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. zebra November 24, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Amamzing people!

    • Dorothea Lucia November 27, 2009 at 6:26 pm

      What a great stand together from many people of different countries who share the goal of freedom and free speech.

  2. Ilona November 25, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Keep up good work in fight for our freedom in Western world!

  3. Hans November 25, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Bravo and congratulations! Keep up the good work. I made a donation to the organization as I think this is important work in favor of democracy and a secular state – or secular states rather, as this does not only concerns GB. We shall not return to the middle-ages.

  4. Alice Adams November 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    So pleased to see such a good turnout, I wish I could have been there. I have huge admiration for people brave enough to speak out like this, particularly those who could face persecution in their own countries/communities.

  5. Chaya November 25, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    While I support this, I can’t help but worry that this could extend to Batei Din – Jewish courts – who decide on issues of marriage and divorce for Jews. A Jew is not considered divorce if it isn’t done according to Jewish law, even with a civil decision. Or the recent decision telling a Jewish school that they couldn’t deny a student entering the school because he isn’t Jewish according to Jewish law. The British court ruled that the school had to enroll the boy. This is an internal, religious matter.

    • Damien November 25, 2009 at 6:26 pm

      Very pleased to see a good turnout for such a good cause.

      To respond to Chaya, it really should relate to all religious laws, if one is allowed to have their own laws along side the others in a country then that sort of defeats the purpose of a secular law for all.

      Would you be in favour of a gay kid being rejected from a Christian school? 😮

    • Vladtepesblog November 27, 2009 at 2:50 am

      In Ontario, the idiot premiere, McGuinty, was very close to allowing sharia law courts for family decisions and various civil matters. It was actually groups of Muslim women who managed to get the government to stop from passing this abomination. However, thanks to decades of moronic moral and cultural relativism, Ontario also disallowed Catholic and Jewish courts from operating legally within their own communities. Now, while I personally feel this is a price worth paying to stop sharia, I find it more than merely unfortunate that the people of the western intellectual traditions who invented reason and logic, cannot distinguish more than one level of abstraction when making a comparison. It is as if to say, that while a Nazi party may be banned, then so also should all political parties be banned as after all, Nazis are a political party. Islam and sharia law are not comparable to Catholic or Jewish courts in any meaningful way for the purpose of this discussion. A Catholic or Jewish court would not pass a judgment that for example, falls outside of Canadian or Ontario secular law. Neither would the participants ever be coerced or forced to attend and accept the judgment thereof.

    • Aktavist November 28, 2009 at 7:20 pm

      Why are all these people wasting their times. In a democracy people should have the right to live how they choose. What these ignorant people don’t understand is Sharia Law is being practised daily in hundreds of Millions of people. Its not just a civil or criminal law, its a personal law too. You guys can march up and down but its impossible to stop Sharia Law as its a personal law which the individual holds in his/her heart.

      People need to concentrate on stopping the governments of the world oppressing society which is the real issue of the world today.

  6. fahimeh November 25, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    What you are doing is great for freedom of world from this middle ages barbaric law. thank you all.

  7. kope November 25, 2009 at 11:01 pm


    dont you know that opposing jewish courts is anti semitic?

    read how islam will win the
    clash of civilization.

    • Kev November 26, 2009 at 2:37 pm

      Chaya, PLEASE! Anti-Semitic? Stop with this persecution complex (which so many people like you love to use). It doesn’t work anymore. Religion has no place in governmental affairs. And people are tired of religion (ALL religions, including yours) having too much influence over political, legal, and human rights matters. If you want Batei Din, then move to Israel.

  8. LibertyPhile November 26, 2009 at 8:15 am

    OLFA. You are doing a very important job. You deserve the support of every sane citizen

    For just one mad example of what Sharia proponents believe see here:

    Some Muslims are really thinking like this in the world today in a civilised country!

