Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights

Sharia Law in Britain – A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights

17 June 2010

New Report by One Law for All

“Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights”

A report by One Law for All has found Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals to be in violation of UK law, public policy and human rights (see report here).

The report is being launched to coincide with a 20 June 2010 rally on the issue of Sharia law.

Based on an 8 March 2010 Seminar on Sharia Law, research, interviews, and One Law for All case files, the report has identified a number of problem areas:

– Sharia law’s civil code is arbitrary and discriminatory against women and children in particular. With the rise in the acceptance of Sharia courts, discrimination is being further institutionalised with some UK law firms additionally offering clients advice on Sharia law and the use of collaborative law.

– Sharia law is practiced in Britain primarily by Sharia Councils and Muslims Arbitration Tribunals. Both operate on religious principles and are harmful to women although Muslim Arbitration Tribunals are wrongly regarded as being of more concern because they operate as tribunals under the Arbitration Act 1996, making their rulings binding in law.

– Sharia Councils, on the other hand, claim to mediate on family issues but in practice often this differs little from arbitration: they frequently ask those appearing before them to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions; they call themselves courts, and the presiding imams, judges. Their decisions are then imposed and regarded as having the weight of legal judgements.

– There is neither control over the appointment of “judges” in Sharia Councils or Tribunals nor an independent mechanism for monitoring them. Clients often do not have access to legal advice and representation. The proceedings are not recorded, nor are there any searchable legal judgements, nor any real right of appeal.

– Sharia law cannot be compared to secular legal systems because it is considered sacred law that cannot be challenged. There is no scope to look at the interests of the individuals involved, as required by UK family law.

– These legal processes ignore both common law and due process, far less Human Rights, and provide little protection and safety for women in violent situations.

– There is a general assumption that those who attend Sharia courts do so voluntarily and that unfair decisions can be challenged in a British court. Many of the principles of Sharia law are contrary to British law and public policy, and would in theory therefore be unlikely to be upheld in a British court. In reality, however, women are often pressured by their families into going to these courts and adhering to unfair decisions, and may lack knowledge of English and their rights under British law. Moreover, refusal to settle a dispute in a Sharia court can give rise to threats and intimidation, or at best being ostracised.

According to Maryam Namazie, spokesperson of the One Law for All Campaign and an author of the report, “The existence of a parallel legal system that is denying a large section of the British population their fundamental human rights is scandalous. Our findings show that it is essential to abolish all religious courts in the UK. Their very existence and legitimisation puts pressure on vulnerable women not to assert their civil rights in a British court. As long as Sharia Councils and Tribunals are allowed to continue to make rulings on issues of family law, women will be pressured into accepting decisions which are prejudicial to them and their children.”

The report recommends that Sharia courts be closed on the grounds that they work against rather than for equality, and are incompatible with human rights. Recommendations include:

  1. initiating a Human Rights challenge to Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and/or Sharia Councils
  2. amending the Arbitration Act under which the Muslim Arbitration Tribunals operate in a similar way to which the Canadian equivalent of the Arbitration Act was amended in 2005 to exclude religious arbitration
  3. launching a major and nationwide helpline and information campaign to inform people of their rights under British law
  4. proposing legislation under the EU Citizens Rights Initiative to address the issue EU-wide, and
  5. strengthening secularism and the separation of religion from the state, the judicial system and education, in order to more fully protect citizenship rights.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Notes:

1. The report can be downloaded free of charge or a paperback copy purchased from One Law for All for £5.00 plus £2.00 Shipping and Handling. To purchase the book or donate to the work of One Law for All, please either send a cheque to our address below or pay via Paypal by visiting: Donate Page.

2. The One Law for All Campaign was launched on 10 December 2008, International Human Rights Day, to call on the UK Government to recognise that Sharia and religious courts are arbitrary and discriminatory against women and children in particular and that citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable.

3. For further information contact:

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
One Law for All
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
onelawforall@gmail.com

www.onelawforall.org.uk

Download report here

new report sharia law



By | 2015-06-23T13:41:04+00:00 June 17th, 2010|Press Releases|45 Comments

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45 Comments

  1. Cat July 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Hi Jean

    I agree that, in its present form, Islam the private religion cannot be extricated from Sharia ideology because anything but a literalist reading of the Quran is seen as apostasy. In the days when Christendom took a literalist reading of the Bible, it was the same in the West. Once upon a time Christianity also was not just a private religion but was enforced by law, and anyone who questioned it was also labelled apostate, and was oppressed, shunned, imprisoned, tortured and/or executed. Christianity also was once a religion of conquest and imperialism, seeking either the conversion or subjugation of other cultures, as Islam is now. The arguments justifying religious conquest also show similarity, i.e. saving the infidel from his unbelief, and converting the planet for the glory of god because our holy book tells us it is our Christian/Muslim obligation to do so. In its original form, Christianity the private religion was inextricably entwined with a ubiquitous Christian culture and system of justice. But it isn’t now.

