An unprecedented number of women’s rights campaigners and organisations from Britain and internationally recently submitted a letter to Theresa May, the then Home Secretary raising serious concerns about the government’s ‘independent review’ into Sharia courts in Britain. The letter stated that the limited scope of inquiry and its inappropriate theological approach will do nothing to address the discriminatory effect and intent of the courts on private and family matters: areas where, arguably, the greatest human rights violations of minority women in the UK take place.
Organisers labelled the inquiry a whitewash and called for its boycott until the Government: ensures that the terms of reference are broad enough to have a thorough inquiry into the full range of human rights concerns raised by all parallel legal systems; appoints a judge to head the inquiry with the powers to compel witnesses to appear before it; and drops the inappropriate theological approach, and frames it as a human rights investigation.
Despite serious concerns, the government has not responded to the open letter; Mona Siddiqui’s inquiry is going ahead.
Academic and author of “Women and Sharia Law: The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK” (I. B. Tauris, May 2016) Elham Manea was to testify before the inquiry on Wednesday 27 July. Her statement is below and can also be found here.
Statement by Elham Manea, Senior Fellow, European Foundation for Democracy and Associate Professor of Middle East Studies at Zurich University regarding the UK government’s review of Sharia law in England and Wales.
Elham Manea was to testify in London on Wednesday 27th July to the Independent Review into the application of Sharia Law in England and Wales. With regret and after much consideration she decided not to provide evidence to the Sharia Review Panel meeting. This is because of her concern about the terms of reference of the panel; the inclusion of a number of Islamic scholars on the panel, who are part of the system they are supposed to be investigating, rather than exclusively judges, lawyers and human rights experts to examine a human rights issue; the specific issues before the Inquiry, which did not include among others the type of law being implemented and the role of Islamic extremism in the promotion of this parallel legal system, as well as the implications for the scope and impartiality of the Inquiry.
While she welcomes the Inquiry and respects the Chairperson, Manea is of the opinion that the Inquiry in its current form and terms of reference will not be in a position to address the discriminatory nature of the law applied in the parallel legal system of Sharia law in the UK and the Islamist extremism that feeds it.
About Elham Manea
Elham Manea is an Associate Professor of Middle East Studies at Zurich University. Manea is also a writer and human rights activist. She has published academic and non-fiction books in English, German, and Arabic as well as two novels in Arabic. Her latest book is “Women and Shari’a Law – The impact of legal pluralism in the UK”. In addition to her position at the University of Zurich, she is a consultant for a number of Swiss government agencies and international human rights organisations. In 2010 the Swiss Federal Council appointed her as a Member of the Federal Commission for Women Affairs – a position she still holds today.
Appendix with media response so far:
Concerns over the Inquiry into Sharia councils must not be Dismissed, Sedaa, 21 July 2016
May’s inquiry into sharia is not fit for purpose, The Times, 11 July 2016
Inside Sharia Councils, Victoria Derbyshire Programme, 11 July 2016
Refusing to recognise polygamy in the West: a solution or a soundbite?, Open Democracy, 11 July 2016
More than 200 women’s rights campaigners have sent a letter to the Home Secretary raising serious concerns about the government-appointed independent review into Sharia councils in Britain. Maryam Namazie and Mona Siddiqui discuss, BBC Radio 4, 10 July 2016
Polygamy is not a cultural conceit. It is an affront to women, Guardian CiF, 10 July 2016
Sharia courts review branded a ‘whitewash’ over appointment ‘bias’ concerns, Independent, 10 July 2016
Critics say a UK probe into Sharia courts is a sham, Freethinker, 3 July 2016
Britain probes Sharia courts treatment of women, UPI, 28 June 2016
Britain’s Sharia Courts Under Scrutiny, News Deeply, 24 June 2016
For more information, please contact:
Southall Black Sisters
020 8571 9595
Centre for Secular Space
079 7271 5090
Gina Khan and Maryam Namazie
One Law for All
077 1916 6731