    And, apparently, Mr Bunglawala, a man about to become (?) a UK government advisor thinks stoning to death for adultery is OK if people vote for it.

  9. Eli Vieira November 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    It has been a pleasure for the Secular Humanist League of Brazil to take part in this rally.

    Eli Vieira
    LiHS’s President

  10. Kafir Harby November 26, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    CONGRATS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THESE GUYS ARE HEROES !!

  11. Jack November 26, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    It’s terrifying that we even need to demonstrate against this barbarity in our own country

  12. laïc31 November 26, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Bravo, courage, tenez bon et surtout ne baissez pas la garde !

    Un assidu lecteur de Riposte Laïque (

    Laïquement vôtre !


  13. Greg November 27, 2009 at 4:34 am

    This is absolutely mandatory to happen, we as a western culture and nations need to have more of this and we need to show governments that we are serious about this problem. The way things are going we need to see more of this in other countries such as Australia, Germany and the like, anywhere where our freedoms as western free nations may be threatened by “Sharia Law”

  14. Sojourner lumus November 27, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Well done everyone concerned. This needs to be kept in the public eye so that the stealth tactics employed by religious politicists are constantly exposed to the damning scrutiny they deserve.
    Chaya just doesn’t get it, does he/she. If an act against an individual contravenes our secular Law, then it is definitely NOT an ‘internal’ religious matter, no matter which religion is involved. The only law that matters in a secular democracy is secular law, otherwise we’ll end up back in the bad old days of some sections of society being favoured over others by unfair, unreasonable and inhumane religious prejudices.
    This is the age of reason, not the Stoneage.

  15. Ivan Martin November 27, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Having read all the comments it all adds up to a condemnation of allowing religion to have a say in the workings of governments. Religion is far too divisive and so often out rightly unjust and cruel to be allowed a say in law making in societies that value humanity and fairness. And that, without oppression, would be found to be the choice of all fair minded peoples of the World.And they are the only ones who count

  16. Gianni November 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Dear Maryam,

    greetings from Italy. I just posted this news on my feminist newsblog. Let’s hope the movement will grow. I do my part to give a hand.
    Congratulations to all the people who were there.

  17. Jee November 27, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Great Great Great Great Great Great !!!!!!!!!!!!
    Keep it up people!!!!!!!

  18. whitney November 28, 2009 at 12:35 am


    we must stop this notion that says our prevention of religious groups from practicing certain aspects of their faith is deemed “discriminatory”.

    stop being afraid of sounding racist, people! you are not!

    we keep putting religious rights over the rights of women. WHY.

  19. Mike November 28, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    This organisation accurately aims its protests at Sharia, one of the worst aspects of Islam and the Muslim religion. While I would like to see Sharia courts, Muslim faith schools, and the building of mosques banned in UK, it is shocking to be reminded of the atrocities that these commit in other countries.
    However the bigger picture is not addressed by this otherwise excellent group.
    For sure it should be possible to give temporary shelter to people seeking genuine asylum from Islamic terror. But there has to be a limit to immigration. Climate change is a fact, it is going to get hotter and wetter before it slowly becomes much colder. We should be reducing our population and preparing for the changed conditions and scarcity of essential resources. Welcoming vast numbers of immigrants here who then breed even greater numbers of children guarantees starvation, civil unrest, and blood shed. Even if by some miracle the Catholics and Muslims abandoned their agenda to take over the World by out breeding everyone else. We would still end up as a multi ethnic society facing disease, poverty, starvation, and war, and no amount of newly found tolerance of each other will fix the sheer excess in our population.

  20. Henri Schmitt November 29, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Great news to find that England also has peoples who refuse this madness.
    I am not an atheist, but I think a secular society would be the best way to preserve tolerance and fight against fanaticism. I am surprised that the British society can cope with the multiplication of these islamic courts without any more protest than those initiated by the secular groups. I have friends who are religious, but who can’t stand the idea of these modern obscurantist tribunals.

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