    I am perplexed by your assertion that the Christian “excesses of religious law . . . were generated by humans . . . rather than based on the biblical texts”. This is demonstrably untrue. The demonization of homosexuals (Lev 18:22), the keeping of slaves (Gen 9:25; Lev 25:44), the justification for the Inquisition (Deut 13:12-16), the oppression of women (1Cor 14:34-35) and Jews (Matt 27:26), they are all there in the “good” book. And anyone wanting to argue that most of the barbarous ideas posited in the Old Testament have since been superseded in the New, should go away and read Matthew 5:18 and John 15:6 before they try it. Of course, there are also very laudable ideals to be found in both holy books, but that’s the “wonderful” thing about scripture isn’t it; you can cherry-pick it to spout “peace and love” or “kill the infidel”, depending on your mood and/or political aspirations. The Bible is no different from the Quran in this respect. If your argument is that Islam will not be able to modernise because ideas that violate human rights and freedoms are codified in the Quran, then the West should not have been able to modernise either.

    You are correct to say that the Quran “is seen by Muslims as . . . . written by [Allah] directly and thus cannot be improved or changed one iota”. But I must point out that historically the same is true of Christians’ view of the Bible. (Indeed, Christians who take a literalist reading of the Bible are still around. That is why there is an issue regarding keeping “intelligent design” out of science classrooms, and why we need to worry about the increasing religiosity in the political system of the most powerful country on earth, an ongoing development that scares me far more than any jidahist movement.) If all the above examples are “part and parcel” of the Christian religion, how is it then that we no longer think it is okay to stone adulterers, burn old women at the stake, and keep slaves? I think that most modern Christians would take exception to your inference that because they have rejected such barbarisms they can no longer be considered Christian. And again, if Christianity is able to so radically sanitise itself (albeit slowly) in order to remain relevant in a modern secular culture, then why is it a forgone conclusion that Islam cannot?

    Regardless of your statement that you are non-religious and secular, you seem to have been bamboozled by the “moral source” argument, just as I was for many years. You assert that Western secular laws are based on Judeo-Christian principles, but if you are a secular person, you must believe that these principles were not handed down by god, but selected and codified by people. There are some fascinating studies being done on the origin of human ethics, and they seem to be showing that principles of right and wrong are universal (i.e. do not redound on any race, culture or creed), are an effect of natural selection and innate to all humans, except perhaps where their effects have been sabotaged by religious indoctrination (for example, so-called “honour killings”.). (Have a look at M Hauser and P Singer’s “Morality without Religion” in Free Inquiry.) Is it not more logical to think that these innate ethical principles were merely hijacked and seeded amongst now outdated cultural rules and superstitions to create the holy books, then backed up with stories of hellfire and damnation to ensure compliance? This would explain why religion is so seductive, but also how, by extending the life of Bronze Age (and earlier) cultural beliefs way past their time, it is responsible for so much human misery. In order to create a secularist culture that values individual rights and freedoms, the West needed to embrace the principles which aimed for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (family values, charity, thou shalt not kill etc) and reject the superstitious voodoo. In my view, (and surely anyone would want and expect this to be true) we have made ethical and cultural progress since 27CE. And if the West can move on, why not the Middle East?

    Jean, believe me, I understand your incredulity. I don’t think anyone would claim that extricating Islam, the private religion, from Islamism, the political ideology, was ever going to be simple or easy. But if we value our freedom and the freedom of others we need to come up with some strategies. When it comes to Islam-dominated countries I don’t have any answers, but I strongly believe that we can and should offer alternatives and choices to Muslims in the West. In my view, all religions are based on group rights (that is, are inimical to individual rights), and are thus coercive and oppressive, and I have recently come to see that many Muslim’s understand this.

    In the West, we need to insist on individual rights for all as far as we can, not to victimise or stigmatise the Muslim community, but to clearly say “We in this country will not tolerate abuse or oppression or physical mutilation or honour killings. And as a citizen you will be legally required to respect the culture of your new homeland.” When someone violates the human rights of another in the name of religion, and the West excuses the person’s actions because of “multiculturalism”, we are validating that person’s actions. We are also abandoning those Muslims who would value being given the opportunity to take advantage of all the modern ideas and freedoms that we take for granted, but who currently do not have sufficient legal protection (because of Western ideas regarding multiculturalism and cultural relativism) to do so. I think it is our duty to make sure that all citizens in the West have access to the same opportunities. And if we can bring this about, I think the world will be surprised at how many Muslims would be overjoyed to take advantage of them. And none of this would infringe upon a Muslim’s right to practice Islam as a private religion.

