) started 30 years ago. Jewish migration started 500 years ago.