Successful rally against Sharia law in UK – 21 Nov 2009

November 21 a successful day against Sharia and religious laws

Several hundred joined a rally in London’s Hyde Park organised by One Law for All to show their opposition to Sharia and religious-based laws in Britain and elsewhere and to demand universal rights and secularism.

At the rally, over 20 speakers and performers exposed the discriminatory and brutal nature of religious laws. They included Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s Asad Abbas; International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Roy Brown; Philosopher AC Grayling; Southall Black Sisters’ Rahila Gupta; MP Evan Harris; Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq’s Houzan Mahmoud; Lawyer Rony Miah; Campaigner Maryam Namazie; British Humanist Association’s Naomi Phillips; European Humanist Federation’s David Pollock; National Secular Society’s Terry Sanderson; Activist Muriel Seltman; Equal Rights Now’s Sohaila Sharifi; Organisation for the Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq’s Issam Shukri; Iran Solidarity’s Bahar Milani; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell; National Secular Society’s Keith Porteous Wood and the rally’s Master of Ceremonies, Iranian Secular Society’s Fariborz Pooya.

The rally heard from people with direct experiences of Sharia law, including Iranian-born activist Sohaila Sharifi. One speaker spoke of his cousin who had been forced to remain in a violent marriage by the sham courts here in Britain. He said: ‘I wanted to tell you my cousin’s story to highlight that whatever the pro-Sharia lobby say, we know that there are women out there being abused, and sadly all too-often too afraid to come forward. The only ‘choice’ my cousin was given, was either to be separated from her children or remain in a violent marriage. She chose to stay in the marriage for the sake of her children… I don’t think this is a ‘choice’ – how can it be?’

Maryam Namazie, the One Law for All Spokesperson, also gave several examples of the legal compulsion involved in the decisions of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Sharia Councils, particularly with regards forced marriages, divorce and child custody. She went on to say that it was scandalous that countless women were relegated to kangaroo courts with lesser rights here in Britain and elsewhere.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell said: ‘Sharia law is a form of religious dogma and tyranny. It is homophobic, sexist and anti-democratic.’ Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society went on to say that: ‘Sharia law does not develop, it is fixed and immutable, but its interpretation is unpredictable, unregulated and subject to the whims and prejudices of individual practitioners.’

Many of the speakers spoke of the brutalities of Sharia in other countries. Issam Shukri from Iraq told the rally how Islamic militias linked to the cleric and MP Muqtada al-Sadr had executed dozens of women who they deemed to be improperly dressed because they were not fully covered head-to-toe in Iraq. Examples were also given of rights violations under Sharia in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.

Activist Muriel Seltman condemned the cultural relativism that allows for religious laws to go unchallenged. She said: ‘What can be more racist than laying down different standards for different people in different societies? This is what is racist not the criticism of barbaric practices.’

Many speakers criticised the right of religion to special status to undermine fundamental human rights. David Pollock of the European Humanist Federation said: ‘Sharia courts seek to provide a parallel legal system… Arguments for Sharia law are based on the concept of group rights. And group rights are inherently hostile to human rights.’ MP Evan Harris condemned the government for giving privileged advisory status on policy and legislation to often unrepresentative faith leaders. Lawyer Rony Miah said: ‘Having separate systems of law for different communities are no different from separate faith schools; it will only lead to a fragmenting of communities – not cohesion.’

Rahila Gupta of Southall Black Sisters added: ‘accommodating alternative systems of justice is not about choice or tolerance in a pluralistic society; it is not about Muslim women’s autonomy. These demands emerge from fundamentalist politics however they are dressed up.’

Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union spoke about how Islamic states are behind the demand for more religious laws and the banning of any criticism of Islam. He said: Sharia law [in Britain] is but a small part of a worldwide campaign to replace international law with Islamic law… The acceptance of Sharia law for the settlement of family disputes in Britain is just one small part of a global problem.’

Maryam Namazie said that Sharia courts and councils were extensions of the political Islamic movement – not the demand of Muslims or those labelled as such – and resistance to it was global as well. She told the crowd: ‘Sharia adversely affects the rights, lives and freedoms of countless human beings across the world. Opposing Sharia law is a crucial step in defending universal equal rights and secularism, and showing real solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia.’ Fariborz Pooya added that ‘people living under Sharia law are the first victims and at the same time the first line of resistance against it and must be defended.’

Writer AC Grayling went on to say: ‘The principle of one law for all, with everyone equal before the law, is a vital one for a genuine democracy. The One Law For All campaign is doing an urgently needed job of protecting those who, hidden behind the veil of Sharia or other religious ‘courts’, risk injustice, abuse, and deprivation of rights.’

During the rally, Bahar Milani and Richard Francis of Iran Solidarity led an act against child executions. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the only state that continues to execute minors. At least 130 juveniles are on death row in Iran, including for homosexuality, apostasy, sex outside of marriage and involvement in school or street fights that have resulted in murder.

Throughout the event, there were performances from poets AK47, Lilith and Christine from the Anti-Injustice Movement and Selina Jus1jam from Yorkshire as well as musician Fari B and singer/songwriter David Fisher.

On the day, many others took part in simultaneous acts of solidarity with the rally and its demands in 23 countries across the globe, namely Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. In Serbia and Montenegro, Women in Black held a number of film events in support of women’s rights in Afghanistan. In Baghdad, 500 leaflets were distributed in defence of secularism and universal rights. In Canada, several acts took place, including a rally and a column written in a local paper. The Secular Humanist League of Brazil, The Peace and Freedom Party of San Francisco and the Brussels Humanist Society amongst others issued press releases and an artist in the Netherlands contributed their artwork to the campaign. In Ibadan, Nigeria, leaflets saying ‘no to faith-based laws’ were distributed on the streets and at markets. In Pakistan, those trying to take part in an act were brutally beaten.