    We cannot coerce change, but we can be willing to criticise Islam even though we will be called racist/Islamophobe. We can be willing to champion the human rights of Muslim women who have never been free to choose, even though we will be seen to have committed a crime against cultural relativism (although upholding human rights). We can make legislative changes to ensure that Muslim girls are allowed to grow to adulthood with their genitals intact, and that ensure they are given access to an adequate education, and that identify and prosecute honour killings for what they are. And we can absolutely insisting in keeping religion out of the science class and out of our legal system.

  2. Jean Clark July 16, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Cat – you are the first person I have met (sic!) who has been able to put the arguments so eloquently and without malice to someone so confused as I. Thank you.

    There are a few elements of your argument that I disagree with – the New Testament, a beautiful work of fiction in my view, has only ever been seen as the direct word of humans about the supposed Son of God, but it took us hundreds of years to overcome the oppression by people who loved power more than they loved peace and the virtues in it. The Old Testament is something I am not familiar with. But I hold no banner for any religion, solely our values and ethics and morals (some of which I still maintain are based on Judeo-Christian principles, however misinformed I may be).

    But I am (pitifully and only slightly) familiar with our history that shows that, because of religions, millions of people have been killed for little reason. And millions more will be, because of the rise of Islamism, pushed by the never-ending oil money from Saudi Arabia and their expansion of Wahhabi mosques that preach hate from the Qur’an and brainwash people to hate rather than to love.

    I do believe that Western society, post enlightenment (whatever that means), is able to hold its values aloft as virtues. I worry where those values will go in the future though.

    It is not a foregone conclusion that Islam can do the same, and the hundreds of years it took Christianity to get its head out of its….pits, may seem like a blink of an eye in the history books in a thousand years unless somebody does something about it soon. The Sufi sect is a beautiful example, but even their children are being infiltrated by Taliban and extremism. I worry for my children and grandchildren’s future.

    On the issue of honour killings, I compare it to the rather romantic notion of “crimes of passion” here in the West. It is a culture of jealousy that anyone can succumb to, and I certainly do not cast any eyes to Islam for this. It is abhorrent and must be stopped, but it is not an Islamic custom, solely a human one.

    Thank you again for your beautiful words and eloquent argument. You have raised my consciousness and given me some (albeit slight) hope. Maybe if the world was run by (the right) women it would be a much better place, rather than all the egotistical men (and I count myself as one of those).

  3. replica jerseys August 12, 2010 at 3:19 am

    I am perplexed by your assertion that the Christian “excesses of religious law . . . were generated by humans . . . rather than based on the biblical texts”. This is demonstrably untrue. The demonization of homosexuals (Lev 18:22), the keeping of slaves (Gen 9:25; Lev 25:44), the justification for the Inquisition (Deut 13:12-16), the oppression of women (1Cor 14:34-35) and Jews (Matt 27:26), they are all there in the “good” book. And anyone wanting to argue that most of the barbarous ideas posited in the Old Testament have since been superseded in the New, should go away and read Matthew 5:18 and John 15:6 before they try it. Of course, there are also very laudable ideals to be found in both holy books, but that’s the “wonderful” thing about scripture isn’t it; you can cherry-pick it to spout “peace and love” or “kill the infidel”, depending on your mood and/or political aspirations. The Bible is no different from the Quran in this respect. If your argument is that Islam will not be able to modernise because ideas that violate human rights and freedoms are codified in the Quran, then the West should not have been able to modernise either.

  4. GB Randolph August 23, 2010 at 1:48 am

    I am writing from the USA. My neighbor is a God-fearing Christian and today she told me that [President] Obama is a Muslim who wants to enforce sharia in America. I told her I was not going to believe anything she said unless she was able to show me EXACT proof – time, form, place, event – NOT media sensationalism. In any event, I said, even if it was so preposterously true, it would never happen because US law is sanctioned by its constitution. The 2nd amendment to that document states that there will be no state-sanctioned Church, and as sharia is Muslim law any attempts to establish sharia in the American judicial system would be quickly ruled unconstitutional. That seemed to have gone over her head. Her reply was “they’ve got that in England and look what it’s done to them.” That brought me to this web-site.

