One Law for All and the National Secular Society back Bill that aims to curb sharia courts in Britain

From the National Secular Society’s Newsline, 10 June 2011

A parliamentary Bill has been tabled in the House of Lords that would stop sharia courts in this country claiming that they have legal jurisdiction over criminal or family law. At meetings launching the Bill to the press and for peers, the Baroness tabling it was joined on platform by Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society who also spoke. This demonstrated the broad base of support for the Bill, which included religious and women’s groups. The One Law for All group was represented and copies of their publication One Law for All was distributed to participants. Both meetings were lively and constructive.

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, was introduced into the House of Lords by Baroness Caroline Cox (independent). Its intention is to tackle the discrimination suffered by Muslim women within the Sharia court system. The Bill, which applies to all arbitration tribunals, will firmly outlaw the practice of giving women’s testimony half the weight of men’s. The Bill addresses human rights issues and does not mention Islam.

The Bill’s proposals include:
• A new criminal offence of ‘falsely claiming legal jurisdiction’ for any person who adjudicates upon matters which ought to be decided by criminal or family courts. The maximum penalty would be five years in prison.
• Explicitly stating in legislation that sex discrimination law applies directly to arbitration tribunal proceedings. Discriminatory rulings may be struck down under the Bill.
• Requiring public bodies to inform women that they have fewer legal rights if their marriage is unrecognised by English law.
• Explicitly stating on the face of legislation that arbitration tribunals may not deal with matters of family law (such as legally recognised divorce or custody of children) or criminal law (such as domestic violence).
• Making it easier for a civil court to set aside a consent order if a mediation settlement agreement or other agreement was reached under duress.
• Explicitly stating on the face of legislation that a victim of domestic abuse is a witness to an offence and therefore should be expressly protected from witness intimidation.

Cox said: “Equality under the law is a core value of British justice. My Bill seeks to preserve that standard. I have no desire to interfere in the internal theological affairs of religious groups, and my Bill does not do that. My Bill seeks to stop parallel legal, or ‘quasi-legal’, systems taking root in our nation. Cases of criminal law and family law are matters reserved for our English courts alone.

“Through these proposals, I want to make it perfectly clear in the law that discrimination against women shall not be allowed within arbitration. I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Muslim women by Sharia Courts. We must do all that we can to make sure they are free from any coercion, intimidation or unfairness.

“There is considerable evidence that many women are suffering in many ways (such as domestic violence or unequal access to divorce) due to discriminatory practices in our country today and we cannot continue to condone this situation. Many women say, ‘we came to this country to escape these practices only to find the situation is worse here’.”

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “Laws should not impinge on religious freedom, nor should courts judge on theological matters. But by the same token democratically determined and human rights compliant law must always take precedence over the law of any religion. Yet religious law can already be enforced under English law through the Arbitration Act and that is what this Bill is seeking to address.

“Religious arbitration has already been outlawed in two Canadian provinces and under this new Bill the Arbitration Act would not be able to determine family or criminal matters nor agreements that are discriminatory against women. A nation could be defined by those subject to one law. This Bill aims once more to give every citizen equal protection by the same just law – one law for all.”

One Law for All campaign commented: “We welcome any Bill that can halt the advancement of sharia courts and religious tribunals in Britain and promote equal rights. It is particularly important that women are informed of their rights under British law, and that domestic violence or other family or criminal law matters are not dealt with by sharia-based bodies – these put women at a grave disadvantage and treat children as the property of their fathers.”

Sharia debate in Parliament

The public are invited to a debate in Parliament jointly organised by the One Law for All Campaign and the National Secular Society. The practice of sharia law will be debated and in particular whether it should be permitted under the powers of the Arbitration Act. Sharia tribunals and councils are in free operation across the United Kingdom – some operate under the power of the Arbitration Act 1996. The debate will be chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.
When: Tuesday 28 June 2011, evening
Where: Houses of Parliament, Westminster

If you would like to attend please email onelawforall@gmail.com for details.

By | 2016-06-23T14:07:06+00:00 June 10th, 2011|Press Releases|8 Comments

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8 Comments

  1. Peter Hood June 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    This is merely a beginning. No time to relax.

  2. Joe Bloggs June 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    This sounds great. Two questions:

    1. Are there any studies to show how common the problems addressed in this bill occur?

    2. Is there any evidence to suggest that this bill would actually help the vulnerable, rather than just forcing the perpetrators to be more deceitful, more forceful and more controlling?

  3. Paulypower June 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Sharia should be crushed wherever it raises its ugly head. we are slowly being Islamised against our will, we have the brutal industry of halal which puts british meat workers out of a job, also causes much unnecesary suffering, and causes the british public to contribute to terror as the Muslim britherhood collect billions per year in halal tax. none of this food is marked as halal and is sold as “ETHICAL” food. women are increasingly being targeted to cover their heads and arms and homosexuals and jews are increasingly being intimidated. regulating the Sharia is not the answer. the people of this country are bled dry from the profit making judicial system and we are suffering an ever increasing rise of pointless legal statutes designed to make a quick buck. In reality the law should be quite simple, dont kill, dont steal, dont commit fraud and dont harm any other person because your rights should stop where another human beings starts. If we were to live our lives by the common law of England then Islam and sharia would break these ever so simple laws of respect on a daily basis. if the government is going to turn the UKplc into a police state then It would probably earn more capita per head if it focused on irradiating sharia, and you never know, the powers that be may do some good for the people of the UK instead of sucking the life out of britain

  4. Dan June 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    What, you mean like laws against other anti-social actions force the perpetrators of those to become more cunning?

  5. CHELSEA ANNE July 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    it is about time politicians in this country listened to it’s people and joined us in standing up against the rapidly speading plague of islamification…sharia and halal….no surrender

  6. john hopkins September 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    give these islamists an inch and they
    will want a mile.the laws in britain
    are for british people.they are laws
    that protect men and women equally.sharia
    is an unfair law that belongs where it
    came from :THE DARK AGES:

  7. Darell Irving October 7, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    We too suffer from the same politically correct multicultural appeasing bullshit , in the face of creeping and ever more demanding Islamization in Australia. I regret that the process is more advanced in Britain. However, this means we can learn from your experience. Good luck . One law for all.

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