The protest was covered by several media outlets including on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme. To hear the report, click here BBC Radio 4 about Rally

Peter Tatchell also wrote a piece entitled Just say no to Sharia in Guardian’s Comment is Free on the rally published Nov 20.

One Law for All will continue to push for an end to Sharia and religious laws in Britain. In the coming year, the campaign aims to conduct a survey of women who have been to Sharia courts here, will hold a fundraiser dinner on January 28, 2010 to raise money for the campaign; will host a March 8, 2010 seminar with legislators, lawyers and campaigners to recommend the legal and legislative avenues to ban Sharia and religious courts in Britain; will organise a June 20, 2010 rally against Sharia law; and will hold an October 10, 2010 conference on Sharia Law and Apostasy amongst other activities.

To support the campaign, please send a cheque made payable to One Law for All or donate via Paypal via our website. Photos and video footage of the rally speeches and performances as well as media coverage can be be seen on the website.

By | 2011-02-12T21:55:27+00:00 November 23rd, 2009|Past Events|39 Comments

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  1. Michelle November 29, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    What a fantastic show , standing up against this well done everyone I applaud you all xxx keep up the fantastic work xx

  2. Michelle November 29, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    This government Especially Brown has so much to be blamed for this country , we are in ruins , he needs ousting ..labour and their crap Political Correctness is ruining this country … if anyone is a racist it is Gordon Brown and his political group(monkeys) , they should all be tried with treason against England …. My grandad risked his life many yrs ago day after day so those ignorant prats that wear blinkers in their high houses could be free… and this is how they repay their memory …WHAT ABOUT US NORMAL little people … or wont I count because I’m not a muslim!!

  3. Faraz Ahmed November 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Great work!!! I wish i could be there as well 🙁

  4. Meena December 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Congratulations! It is heartening to know that there are people willing to take a stand. Political correctness has done a good job of muffling criticism of Islam, labelling anyone who looks past the PR as racist/Islamophobic/bigoted/intolerant. Fact is, it’s an explicitly supremacist IDEOLOGY, and any quarter given will be hard to regain one the penny finally drops. As Abraham Lincoln said, ” A house divided agasinst itself cannot stand. ”

    Check out writer Bruce Bawer on youtube speaking in Canada ( and make up your own mind.

  5. Ann-Marie December 2, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Yesssss….. wonderful job! Thank you!

  6. Micael G December 2, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Britain is a democracy with one law and one law only for all. The present government is a government of appeasement. The ministers are afraid to grasp the nettle, and to let their “yes be yes” , and their “no be no”. There are asylum seekers in Britain who have escaped from Sharia law. The Home Office knows full well of the violation of these peoples because of Sharia law. Yet Ministers are afraid to say a clear “No” to those pushing for such violation of rights in Britain through Sharia Law. We need a leader and a government to spell out the boundaries. Peter Tatchell seems to be the only MP with courage to speak out.

  7. EuropeanPatriots December 4, 2009 at 1:25 am

    I am very pleased that all countries and people of all cultures and places begin to move against non-compliance with the “Human Rights”.
    Let us follow the example of Switzerland!

  8. Thasneem Hoey December 5, 2009 at 2:51 am

    I am glad I am at a time to witness change on earth to irradicate this insanity of this religion. I am so happy that people are standing up to be who they are from within, it needs courage and perseverence. This is called intelligence, muslims believe that the holy book has all the answers, no wonder they are not intelligent because they dont question and here are our intelligent ex muslims who are standing up to this insanity. Take all my courage, I will support you and spead the word so the awakened can get linked. Thanks and good luck.

  9. Janet December 17, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    We (husband and I) attended this rally on a cold and rainy afternoon, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was a privilege to meet the people there. The speakers and singers were inspiring – especially the ex-muslims who were risking their lives. I still feel humbled by the courage and commitment I saw there, the generosity of spirit and the undaunted belief in humanity. It was a truly life-affirming event.

    In the past I have been (shamefully) slow to speak out because, like most left-wingers, I can’t bear to be called ‘racist’. (And for anyone who is puzzled by this: yes, criticism of islam – though not of other religions – is routinely condemned as ‘racist’ in England! ‘Islamophobia’ is another routine insult, as if opposing an oppressive ideology was some kind of mental disorder.)

    But now I can only say, as children are taught to: ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. People living under islamist regimes face very much worse than hostile words. We who live in secular democracies should not abandon them. Every time we fail to challenge a silly ‘politically correct’ comment, we silently support their oppressors.

    I just wonder why none of the main British left-wing organisations were visible at this rally. I am sick of the Left’s abject complicity with one of the world’s major oppressors, but I’m not interested in right-wing or nationalist groups. So it was good to meet new comrades from OLFA and from the secular and humanist groups.

    Many thanks and best wishes to the wonderful Maryam Namazie and all the other campaigners for this cause.

  10. kope December 19, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    you atheists says that you dont respect religions so my question is why should we believers respect atheists?

    Please read my blog read how islam will win the
    clash of civilization.

    • gsw January 7, 2010 at 7:53 am

      Did you ever respect us?
      (Burnings, torture, inquisition, crusades, pogroms, genocide, misogyny ….. need I go on?)

    • Bill January 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm


      We can respect individuals even if we don’t respect their beliefs.

  11. Teresa Wright February 1, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I am a christian and in many countries political islam is discriminating christians. Christianity is a peacful loving religion like many others out there. But Islam seems to be a violent religion that oppresses human rights.

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    Every body acknowledges that our life seems to be not very cheap, nevertheless people need money for various issues and not every man earns enough cash. Therefore to receive some loan or just sba loan should be a correct solution.

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