    As a student of philosophy and religious studies in the university and a practicing Scientologist for many years (I’m Jewish too) it struck me as almost humorous that secular civil and criminal courts have allowed sharia to enter into English legal jurisdiction. What’s next? Talmudic law? Have you ever studied Buddhist and Hindu law? Scientology has its own judicial codes. Why not throw all of it into a big potpourri? Or do what medieval Tatars did and pick the best of each law?

    Maybe the American authors of their constitution were smart to separate church and state. Not the point though. People get hung up on “the law” and more concerned with the significance of its “legality” than what it represents.

    Law is the attempt and result of any group to enforce agreed upon codes of conduct. Whether its based on religious moral percepts like the Ten Commandments, secular evolved codes such as Anglo-American “common law”, or juridical codes created by committees of philosophers and lawyers, from the days of Hammurabi to the Code de Napoleon, law is the LEGAL agreements of what people consider is morally right and wrong. The difference is that morals are something privately enforced. Law pertains to all in the group.

    The eternal question that one has to ask then, what makes a law good or bad? The fundamental percept is this: if the law supports the long-term survival of the individual and the group, then it’s a good law. The basis of all ethics is the determination whether one’s actions INCREASE the individuals and others survival or not. If NO, then you and your action would be unethical; if yes then you and your action would be deemed ETHICAL. Ethics is a personal thing. However since we all live in groups if an individuals unethical actions are hurting the survival of the group, the group has to get the individual to be ethical. Thus we get JUSTICE. When the group formulates codes of justice and enforces them, we get LAW. But it all boils down to the individual coming to their own self-determined understanding about the rightness or wrongness of their actions.

    You can take that fundamental percept and pick apart sharia or any body of laws. I don’t know whether having sharia be part of English judicial law is good or bad. I tend to agree with the American system of keeping any religious doctrines out of secular law. That is NOT to say that religions haven’t contributed to good law. The danger has been that religions also wanted to enforce their religious and spiritual agenda. When this has interceded in the fundamental percept, as evidenced in history, people suffer.

    When law, ANY LAW violates the fundamental percept, it’s a bad law, and there have been enough bad laws in mankind’s sordid history to make anybody mistrustful of any law. But that is the challenge, if we are going to live in a decent society.

    GB Randolph

  5. Ann Bramley October 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Without one law for all the human race, there will never be peace and equality for all. Whatever religion one may be no-one can deny that justice, honesty and fair play have to be paramount in every human life.
    Faith is personal but humanity needs equality more.

  6. Kent R. October 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    International Islamic terrorism is sponsored by Fuad Kamal of Anaara Media through his recruitment network. Fuad Kamal runs a sham operation Anaara Media which is really a recruitment tool. Fuad Kamal has produced online videos showing Jihadists how to slit throats. He is a close friend of Major Hassan and a member of the same mosque in Maryland. Major Hassan is now paralyzed after having been shot after murdering thirteen fellow marines in Ft. Hood, Texas. He is now on trial for his crimes. The network of undercover Islamic terrorism in the United States is extensive and cannot be documented because it is constantly changing. Homegrown terrorism in the greatest threat to both U.S. and international security.

  7. Calum January 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Regarding Cat’s comments,

    “And anyone wanting to argue that most of the barbarous ideas posited in the Old Testament have since been superseded in the New, should go away and read Matthew 5:18 and John 15:6 before they try it.”

    “If your argument is that Islam will not be able to modernise because ideas that violate human rights and freedoms are codified in the Quran, then the West should not have been able to modernise either.”

    Picking and choosing which rules or laws to follow is of course widespread in society which is why the phrase “you can’t just pick and choose” is said with reference to so many different legislative contexts in society, not only religious law. With some Christian teachings, it is a case of picking and choosing between apparently contradictory texts, one notable example being women being silent in the churches (I Cor 14) versus women praying and prophesying (1 Cor 11). However, many Christian teachings do not entail having to pick and choose scripture and the same is true for Islam.

    The John 15:6 reference is part of a spiritual metaphor where Jesus is a vine. A literal interpretation is not intended by the textual context and that is why no church could justifiably teach people to burn apostates, either today or in the past. For that reason, there is no record in the New Testament of any Christian burning an apostate. Even the Inquisition could not actually validate from scripture the torturing or burning of apostates; the responsibility for punishment was transposed to the secular authorities so that the church authorities could wash their hands of their complicity. Therefore, it appears that burning apostates would be not merely be “picking and choosing” between contrasting passages but an abuse of the passage concerned.

    Matthew 5:18 must be taken in tandem with Matthew 5:17. While not one jot or tittle of the law might pass away, the idea that Jesus was the “fulfilment” of the law actually involved what would be seen in Jewish eyes as producing abrogations of Mosaic law, the most well-known of these “fulfillments” perhaps being “turn the other cheek” which, for Christians, supersedes “an eye for an eye”.

    Gentile Christianity in fact originally only had four Mosaic obligations laid on it by the original Jerusalem church – to abstain from pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood (referring to food offered to idols) (Acts 15:19-20). However, even the latter two obligations were removed by a dream St Peter had (Acts 11). Gentile Christianity was therefore given an ancient right to make its own decisions on what of Mosaic law was considered worth applying to non-Jews and what not. This led to the immediate development of a form of religion which was in many respects different from ancient forms of Judaism. A lot of teaching in the Old Testament has indeed “been superseded in the New” and any Orthodox Jew can enlighten you to numerous Mosaic laws that Christians, following traditional teaching, do not obey.

  8. Calum January 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    While Christianity has traditionally decided that the teachings of the New Testament are binding, Christianity was born from a relatively powerless people taught to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matt 22:21), implying that worldly authority is to be obeyed where it does not morally disoblige the individual. As a result, most New Testament teaching about society is fairly morally exemplary. The evidence that many of the differences between ancient and modern Christian morality are not down to “picking and choosing” is clear from the issues Christianity has with the concept of scripture being “without error” in matters of morality.

  9. Calum January 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    How can we see that the issue of being morally “without error” is directly related to modern Christian teaching? Because no New Testament scripture argues that slavery is a good (for obvious reasons – who wants to be a slave) or that God hates Jews (for obvious reasons – the early Christians were Jews) or that polygamy is a necessity (for obvious reasons – marriage is not a necessity either). However, there is New Testament scripture condemning homosexual sex. Resultantly, modern Christian teaching does not tolerate anti-Semitism, slavery or polygamy but condemns homosexual sex.

  10. Calum January 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Resultantly, modern Christian teaching does not tolerate anti-Semitism, slavery or polygamy but condemns homosexual sex. Traditional Christian teaching could only legitimise homosexual sex by believing, for the first time ever, that scripture (and tradition) could both be morally in error in some matter. In short, there is “sanitising” in modern Christianity but it is only “radical” to a degree. Slavery has been both supported and condemned by Christian writers since early times , showing that the texts concerned “generated” opinions for and against, presumably because the text is not provably for or against and therefore one made one’s own decision according to one’s own agenda. New Testament morality therefore would not violate many of 21st century secular society’s human rights and freedoms. Very importantly, the modern freedoms and rights of non-Christians would be entirely unaffected by New Testament morality.

  11. Calum January 15, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    The morality of the Qur’an is notably different from the morality of the New Testament with regard to modern freedoms and human rights and some modern non-Muslims are concerned by such a difference. The first Muslims were not Christians relatively powerless against the might of the Roman empire. Islam grew up in a situation of conflict and the Qur’an advocates war and subjugation so that the Qur’an can actually say, “You may fight in the cause of God against those who attack you” (2:190) and “You shall fight in the causes of God” (2:244), something contrary to Christian scripture and traditional teaching. With reference to fighting, the Qur’an says, “You may dislike something which is good for you” (2:216). No Christian scripture or traditional teaching refers to fighting betweeen people as “good for them”.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg of mindsets in the Qur’an (and the Hadiths and so forth) which may interfere with the modern rights and freedoms of both secular and religious. The Qur’an approves of slavery “So enjoy what you took as booty: the spoils are lawful and good” (8:69) and religious intolerance “O you who believe, take not into your intimacy those outside your religion. They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin. Rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths. What their hearts conceal is far worse. When they are alone, they bit off the very tips of their fingers at you in their rage. Say unto them, ‘Perish in your rage.’ ” (3:118). It approves of the killing of someone who ceases to be a Muslim “if they turn back from Islam, becoming renegades, seize them and kill them wherever you find them” (4:90) and holds that women are inferior to men (2:228), should only receive half the inheritance of men (4:11), are only half as valuable as a male witness in court (2:282) and are unclean to the touch (5:6).

    It would be a mistake to equate in degree the impact on a secular state of Christian teaching on non-Christians with the potential impact on a secular state of carrying out the teachings of the Qur’an. Only a relatively small sphere of non-pick-and-choose traditional Christian teaching would need to be “radically sanitised” to make it more akin to modern secular law (most notably in relation to abortion and homosexuality). In the Qur’an, many more additional radical changes in non-pick-and-choose moral law would be required (most notably in relation to war, torture, sex slavery, slavery in general, women’s nature and rights, religious liberty, the democratic rights of the dhimmi, treatment of criminals).

  12. Christian June 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm

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